Wednesday 8 February 2012

Caterpillars in February?

Monday 5th February was a cold one. The wee bit of snow we'd had over the weekend could still be seen thanks to the frosts experienced during the nights. It was only a wee bit of snow though, nothing to get excited about. Driving with caution was the order of the day due to that f word again - Frost (what other f word were you thinking of?).

We had actually only had a minus of two degrees during the night, quite a warm one considering just a couple of days previous it had been -10. Was still a crispy day though.

Whilst out on the hill I spotted a hairy hubert, a name I have been brought up with for hairy caterpillars.
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Quite a large hairy hubert it was, lying stretched out in the sunshine. It seemed strange to see a caterpillar on such a cold, frosty morning, away out on the hill. I couldn't help but disturb the beast, just to check it was indeed alive and not frozen to the spot.
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I may add I got a bit of bracken stalk to poke it with, having been warned that these hairy caterpillars may 'sting' or cause an irritation to the skin, a fact I do not know whether true or false as I've never picked one up to find out, wiser to follow advice given years ago me thinks!

As seen by the above photo it was indeed alive, it very kindly curled up into a ball to confirm the fact to me. I then decided it would be kinder to leave it in peace.

I've been googling and have concluded this is the larva of the fox moth whose habitat tends to be moorland, especially heather and sphagnum moss ground. It is not unheard of to find them basking in the sun on February days. So there you have it, I disturbed a sunbathing caterpillar on a winters day! How unfortunate was that caterpillar? thousands of acres to choose from and it chose a spot I was passing, bet it felt it was having a bad hair day!