Brown Hairstreaks in June

The Brown Hairstreak (Thecla betulae) flies in late summer. It’s one of the latest species in Finland and can usually be spotted from late July to mid August. Nevertheless, the species can be tracked down almost all year long. This year, I gave it a shot and tried finding caterpillars. I’ve never photographed larvae of this species in the wild, hence I was motivated to find some.

Spring this year has been exceptionally cold. As a result, the two caterpillars I found on June 17th were only about 1cm in size. Perhaps I should also mention that I did not wildly browse random bird cherry (Prunus padus) bushes. I concentrated on such plants where I was able to spot eggs of the species last winter. I remembered one spot that counted three eggs. I was able to first confirm that two eggs did hatch. Moments later, I was also lucky enough to first find one larva, then the second one.

Ants and Silver-studded blue caterpillars

Caterpillars of many Blue species live in symbiosis with ants. The Silver-studded blue (Plebejus argus) is no exeption. Should you be searching for caterpillars make sure to focus on the buzz of ants. These are “milking” the caterpillars. The ants may be easier to spot than the well camouflaged, tiny caterpillars.

I wanted to focus on photographing as many Blue’s caterpillars this summer as possible. Earlier, I got some shots from the Common Blue. This time, I was scanning a different terrain. A rocky, dry forest with pine trees, calluna and blueberries. I took a close look at the bushes of calluna. As mentioned earlier, the nervous ants that were guarding the larvae made it rather easy to find what I was after. To get the species confirmed I took two caterpillars home for raising.

Caterpillar kick-off

It took quite some time this spring to find the first caterpillar due to very cold weather conditions. Nevertheless, about two weeks ago, I finally got started. This year, the first caterpillar belonged to a blue. To be more precise, it was a Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus).

The success felt good, and one of my season’s targets this year is to focus more on finding caterpillars (and eggs) of blues. Last year, my first caterpillar was a Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas).

I hope this is a good start into a great caterpillar season.

Hawk-moth saldo 2016

In summer 2016 my goal was to spot some caterpillars of Hawk-moth species that I haven’t come across recently. Here’s a wrap-up of all species I managed to find, including the the hummingbird hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) from which I received caterpillars from a friend.

There’s a lot of challenge left for next year. Nevertheless, it was nice to finally find caterpillars of the Privet Hawk-moth (Sphinx ligustri). Another nice surprise was to spot a caterpillar of the Eyed Hawk-moth (Smerinthus ocellatus). All in all, it has been 7 Hawk-moth species in summer 2016. And bottom line, it’s always a great moment when coming across caterpillars of hawk-moth.

At the playground

Playing at the playground with the kids may bring a surprise every once in a while. I spent a lot of time during late summer finding caterpillars of the Privet Hawk-moth (Spinx ligustri), but the only ones I found were right at the playground. Two playgrounds, to be precise.

After the first caterpillar already had parasites I was lucky enough to spot another one. The second was entirely healthy. It was also younger compared to the adult caterpillar found two weeks earlier. While I was watching after our three kids my wife was kind enough to bring my camera from home, so I managed to get a couple shots from the beautiful Privet Hawk-moth caterpillar right in its habitat.

Autumn at the allotment gardens

In October it starts getting difficult to find caterpillars in the wild. This time of the year I usually take a lazier approach and visit the allotment gardens located nearby. There’s still plenty of food plants attracting butterflies to lay eggs on, and particularly the Large White (Pieris brassicae) and the Small White (Pieris rapae) are species that can be found.

Both species commonly migrate to Finland from South in late summer. In 2015 I found masses of Large White caterpillars. Early October this year, it was primarily Small White caterpillars. These are more difficult to spot, but due to the feeding traces it’s easy to know when they’re around.

While there was caterpillars on different instars also eggs could still be found. Here’s some photos. The yellow line on the back is a clear indication for determining the species. The Green-veined White (Pieris napi), the most common of the Whites in the region, has in general a caterpillar that looks pretty similar.

Elephant in disguise

Commonly, caterpillars of the Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor) are spotted when they’re on their way to find a suitable place to pupate and hibernate. That is at their final instar, when the caterpillars are large and brown. Perhaps some 5% of the full-sized caterpillars remain the green color, which also makes it more difficult to spot them.

Younger caterpillars do a much better job hiding themselves. Since the species is common, it’s worth though taking a closer look at willowherbs, the food plant of the caterpillar. If the time is right the chances are good to find some. Below is a series of photos from summer 2016. I could spot a couple mid-sized caterpillars.