Longest caterpillar in the British Isles

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Goat Moth Caterpillar
Some fascinating caterpillar identification requests continue to arrive. This huge Goat Moth (Cossus cossus) caterpillar was sent in by Paul Sellens who had been reviewing images he’d taken last summer.

At 100mm in length only the caterpillar of the migrant Convolvulus and Death’s Head Hawk-moth are bigger, making it the longest resident caterpillar to be found in the British Isles. Paul’s appreciation of it’s size inspired him to take an informative image incorporating his hand – excellent shot Paul.

Following Peter Harvey’s Convolvulus Hawk-moth caterpillar in 2012 maybe the next image received will be of a Death’s Head Hawk-moth caterpillar!

This is the 4th image received of a Goat moth caterpillar over the years and I have to admit to still feeling extremely envious whenever I receive one.

Goat Moths are a very localised moth in the Uk and have an extraordinary life cycle. Disappointingly they are not recorded in my home county of Cornwall.

The caterpillars live inside the trunk of a tree for several years.

Consequently the only time it is likely to be seen is when it is fully grown, has exited the tree and is searching for a suitable place to over winter in the soil before pupating inside a cocoon in the springtime.

And if you’re wondering why it’s called a Goat Moth then its because the caterpillar reputably smells like one!

Many thanks to Paul for the use of his images. Maybe someone will be good enough to send me an image of the adult moth! – A subtle reminder that images of interesting species are always welcome even if you’re not seeking help with identification.

Ref: “Colour identification guide to the Caterpillars of the British Isles” by Jim Porter