Guessing the species

It’s not always easy to find out the species of a caterpillar, especially very young ones. Sometimes, the only way to be sure is to put them in a box and take them home for raising.

I recently found a small group of caterpillars residing on the bottom side of a nettle leaf. They clearly looked like members of the Nymphalidae-family of butterflies. However, their behavior did not really match with e.g. the Small Tortoiseshell’s (Aglais urticae) or the European Peacock’s (Inachis io).

At the beginning I had my doubts it may be the larva of the European Peacock. They’re just that small that I can’t say. Grabbing some of them the in a jar I brought about a dozen home to wait and see. It didn’t take long, actually until they changed their skin the next time, to get clear confirmation: They’re from the Map (Araschnia levana). The horns on the tiny heads were proof enough.

I’ve never had caterpillars of the Map before. Therefor, I’m happy to have a couple growing in a box. I’m looking forward to seeing the large caterpillars, since right now there’s yet not too much to see (they’re about 12mm in length). Should you be interested in finding caterpillars of the Map yourself I added a shot from the habitat where I found the colony (see below).

By the way, there were two colonies within 2 meters. Yet another time I had to guess that (based on the way how female Map’s lay their eggs) they must come from the same female. I’m not 100% sure though if the second (large) colony really is from the Map. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was from the European Peacock. I’ll be back for another look at that sight in a week or so. To confirm my assumption and get peace of mind.

(UPDATE: As per Confirming the species the large colony has been identified as being from the European Peacock, not the Map. Photo details below were updated accordingly)

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