- Willow or hazel tuft (******) 6 letter. – what is this?
- The Vapourer caterpillar and moth, Orgyia antiqua
- The Vapourer caterpillar and moth, Orgyia antigua
- Rusty tussock moth
- Damage, symptoms and biology
- Vapourer Moth Orgyia antiqua
Willow or hazel tuft (******) 6 letter. – what is this?
****** – willow or hazel tuft. word on “C”. 1 – st. letter C. 2 – st. letter A. 3 – st. letter T. 4 – st. letter K. 5 – st. letter I. 6 – st. letter N.
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Into your garden you can walk
And with each plant and flower talk;
View all their glories, from each one
Raise some rare meditation.
If one might be contemplating a winter meditation, Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’, Harry Lauder’s walking stick could offer inspirational focus with its unusual, fabulous, branching habit. Resulting from a natural mutation of Corylus avellana, European filbert, this is a small tree displaying artistic, spiraling and twisted branches, twigs, and leaves that recall animation, or even Dr. Seuss. Corylus, the genus name, is derived from the Greek word (Korylos) for hazelbush, and there are 14-18 species, depending on taxonomic interpretation, found throughout the temperate Northern hemisphere. Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) named this species avellana, which comes from the town of Avella, in southern Italy. All Corylus are in the BETULACEAE, the birch family. Corylus avellana, European filbert, the parent species of this contorted beauty, is a large shrub or small tree, which is renowned for its small nuts (cobnuts). Even in our country, there are large orchards of these grown for nut production. Historically, its wood was extensively used for basketry, fishing rods, wattle and daub framing, walking sticks, and the mystical, Y-shaped, divining rods.
In England in the 1860’s, along a hedgerow of Corylus avellana was found one plant with unique, contorted growth. A sharp-eyed Victorian gardener took cuttings of this, and propagated it into the cultivated variety named, Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’. Later in the 20-century it received its common name, Harry Lauder’s walking stick. Harry Lauder (1870-1950) was a popular Scottish music hall entertainer, knighted by a king, known to carry a crooked walking stick. All Corylus have separate sexed flowers occurring on the same plant. The male catkins are 3-4-inches-long, pendulous, slim, and consist only of stamens, maturing in late March/early April to produce a visible puff of pollen when shaken. The shorter, thicker, less conspicuous, female flowers are highlighted by their emerging, intense-reddish, ¼-inch, threadlike stigmas, the sticky parts on which pollen may land. Nut production on Harry Lauder’s walking stick is frequently non-existent. This small tree often only grows 6 to 8-feet-tall, and wide, but even with this diminutive size, it is a true connoisseur’s choice, especially notable in winter. On your next visit to Mount Auburn, look for our Harry Lauder’s walking stick in the Ruggiero Memorial Garden, along the northern edge of Willow Pond.
…Amid yon tuft of hazel trees,
That twinkle to the gusty breeze,
Behold him perched in ecstasies,
Yet seeming still to hover;…
I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout….
William Butler Yeats
Boon nature scattered, free and wild,
Each plant and flower, the mountain’s child.
Here eglantine embalmed the air,
Hawthorn and hazel mingled there;…
Sir Walter Scott
…Mellow the blackbird sang and sharp the thrush
Not far off in the oak and hazel brush,…
…Patches of moss and lichen, the occasional
Undergrowth of hazel and holly, was he aware
Of all this? On the contrary his unawareness
Was a kind of gratification, a sense of comfort…
The catkin from the hazel swung
when you and I and March were young.
The flute-notes dripped from liquid May
through silver nights and golden day.
The harvest moon rose round and red
when habit came and wonder fled.
October rusted into gold
when you and I and love grew old.
Snow lay on hedgerows of December
then, when we could no more remember.
But the green flush was on the larch
when other loves we found in March.
The male of this species has broad orange-brown wings with a pair of white eye spots. The antennae are strongly feathered. The nearly wingless female has a plump grey-brown body.
Males fly in the sunshine, usually quite high, and are rarely seen at rest. An orange-brown moth flying by day in the late summer or autumn is likely to be this species. Occasionally the males also fly at night and are attracted to light traps. The females are highly sedentary and after mating lay a large batch of eggs on the cocoon from which they emerged.
Can be confused with the Scarce Vapourer (Orgyia recens), though this is a very rare species restricted to a few sites in northern England and Scotland.
Size and Family
- Family – Tussocks (Lymantrids)
- Medium Sized
- UK BAP: not listed
The caterpillar is very striking with a red and grey body and several large hair tufts. The larval stage occurs from May to September. Full-grown larvae can often be found on bushes in late summer.
Caterpillar Food Plants
A wide range of broadleaved trees and shrubs
Woodland, heathland, moorland, hedgerows, parks and gardens.
