this moth was found in November as a caterpillar by my children in our garden in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire. It was the same colour as the moth and hairy. They kept it in a glass tank with lots of greenery. At the beginning of December it rapped itself in a silk cocoon on the side of the tank and it came out 2 days ago. I don't know anything about moths so have not been able to identify it and the children want to feed it but we don't know what type of food to put in. Many thanks.
Please congratulate your kids being observant enough to notice the caterpillar, and on being curious enough to rear it and observe its progress, resulting in the satisfaction of seeing the adult. Well done, too for keeping records.
I suspect it may be a ruby tiger moth (Phragmatobia fuliginosa).
Your photo is a little fuzzy; you may be able to confirm my tentative identification better than I can.
Have a look here - http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=34
To feed the adult, try a dilute sugar or honey solution, soaked-up into a small wad of cotton wool or toilet tissue. You may find, however, it is not interested.
Now what will you do with the moth?
If it is a ruby tiger moth, this is not the time of year when it would normally be on the wing, so if you released it now, a) it may have difficulty finding food (nectar or maybe juicy rotting fruit), b) it would not be able to find a mate.
For future reference, note that Ian Kimber's UK Moths web site has a useful search facility, where you can enter keywords, eg. +black+yellow if you had a black and yellow moth you were trying to identify. Read the explanation for more detail on how to search
If your kids collect other caterpillars in future, have them note the food plant. They should use the same foodplant when rearing the caterpillars, because some species are particular about what they eat. For subsequent identification purposes, it can also be useful to know what that foodplant was; include that in your records.
Hi Mike, didn't notice the darker dot on each wing until closer inspection. It's head was a little darker than the link you gave but after a google search I found one identical to ours and our photo of the caterpillar is the same as well. . The kids have already put some of each food type in to see if it will eat and which one it prefers. Both our kids (7 and 9) are very excited and are going to do a show and tell about it at school.
I hope both teachers and kids like your show and tell.
As part of that show and tell, you will need to decide what to do with the adult moth.
Beforehand, while you are still planning it, why not ask your teacher(s) what they think you should do with the moth. If they suggest you release it, you can point out to them the two problems that I mentioned. They might be impressed by your argument. You might make them think again:)
After the event, why not post here to let us know how it went.