GardenDrumRare caterpillar found at RHS Garden Hyde Hall

Photo by E Wagstaff, RHS

A rare caterpillar has been found at RHS Garden Hyde Hall in the UK where it hasn’t been spotted for nearly 150 years.

The nattily coloured caterpillar is thought to have been absent from Essex for around 150 years, and was found by visitors Keith and Jennifer Fridd at RHS Garden Hyde Hall, a 360-acre estate in Chelmsford.

The 10cm red, black and green caterpillar feeds on spurge (Euphorbia) and belongs to the migrant spurge hawk moth (Hyles euphorbiae) native to Southern Europe. Spurge hawk moths are only occasionally found in southern England with reports of caterpillars even less frequent. There have been sightings of the moth in Suffolk this year, but the caterpillar found at Hyde Hall is the first recorded in Essex since 1872. Warm weather conditions have been attributed to the find, with several other uncommon migrant moth species observed in the UK this year.

Horticulturalist at the gardens, Elliott Wagstaff, said:

“To find this attractive caterpillar at Hyde Hall is a real privilege and a fantastic addition to the wide range of wildlife that the gardens support. It’s possible that more could be found by eagle-eyed visitors but it may be that others have already entered the soil to pupate.”

Since 1997, RHS Garden Hyde Hall has been re-establishing its woodlands to create an ideal habitat for a growing number of flora and fauna. Some of the first animals to return have been owls, kestrels and butterflies.

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