Chamomile Shark moth Cucillia chamomillae © 2011 Steve OgdenChamomile Shark moth Cucillia chamomillae © 2011 Steve Ogden

Chamomile Shark moth and caterpillar Cucullia chamomillae

The Chamomile Shark is found locally throughout much of the British Isles and is probably best known for its strikingly marked caterpillars. It’s most abundant on waste ground, coastal areas and field set asides where species of chamomile the larval foodplant grow.

Chamomile Shark (Cucullia chamomillae) fully grown pink form on caterpillar on Sea Mayweed © 2013 Steve Ogden

Life cycle of the Chamomile Shark Cucullia chamomillae

The nocturnal moths fly in a single generation between April and June.

Females lay eggs on the larval foodplants

The eggs hatch within a few days and the caterpillars feed amongst the leaves and flower heads with most being fully grown by mid July.

The prepupating caterpillars leave the foodplant to pupate in the soil inside a tough over wintering cocoon.

Chamomile shark  Cucillia chamomillae diagnostic markings © 2011 Steve Ogden

The Shark (Cucullia umbratica) diagnostic markings © Steve Ogden

Identification

The adult moth has a wingspan of about 21mm and obtains its name from the raised hair tufts at the back of its head which resemble a Sharks fin and chamomile, the larval food plant – also includes various species of mayweed and feverfew

The Chamomile Shark is very similar to The Shark (Cucullia umbratica).

They are best identified by the dark lines that extend into the margin of the outer edge of the forewing compared to their abrupt end at the margin in The Shark.

Help with caterpillar identification

Caterpillar galleries

The Chamomile Shark caterpillar

Chamomile Shark caterpillar (Cucullia chamomillae) fully grown pink and green form on Sea Mayweed © 2013 Steve Ogden
The Chamomile Shark caterpillar is one of the most striking and consequently easily identified caterpillars in the British Isles.

The larval foodplants include various species of mayweed, chamomile and feverfew.

Along the south west coast of Cornwall the caterpillars may often be found feeding on sea mayweed.

When fully grown they are about 45mm long and have different coloured forms.

They are boldly but cryptically marked with dark green and sometimes pink flashes. Their bodies are pale greenish/grey of variable intensity.

Chamomile Shark (Cucullia chamomillae) fully grown green form of caterpillar on Sea Mayweed © 2013 Steve OgdenChamomile Shark caterpillar (Cucullia chamomillae) fully grown pale form © L King

Chamomile Shark caterpillar (Cucullia chamomillae) on Mayweed flower head © 2017 Claire Ogden
For such dramatically marked caterpillars they blend in surprisingly well with the leaves of the larval foodplant, even in bright sunshine merging with the shadows cast of the surrounding leaves and stems.

The caterpillars can be found by searching the leaves of the larval foodplants between May and July.

They may also be found feeding on flower heads.

Help with caterpillar identification

Caterpillar galleries

Illustrated Guide to Caterpillars

Latest news and sightings

Chamomile Shark caterpillar (Cucullia chamomillae) early instar on Sea Mayweed flower © Steve OgdenChamomile Shark caterpillar (Cucullia chamomillae) early instar on Sea Mayweed © Steve Ogden

Chamomile Shark caterpillar (Cucullia chamomillae) mid instar pink form © 2013 Steve OgdenChamomile Shark caterpillar (Cucullia chamomillae) penultimate instar feeding on Mayweed flower head © 2017 Claire Ogden

Chamomile Shark cocoon (Cucullia chamomillae) formed in soil © 2016 Steve Ogden

Rearing The Chamomile Shark caterpillar

The caterpillars are easy to rear.

The mid instar caterpillar shown above left became progressively pinker in later instars.

The caterpillars pupate in the soil to overwinter.

Introduction to rearing

How to rear caterpillars