Camera : Kodak EasyShare C195
Location : Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa
As I was watering the garden this morning, I discovered a whole clump of caterpillars at the base of my Acacia karroo tree. These are the larvae of the Speckled Emperor Moth (Saturniidae) and I am lucky enough to have them hatch in my garden every October. Their appearance also coincides with the return in mid-October of the Red-chested Cuckoo (Cuculus solitarius – Piet-my-Vrou) as they make out a large part of this Cuckoo’s diet. The larval stage lasts approximately 6 weeks, during which time the caterpillars undergo a 4000 fold increase in body mass before the adult moth emerges. The non-feeding adult stage lasts only two to three days, therefore I count myself as extremely lucky when I find a moth.
They have chosen their spot well, for I doubt that the Red-chested Cuckoo will go onto the floor in my garden.
If you look close enough (enlarged view) you will see some water droplets on them. Luckily I saw them just in time before wetting them completely! Be careful of touching these deceptively soft-looking beauties, the hairs stick to whatever they come into contact with and and can cause an irritating, itchy rash.