It’s Cinnabar Moth caterpillar time! Have you seen any where you are? Have a look on Ragwort, their favourite plant.
We saw our first Cinnabar Moth caterpillars of the year on Sunday, on Ragwort at the University of York’s Campus East, here in Heslington.
Ragwort is poisonous to most vertebrates, but not to Cinnabar Moth caterpillars, who merrily chomp away on it.
These caterpillars use warning coloration (also called aposematism) to deter predators from eating them, as you’ll see in this poem (which is from my book Buzzing! Discover the poetry in garden minibeasts).
Warning: the poem is a little creepy!
So, get looking on your local Ragworts to see if you can see any Cinnabar Moth caterpillars!
I discovered today, thanks to a Twitter correspondent, that here in York we used to have our very own species of Ragwort!
You can find out what this York Ragwort, Senecio eboracensis, looks/looked like in this scholarly article. There’s also an article about the discovery in the Guardian newspaper (from back in 2003).
I’m going to be looking a lot more closely at our local Ragwort plants in future, not only for Cinnabar Moth caterpillars, but also to see if there are any Senecio eboracensis specimens left here in York after all … .