Beautiful woolly, hairy moth caterpillars in large numbers to be found on the grounds of the Barpa Langais (ancient burial mound at Langass, near Lochmaddy). I had been recording the sound from a nearby fence when I saw these caterpillars at my feet, voraciously consuming hawkbit leaves. The yellow hawkbit flowers look a little like dandelions, but look more closely and you’ll see a slightly more refined flower, a sharper cut leaf, and a rosette closer to the ground.
This recording was an experiment. I thought I’d see if by putting the contact microphone in contact with the leaves of the plant on one side, that I might pick up the sound of the leaves on the other side being devoured. And indeed, it seems to have worked. I guess the fluids within the plant transport the sound of the caterpillar’s chewing from one side of the plant to the other.
These caterpillars are very beautiful, and have that long-haired look about them that suggests they shouldn’t be touched! The literature confirms this; they are indeed toxic to predators, and their hairs can cause irritation to humans. Their name is interesting; I’ve never seen one in my garden. But I have seen them in several spots in North Scotland. The Latin name is also interesting, Arctia Caja, and indeed suggest a northern home. They are also protected under the UK’s 2007 Biodiversity Action Plan.