Eskling's picture

Black Hairy Caterpillar

Observed: 6th November 2012 By: EsklingEskling’s reputation in InvertebratesEskling’s reputation in InvertebratesEskling’s reputation in InvertebratesEskling’s reputation in Invertebrates

On my last visit to Murlough there were loads of hairy orange caterpillars which turned out to be Ruby Tiger larvae. On this visit, loads of hairy black caterpillars. Do they turn black? (Pic 3 still shows some orange in the curled larva.)

Species interactions

No interactions present.

Species with which Ruby Tiger (Phragmatobia fuliginosa) interacts


nightfly's picture

Interesting observation

Interesting observation Philip, brown one day then black the next. If they do change colour I didnt know it, I just thought there were variations from a dull olive brown through ginger to black. Black ones look a bit like other species but location and season might suggest Ruby Tiger as the likely culprit.


Eskling's picture

They look the same...

... except that they are mostly black.

Interestingly, I have looked back to my earlier photos and can see black tips on the hairs of the otherwise orange (ginger) caterpillars.


amantell20's picture

Tiger caterpillar

I had a similar discussion with one of my more learned colleagues recently about a caterpillar that I thought was Ruby Tiger. The conclusion we reached was that Ruby Tigers start orange and do get a bit darker as they age, but don't go as black as your examples.

We get a lot of Cream-spot Tigers where I live, and we concluded that the black caterpillar I found was more likely to be one of those. Coastal locations are favoured by CST's, so there is a possibility that yours could be one of those. I'm not an expert on Arctiidae larvae, so I am just posing this as a possibility, although I am a little sceptical about the Ruby Tiger id for the reason above. you may find the only way to be sure would be to rear it, but that is a lot of effort unless you are very very curious!

Eskling's picture

Looks very similar

Certainly looks like other observations of Cream-spot Tiger larva, except those generally have a red/brown head (and red legs?) while the ones I saw had black heads. (I'm not sure if we get Cream-spot Tigers here in Northern Ireland- don't think I've ever seen one.)

amantell20's picture

It could well be a different

It could well be a different Tiger Moth larvae - I'm just not at all convinced it's a Ruby Tiger. Also, just because something has not been seen before it doesn't mean they are not present. They do have a very patchy distribution.

Rarities do seem to turn up in coastal locations more frequently than some others, for example I had the second ever welsh mainland record of Jersey Tiger in my garden this year.

nightfly's picture

Hi Amantell20 and Philip, If

Hi Amantell20 and Philip,

If they (the black ones as above) arent Ruby Tiger then there are quite a few in the caraousel that are wrongly IDed.

You might be right Amantell and there could be some doubt over these black Ruby Tiger larva but I dont think they are Cream Spots, they dont have the characteristics of that larva, ie the red head and legs and they are too common for the adult to not have been recorded already here and in many other places.

I found one of these black ones among a large no. of identically sized typical brown Ruby Tiger larvae recently on sand dunes in south east Ireland. I think that one was a Ruby Tiger. The Cream Spot hasnt been recorded in Ireland north or south as yet.

I think they can only be Ruby Tiger as they are present with them and are identical in all ways but hue? I could be wrong of course.


notpop's picture

ruby tiger

I;m with you Cathal,but I agree it will be worth while taking one or two captive.
A project for next Autumn maybe .

nightfly's picture

Hi Notpop, absolutely, if you

Hi Notpop, absolutely, if you find one this Autumn please try to raise it? Might be slightly late now.


nightfly's picture

The larva of Water Ermine

The larva of Water Ermine might explain some of these black ones in England? It seems to have a distinctive pale dorsal stripe but a profile shot wouldnt show that. As with the Cream-spot, Water Ermine is highly unlikely to explain these black ones on this side of the Irish sea as its adult hasnt been recorded here yet. Water Ermine larval time is Aug/Sept according to ukleps so its out during the same time as Ruby Tiger.

Amantell20 you raise a very valid question and there is every possibility that some of the black ones in the carousel are wrongly IDed?


amantell20's picture

Just to confirm, I am merely

Just to confirm, I am merely querying the Ruby Tiger id and suggestng CS Tiger as a possible alternative, although Glen is quite right that may not fit as it doesn't have the dark red head and legs.

I can't comment on Water Ermine as I have never seen the adult moths let alone the caterpillars (they would be a very unusual find in Wales anyway), yet get plenty of the black caterpillars.

Muslin moth appears to be another possibility?

I suggest it may be best to leave this as a generic Arctiid caterpillar unless Glen is able to rear one or two on (and I would be fascinated to hear the result!). It is always possible that regional populations of the same moth could have variations in colour too!

Just in case anyone is interested, here is a pic of mine As you will see, I thought it was a Ruby Tiger too!

Eskling's picture

Comments appreciated

I am enjoying the debate but am afraid that I would not have the patience (or the knowledge) to raise the larvae to moth stage!

One thing I can do is to add another photo (from the same day) of a more intermediate form of the larvae. I didn't put it in the initial observation because it looks a bit like a garden tiger! Does this help? Or just confuse things even further?


(As soon as I can think of a good user name I am going to change it - maybe 'Glennomore')

nightfly's picture

Muslin moth is a very good

Muslin moth is a very good suggestion! It might have a lot to answer for?

Sorry for saying England when I should say England and Wales Amantell20, I hadnt looked the distribution but I gather from your comment that Water Ermine isnt recorded in Wales.


amantell20's picture

Ooops - sorry Philip I have

Ooops - sorry Philip I have been using the wrong name! Doubt it's a Garden Tiger though!

Cathal, I'm not especially bothered about the country thing as I am english anyway! But Water Ermine would be quite unusual here - last Glamorgan record was in the 1950's.