Swimming caterpillars

Flanders Moss NNR

Even though we are well into November there are still caterpillars about on the Moss. These are fox moth caterpillars, great big hairy ones and they must be pretty tough because they overwinter as a caterpillar tucked up in one of the mossy hummocks. So anytime the sun comes out they carry on feeding to give them a surplus to get them through the winter. It seems to have been a good summer for them as there are loads about.

But now the moss is getting wetter and with the recent rains finally filling up the water table, they are finding it difficult to get around as there is standing water across lots of the Moss surface. A few days ago several of these caterpillars that were ranging across the moss, presumably looking for further feeding area or hibernating site. But to get around they were having to resort to swimming and a swimming caterpillar is not something I have seen before. But they seemed quite happy on the water and though not making fast progress, their hairiness helped to keep the water at bay.

Next spring they will come out of hibernation, sunbathe for a bit and then pupate. And by May/June time we might be catching these very moths in our moth traps. A nice thought.


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