Yesterday morning I came across a caterpillar on a flower-head of Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) ‘Fire King’ in the Herbaceous Border. It had a very complex patterning along its body that, when I first saw it, made me think I was looking at a tiny branchlet tip of some conifer such as Cryptomeria although there was no possible source of such a bit of twig nearby. (Being the Garden’s conifer specialist, that was perhaps not surprising). However, it was alive so definitely not a bit of twig! Downloading the photos on to my laptop revealed an incredibly beautiful caterpillar indeed.
I sent copies of the photos to Alastair Sommerville, county moth recorder for Midlothian. He quickly identified it as the caterpillar of the Chamomile Shark moth, Cucullia chamomillae. This feeds on the flowerheads of various members of the Asteraceae (= Compositae) or daisy family, particularly Scentless Mayweed (Tripleurospermum inodorum). According to Alastair, yesterday’s find was only the ninth record for Midlothian and most of the previous eight have been in more rural, arable areas of the county. It is of course another new record for the Botanics’ ever-growing wildlife list. There are more records of the moth from East Lothian.
The adult moth (see below) flies in April and May, which is a period for which there are very few moth records for RBGE so far. Hopefully that will change now that we have two moth traps available in the Garden.
My thanks to Alastair Sommerville for the identification.