As I was watering the garden this morning, I discovered a whole clump of caterpillars at the base of my Acacia karroo tree. These are the larvae of the Lappet Moth and I am lucky enough to have them hatch in my garden every October.
Their appearance also coincides with the return in mid-October of the Red-chested Cuckoo (Cuculus solitarius – Piet-my-Vrou) as they make out a large part of this Cuckoo’s diet.
Eutricha capensis, the Cape lappet moth, is a species of moth in the family Lasiocampidae primarily found in South Africa. During the larval stage, cape lappets feed on a wide variety of African plants and can often be found aggregating in gardens. The caterpillars are brightly coloured and conspicuously hairy, while the bulky adult moths are mostly brown and much less striking in appearance.
I also found another clump at the base of one of the White Karee's (Rhus viminalis) and I think they have chosen their spot well, for I doubt that the Red-chested Cuckoo will go onto the ground in my garden.
If you look close enough, you will see some water droplets on them. Luckily I saw them just in time before wetting them completely with the hosepipe! Be careful of touching these deceptively soft-looking beauties, the hairs stick to whatever they come into contact with and and can cause an irritating, itchy rash.
The adult moths are large and stocky, with an average wingspan of about 70 mm (2.8 in). Both hind wings and fore wings are reddish brown. The fore wings are flecked with yellow and bear three wavy white stripes. Females are typically paler in colour and larger than males.
I will be keeping a close eye on them over the next few days and hopefully I can capture the adults emerging.