I went into the bathroom on Monday morning and saw a pink caterpillar in the bath. It was brownish-pink, about 2.5cm long and had a few sparse hairs. It’s been so cold just recently that we haven’t had the bathroom window open as often as usual, but it must have come in that way.
What was it? Searching on moth and butterfly caterpillar images brought no firm results, so I asked for help on a couple of forums, but it wasn’t recognised on those either. One person suggested that it might have arrived on some imported vegetables, which made sense, but we either grow our own or try to get local stuff. Someone else thought maybe it had been dropped by a bird, but if I was a bird at this time of year and found a caterpillar, it wouldn’t have time to find its way into the bath, I’d have eaten it straight away.
It would be useful to get some photographs, so I went to get the caterpillar out of the bath, only to find that it had disappeared; it was eventually discovered tucked against the base of the toilet. I put it into a plastic tub and gave it a selection of leaves to see what was acceptable, as some caterpillars prefer to stick to one plant for their food - a leaf from an over-wintering chilli plant, a bit of cabbage and some pak choi. The cabbage proved most popular.
After looking at just about every wildlife gallery I could find, I posted the question on the RHS forum and was very pleased to discover that a kind person had given me the answer. My caterpillar will become an Angle Shade moth, Phlogophora meticulosa. It was a surprise to discover that these caterpillars are active during winter as well as the rest of the year. Why don’t they freeze?
The RHS and Wikipedia information pages say that it will eat a wide range of foliage and flowers and can do a lot of damage. I have two choices: put it out for the birds or continue to feed it and encourage it to pupate. If it does pupate, then I can put the chrysalis in a place where the newly hatched moth will find non-garden plants to feed from. The second choice is my preferred one, so I shall put out extra bird food to make up for keeping the caterpillar to myself