The Rare, Huge And Odoriferous Goat Moth
In April our gardeners went on a search for the frass (droppings) of the Noble Chafer Beetle, a rare and endangered insect whose few survivors live in traditional orchards. We explored rot holes in the old fruit trees and found no evidence of the beetle that day but did come across several other interesting bugs.
Along with us was local entomologist, Deborah Procter, who has since checked out the grub seen here in gardener Jo's
hand and believes it is most likely the larva (caterpillar) of a Goat Moth, another unusual species associated with traditional orchards.
The Goat Moth (cossus cossus) is the UK's heaviest moth, with a wingspan of around 8 cm. It gets its name from the strong, goaty odour of the caterpillar! The wings are cryptically marked to merge with the cracked bark of trees. The purplish-red caterpillar burrows into the trunk of deciduous trees, feeding on the heartwood (old apple trees are a favourite). Because of the long digestion period needed for this food matter, the larva lives for up to five years before pupating. It emerges as an adult moth the following summer, flying in June and July, but not feeding at all and rarely seen.
Goat Moth numbers have declined dramatically in recent years. It is recognised by Natural England as 'nationally scarce' and now lives only in scattered locations south of the Wash.
It's a great find and adds to the mosaic of our Waterfurlong wildlife.
Butterfly Conservation has an excellent factsheet on the Goat Moth.
Copyright © Karen Meadows 2018