Can someone please help me to identify this caterpillar? I've approached numerous experts and nobody has a clue. It was about 3 inches long on calcareous grassland in Purbeck, Dorset, UK. Spotted in the first week of June this year.
I also shot some video of its interaction with ants at the same time:
Well, I've circulated it round some of my friends (yes I do have them) and the best guess so far is that it's one of the prominents, some of which have the folded appearance at the bottom of the segments. Colour is wrong though.
As to the size, if the average ant is about 5mm, then the caterpillar is about 50mm or 2 inches. That sounds more reasonable. My wife keeps saying that men can't estimate length anyway......
I too feel it is most like a prominent moth (Notodontidae) but I am not happy with it being any of the UK species unless it is extraordinarily aberrant or these are pre-pupatory colours. A pre-pupatory White prominent?
I will pass this on to the moth folk here at NHM and see if they can reach a conclusion - we love a puzzle!
Yes, just in - they were equally stumped but contacted other colleagues including one in France who rears an inordinate amount of larvae. His conclusion was, and I quote:
""Your small beast, an "Aporophyla" … and most probably "nigra" rather than "lutulenta". It is at the end of the stage, where it is rather yellowish coloured."
So Roy at UKleps via Ian at UKmoths and dgreves on this forum had it buttoned up first and Black Rustic it appears to be.
(See what we are on about here on UK moths: http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?bf=2232)
Hey, it took quite a journey but the networks got there in the end!
Much appreciated - many thanks! It's great to get a second opinion that matches. :-)
I'm going to assume the behaviour of the ants was aggressive unless anyone has any other theories.
Ian at ukmoths very kindly got back to me yesterday with a suggestion from Roy this time at ukleps that it might be Black Rustic final instar in an unusual yellow or sick form. He says "Build very similar. Also note the dark marks either side of the spiracles on the first two or three abdominal segments - these match too".
Anyone have any strong views one way or the other?