I've been coming across three common hairy caterpillars for the last few weeks as I do every year in autumn and although they are widespread and common I thought I'd just pop them on here. Anyway, I often find that caterpillars are prettier than the moth or butterfly they will end up as one day if they make it AND they don't fly away when I want to take a photo!
These three all spend the winter as a caterpillars and pupate in the spring.
The Fox Moth Macrothylacia rubi is called either Anneau du diable or Bombyx de la ronce in French. They belong to the family of Lasiocampidae and as one of the French names Bombyx de la ronce implies one of its preferred food plants is bramble, (no shortage of that on our land), although they will happily eat a range of food plants including different species of heather. Moth here.
The Ruby Tiger Phragmatobia fuliginosa is called Écaille cramoisie in French and belongs to the family Arctiidae. Some preferred caterpillar foods include Ragworts, Plantains, Heather, Docks, Dandelion, Spindle and Broom, so quite a selection. Moth here.
The Garden Tiger Arctia caja is called L' Ecaille martre in French and is from the family Arctiidae. Caterpillar food plants include raspberry, blackberry, viburnum, honeysuckle, heather and broom. This caterpillar really is the most splendid "beast" and the moth isn't bad either. Moth here.
The Ichneumon I've been seeing is both widespread and very common in late summer and autumn, the Yellow Ophion Ophion luteus called Ophion jaune-brun in French. It is from the family of Ichneumonidae which are a family within the order Hymenoptera, (Ants, Bees, Wasps and Sawflies) and these are generally called Ichneumon wasps. It is an endoparasite of various caterpillars and the female injects a single egg into each of its victims where it then hatches and consumes the caterpillar from the inside, perhaps not the nicest of methods to reproduce but an interesting insect all the same.
Don't forget, all hairy caterpillars can cause itching or rashes on sensitive skin as I remember from my childhood, especially when we used to put them down the back of each others shirts - poor caterpillars!