Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday, 28 June 2014 19:04
I swept this incredible caterpillar from Burton Pond last week. It puked up all over the net in quite a horrific manner, I've never seen anything like it (other than on the Exorcist) where it thrashed its head from side to side. It was pretty huge and being so striking, I didn't think I'd have any problem identifying it. Despite going through Porter THREE times, I didn't come up with a single candidate. I swept it of Purple Moor-grass with some young birch growing through it.
So I tried a different tactic. Working through the larger moths of the macro fauna, Googling the Latin names (with the word larva) whilst keeping an open mind. So I started on the first large moth on the first page of the book I opened it at. This just happened to be Red Sword-grass. Bingo! That was it. This is a really scarce moth in Sussex and it's great to have confirmed breeding at Black Hole! It just goes to show that not only do caterpillars vary as they grow older (just look at the larvae of the Alder Moth - which we also saw at Burton by the way!) but they also vary greatly between individuals and one photo is just not enough, even with a striking larva like the Red Sword-grass.