The Old Lady moth-Mormo maura
The Old Lady is a large moth with a wingspan of over 70 mm.
It’s fairly widespread throughout much of the UK, becoming scarcer in northern regions.
It flies at night in a single generation between July and September in a wide variety of habitats including gardens, along countryside hedgerows and in woodland.
The moth featured was attracted to a sugary concoction of brown sugar, molasses and red wine smeared on the trunk of a tree in the Marsland Nature Reserve on the North Cornwall/Devon border.
The Old Lady is only occasionally attracted to light but is readily attracted to sugary mixtures smeared on the trunks of trees and fence posts.
Those in the vicinity of a MV moth trap mostly veer away with the occasional one falling to the ground and flapping around aimlessly before flying off.
The worn specimen featured unusually entered a MV light in woodland in North Cornwall, UK.
The Old Lady caterpillar-Mormo maura
The Old Lady caterpillar is one of the largest noctuid caterpillars, being 60 -70 mm in length. The fully grown specimen featured was photographed amongst Ivy by N.Turner in the UK.
The caterpillars are nocturnal and prior to overwintering feed low down on a variety of herbaceous ‘weedy’ plants such as dock. In early Spring they feed on a wide variety of deciduous trees such as hawthorn and blackthorn as well as ivy.
Several records have been received of caterpillars found amongst ivy covering fences, the walls of buildings and tree trunks.
Identification of the Old Lady caterpillar, Mormo maura.
As well as its large size the following features can help identify well marked specimens.
Two or three white/creamy spots along the feint, pale dorsal line on segments 3 and 5 often stand out.
A pair of yellowy orange spots directly behind the head are also usually evident.
A dense black bar with cream edging crosses the eleventh segment.
The caterpillar featured was photographed by Lini Doggett of Hornchurch, UK and showed many of the characteristic features clearly.
Black outlined orange spiracles are also prominent features.
Although measurements are unknown and some features aren’t shown, the caterpillar featured with bold orange spiracles is thought to that of an Old Lady Moth.
Other caterpillars are featured in the moth caterpillar galleries and species pages.
Butterfly caterpillars are featured in the butterfly caterpillar gallery and species pages.
The Gothic caterpillar has similar grey and brown colours and orange spiracles but is smaller, lacks pale dorsal spots and is paler below the spiracles.
The Old Lady caterpillar featured was photographed by Linda Rowley feeding on a potted azalea plant.
The Old Lady caterpillar featured left and below had less obvious markings and dull, light brown dorsal spots, perhaps because it was nearing pupation.
The fully grown caterpillar was found behind ivy covering a fence in Farnborough the UK by Ross John.
Pupation takes place amongst soil and lasts for 6-8 weeks.
Recommended reference books
The Colour Identification Guide to Caterpillars of the British Isles – Jim Porter.
Moths of the British Isles – Bernard Skinnner.
The Provisional Atlas of UK’s Larger moths -Randle, Fox and Parsons
Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland – Waring, Townsend and Lewington.