Remarkable Beasts

There is a whole host of incredible wildlife in the Wicklow countryside at the moment, and often going unnoticed. Keep your eyes peeled. Here is a superb example which I found two days ago, the gigantic snake-like caterpillar of the Elephant Hawkmoth (Deilephila elpenor). Hawkmoths are the largest moths found in Ireland, and we are not short of them in Wicklow, although they are relatively rarely seen. Some, as I previously mentioned, can be as large as small birds. And their caterpillars are gigantic and often spectacular, such as this example.

What appear to be eyes on this caterpillar are actually eye-spots. The head is the little nose-like projection at the front. The tail-end has a sharp and hard thorn-like projection on it.
What appear to be eyes on this caterpillar are actually eye-spots. The head is the little nose-like projection at the front. The tail-end has a sharp and hard thorn-like projection on it.

When alarmed, or irritated, this caterpillar rears up as those going to strike. But if further irritated it will lie down and go through a series of frightening spasms, which make it look as though it has been mortally wounded, as though an electric shock was running through its body. It’s a harmless creature though, mostly feeding on Rosebay Willowherb, which most gardeners consider a weed, although it is a beautiful wild flower to we naturalists. Believe it or not, the moth is actually more spectacular than its caterpillar, but I have no photos of it yet. My To-Do List is ever-growing.

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