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I have been interested in nature for most of my life but since I retired I spend as much time as I can exploring the nature reserves and wildlife hotspots of my adopted home, Dorset in southern England. Whilst out I record what I see and take snaps where I can (I am no photographer!) and that forms the basis of my Nature of Dorset website. When I find something new I like to research it and write about it in my nature notes, it is how I learn and hopefully you might find my notes helpful as well!

This website is for the people of Dorset interested in wildlife and for people from elsewhere interested in the wildlife of Dorset!

13 August, 2010

Mullein Moth Caterpillar (Cucullia verbasci)

This is a familiar caterpillar often seen on the leaves of verbascum plants, especially Great Mullein and Dark Mullein as well as Common and Water Figwort. Anywhere these plants thrive then so do the Mullein Moth larvae. It is quite common to see large whole in 'Mullein' leaves and when you take a closer look you find these attractively marked caterpillars.

The verbascum family of flowers tend to grow in waste places and scrubby areas, often where their is open ground and little competition from more aggressive species. Not surprising then, that is where you find this moth.

The adult flies in April and May and I have never seen it despite being a common moth. The reason it is fairly seen is that it is one of the few species that does not seem attracted to light and therefore a moth trap is of little interest to them.

The caterpillars emerge in late June and are just about at the end of their time now; they will shortly pupate and over winter in this state ready to emerge in the spring. However, they can stay a pupa for up to four years before emerging which is quite remarkable.