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Nature blog - Jenny Bourne

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Seedbox mystery, buff tip moth caterpillars, fungi and grasshoppers

Date posted: Wednesday 9th August 2017

Seedbox mystery, buff tip moth caterpillars, fungi and grasshoppers

Last week, on emptying my seed box this mystery habitat revealed itself. Some sort of solitary bee or wasp, presumably – the box has been left open through the last few months in the shed so anything could have got in!

No soon had I put up a notice encouraging everyone to save water – heavy mulching and spot watering etc – than we’ve reverted to rainforest conditions – the sound of overflowing gutters and relentless rain is the background sound as I write! The damp conditions have resulted in a small colony of fungi around my shed – until I can get them identified by our plot fungi expert they won’t be served up with the morning breakfast eggs!

I moved a small colony of buff tip moth caterpillars from our silver birch tree at home to the willow at the back of my plot. Not particularly harmful, but they did strip the birch leaves a couple of years ago before crawling off to pupate – unfortunately we don’t have much soil in which they can overwinter so the plot offers them the best opportunity. At the plot I pushed a willow branch down into the jam jar containing the caterpillars and tied it onto the pallets.

“The Buff-tip is a medium-sized moth that is on the wing at night from June to July. It is quite a common moth in parks and gardens, as well as woodland edges, scrub and hedgerows. The caterpillars are striking: large, hairy and yellow, with a black head and a ring of short black stripes on every segment. They often gather together in large numbers, eating the leaves of lime, birch, Hazel and willow trees, sometimes defoliating whole branches, but rarely causing serious damage. This moth pupates on the ground and overwinters as a chrysalis. Adult Buff-tips hold their wings against the body and look remarkably similar to twigs. They are mainly silvery-grey in colour, with a square-cut, buffy head, and a buff patch at the end of the wings, which gives them their name.” (Wildlife Trusts).

This grasshopper was one of the newest arrivals on the front entrance bed plants – crickets have longer antennae, grasshoppers shorter ones so I’m fairly confident this is the latter!