Silver Y caterpillar – also known as a looper caterpillar. The head is on the right in this photograph.

The youngest member of the Chaos team spotted a new type of caterpillar on a Sunflower plant. To find out what it was, he kept the caterpillar in one of our terraria, and supplied it with fresh Sunflower leaves.

The caterpillar was similar in colour to the cabbage white butterflies we also had, but a different overall pattern, shape and size. They move in the classic ‘inch worm’ style, due to having only two pairs of legs at their abdomen. Eventually it spun a relatively open cocoon,

Pupa, after the silver Y moth had emerged

This was the ornate moth that emerged several weeks later.

Silver Y moth

Silver Y moth (Chrysodeixis erisoma) is our best guess at identifying this species – identifying a moth can be challenging. There are a number of books available on New Zealand species, although none cover all of the species. Identification is further complicated by many of the images in books, and online, being of dead individuals that have their wings outspread. These can look very different, as in this.

Landcare Research provide an extensive image gallery online here.

The silver Y moth, prior to its release.

Our next goal is to find a cabbage tree moth or caterpillar – these chaps have stripes on their wings that match dead cabbage tree leaves, and apparently orient themselves on the leaves so that these line up – how cool is that?