Caterpillar - goodie or baddie?

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Alice

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Caterpillar - goodie or baddie?
« on: November 03, 2016, 09:11:36 AM »
Can anyone identify this caterpillar, please? It was found on a carob branch on the pile for shredding. Fully extended it measured about 5 cm. Do I encourage it?
Amateur gardener who has gardened in north London and now gardens part of the year on the Cycladic island of Paros. Conditions: coastal, windy, annual rainfall 350mm, temp 0-35 degrees C.

David Dickinson

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Re: Caterpillar - goodie or baddie?
« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2016, 12:04:03 PM »
Looks like an Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillar to me but I am sure others will be able to tell you exactly what it is. I don't know exactly what they feed on but the moth is a beautiful moth so I would let it munch away at anything it likes providing it wasn't doing a catastrophic amount of damage.
I have a small garden in Rome, Italy. Some open soil, some concrete, some paved. Temperatures in winter occasionally down to 0C. Summer temperatures up to 40C in the shade. There are never watering restrictions but, of course, there is little natural water for much of June, July and August.

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MikeHardman

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Re: Caterpillar - goodie or baddie?
« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2016, 09:41:47 PM »
It is an oleander hawk-moth caterpillar, Daphnis nerii. The brown colouration shows that it is getting close to pupating (earlier, it is green; and the last colouration before pupation is darker brown)
Well done for saving it; the adult is a marvel of Mother Nature's artistry.

Mike
Mike
Geologist by Uni training, IT consultant, Referee for Viola for Botanical Society of the British Isles, commissioned author and photographer on Viola for RHS (Enc. of Perennials, The Garden, The Plantsman).
I garden near Polis, Cyprus, 100m alt., on marl, but have gardened mainly in S.England

Alice

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Re: Caterpillar - goodie or baddie?
« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2016, 03:54:25 PM »
Thank you Mike and David.
Yes, the oleander hawk moth. The pile for shredding also included oleander branches. It had possibly been looking for a place to pupate and had ended up on the carob. We have seen an enormous impressive moth fluttering around the house on occasion. I am glad it was not the dreaded Paysandisia archon. The caterpillar is now safely back on an oleander bush.
Amateur gardener who has gardened in north London and now gardens part of the year on the Cycladic island of Paros. Conditions: coastal, windy, annual rainfall 350mm, temp 0-35 degrees C.

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MikeHardman

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Re: Caterpillar - goodie or baddie?
« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2016, 04:30:31 PM »
Soon it (it is sexless at the moment) will wander down to ground level and find a place among the leaf litter or upper part of the soil in which to pupate. If it was still green when it was doing its wandering amongst the leaves, it would be too obvious; hence the change to brown. Some other hawk-moths show a similar colour change pre-pupation.

Think about pupation for a while. Through what evolutionary process did that arise? Many traits in many organisms arose through slight incremental changes that natural selection favoured. But surely it is not possible to pupate a little and survive! And it seems just as unlikely that a chance mutation (of what progenitor?) resulted in an individual that was completely developed in terms of its metamorphic abilities.
Nature gives us lots to marvel at and ponder.
Mike
Geologist by Uni training, IT consultant, Referee for Viola for Botanical Society of the British Isles, commissioned author and photographer on Viola for RHS (Enc. of Perennials, The Garden, The Plantsman).
I garden near Polis, Cyprus, 100m alt., on marl, but have gardened mainly in S.England