The incredible Puss moth

The Puss moth (Cerura vinula) may not stand out that much as adult moth. The caterpillar, however, is one of the weirdest creatures the the European fauna has to offer.

A couple years ago I found a single caterpillar of the species. This summer I found three.

Flower feast

The caterpillars of some hawk-moth species mainly feed during night. When the sun sets in the evening, they start climbing up their food plants and start their feast. Like many other caterpillars they particularly like feeding on the flowers of their host plants.

Willowherb is the food plant of the Elephant hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor) and the Bedstraw hawk-moth (Hyles gallii). I’ve mainly spotted the large hornworms of the latter so far. The full-grown caterpillars of the Elephant hawk-moth will follow a bit later.

Caterpillar diversity

Some species of butterflies and moths have caterpillars that change heavily in colors and pattern. Sometimes certain color forms are strictly existing (e.g. the caterpillars of the Death’s head hawk-moth, Acherontia atropos, can be green, yellow or black and white). Some species have simply “unique” caterpillars. The Red admiral’s (Vanessa atalanta) caterpillars belong to the latter.

The other day I found a good spot with masses of caterpillars of the Red admiral. I took the chance to get a better look at the diversity.

Busy days

Late June we had to pack and clean. Since we were moving end of the month there were countless things to take care off. Unfortunately, the day before moving also the Purple emperors (Apatura iris) started to hatch. The caterpillars of this beautiful species were collected earlier in spring (one was found in December).

I was able to witness two butterflies hatching, the other chrysalises I had to hand out to my friend. This way I did not need to think of butterflies in the middle of our move. One of the butterflies felt disturbed as I tried to get some photos. It started to try to fly with cold wings and caused some damage to itself (so much for getting shots of a perfect specimen). The other butterfly I allowed to develop in all peace, and I only tried getting some photos of the under side of the wings.

Childhood memories

I recently found a caterpillar of the Eyed hawk-moth (Smerinthus ocellatus). This beautiful, well hidden caterpillar brought up childhood memories.

As a small kid I once found an egg on the under side of a willow leaf. I managed to turn that tiny egg to a beautiful Eyed hawk-moth, through the entire metamorphosis.

Here’s a couple photos of the caterpillar. I tried to get shots from different distances, for those interested in learning how to spot caterpillars in the wild. Personally, I like photos that show not only the caterpillar but also the plants and surrounding.

Rare 2nd breed

Commonly, the Small Tortoiseshell has a single breed each year. Due to the location of Finland the species only has a 2nd breed in years with good weather conditions.

After two bad years the Small Tortoiseshell has declined in population. In 2015 I hardly spotted this butterfly at all. In summer 2016 the species has taken a great leap back. Early summer the first breed turned to adult butterflies. They were flying in large numbers. But that’s not all. Recently, I’ve noticed a high number of caterpillar nests, too. During a check at a farm I noticed caterpillars in almost all instars. This means a 2nd breed will continue to grow the population this summer.

It’s one of the most common butterflies. Nevertheless, it’s always a pleasure to take a close look at the beauty of this “ordinary” insect.

The ever-challenging Purple hairstreak

The flying season of the Purple hairstreak (Neozephyrus quercus) has recently past. It was my 3rd summer trying to get decent close-ups of this tricky species. Despite of 9 collected eggs last autumn I only managed to raise one to an adult butterfly. 7 eggs never hatched and one caterpillar died.

Fortunately, we recently relocated to a new home with a decent oak forest nearby. This means that the species flies just around the corner. I got a couple photos from the specimen that I raised, a male. Some additional shots I managed to make in the wild. It looked like the butterflies were mostly active in the early morning hours. They also came down to low-hanging branches which made it possible to try catch them with the camera.