- Countries – England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland
- Widespread and common across much of the United Kingdom, although scarce in some western areas.
The Vapourer caterpillar and moth, Orgyia antiqua
The Vapourer caterpillar and moth, Orgyia antigua
The Vapourer moth is a common species with a fascinating life cycle.
It’s found in a wide range of habitats including open woodlands, moorland, valleys and urban gardens throughout most of the British Isles ranging from northern Scotland to the extreme south west of Cornwall.
The Vapourer is also found throughout much of Europe and in North America where it is known as the Rusty Tussock Moth.
In the British Isles it flies mostly in a protracted single generation between May and October. However, the long flight period and variable peaks and troughs in numbers suggest that second generations in the southern half of England may not be uncommon.
The males are attracted to light in small numbers but are most frequently seen flying in afternoon sunshine.
For most people the Vapourer moth is best known for its spectacular caterpillars which are commonly found feeding on a wide variety of plants, shrubs and trees in gardens and the countryside.
An ongoing Vapourer Moth Study in Cornwall suggests there may be a ‘yellow’ coloured form of caterpillar not found in the rest of the British Isles. Data also indicate the flight period is much shorter and later in Cornwall than in other parts of the British Isles. A full update on the Cornish Vapourer study will appear shortly.
The Male Vapourer Moth
The male Vapourer has a forewing of between 25-30mm and is most frequently seen flying in sunshine when it can appear a rich orange brown.
It has a weak, fluttering flight that can be mistaken for a small butterfly.
Despite being diurnal the males are recorded sufficiently often at light traps to suggest they may also be partially active at night.
Overall it is a dull chestnut brown with a white spot towards the outer edge of the forewing. At rest it may either take on a flat triangular posture or retract its wings into a tighter scroll.
The males pectinate antennae are used to detect pheromones given off by the females.
Having no size or weight limitations associated with flight her large rounded abdomen can contain hundreds of eggs.
She remains on her cocoon and attracts males by giving off pheromones.
Following fertilisation she lays a large batch of eggs on the side of her cocoon and adjoining leaves.
Life Cycle of the Vapourer Moth
Females that have already laid a fertilised batch of eggs have been observed attracting males several days later, although it is uncertain whether this ever results in a second batch of fertilised eggs.
Recommended reference books
The Colour Identification Guide to Caterpillars of the British Isles – Jim Porter.
Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland – Waring, Townsend and Lewington.
Moths of the British Isles – Bernard Skinnner.
The Provisional Atlas of UK’s Larger moths -Randle, Fox and Parsons
The eggs of the more normal single generation broods over winter before starting to hatch in May.
Unusually for most moth species eggs from a single batch do not all hatch within a few days, instead periodic hatching may occur over several weeks.
In captive rearing the time span between the first and last egg hatching during the Cornish study was 8 weeks.
Other life cycles of moths and butterflies can be seen in the species pages.
Rebecca Barns recorded 10 mm Vapourer caterpillars on her walnut tree in her garden in North Somerset in early June 2018.
One shown left was reared inside resulting in a female emerging from the pupa at the beginning of July.
When placed outside on the walnut tree she immediately attracted males and laid a batch of eggs.
The laid eggs remained on the tree for several days before Rebecca brought them inside out of the hot sun. Instead of the eggs overwintering they began hatching on the 11th July to produce a second generation.
The Vapourer Moth caterpillar
The hatching caterpillars feed on their egg before seeking out the leaves of nearby food plants.
Dispersal has also been recorded by the caterpillars being blown on silk threads.
In captivity as part of the Cornish study the first caterpillars were fully grown and pupated within 37-44 days.
Pupation takes place in a cocoon spun to either the food plant or on other stable structures such as tree trunks, walls of buildings or fence posts.
Adult moths emerge within 8-15 days.
Other caterpillars can be seen in the Moth caterpillar and Butterfly caterpillar galleries.
The spectacularly colourful, fully grown Vapourer Moth caterpillar is one of the most instantly recognizable caterpillar in the British Isles.
It’s also one of the most commonly sighted caterpillars in gardens where it can sometimes become so numerous to be considered a pest.
The caterpillar reaches 40 mm in length, has two ‘horn-like’ projections of black hair from the first segment and a further black ‘tail like’ projection from the rear eleventh segment. Two further black and white hair pencil projections are low down on segment 3.
One of its most distinctive features are the dorsal tufts on the fourth to seventh segment which can be white, brown or yellow.
The ground colour is grey/dark blue with red pinacula from which sprout clusters of light/grey hair.
Thanks to Martin Frankham for use of the image showing a yellow tufted form above right.
In west Cornwall there is a ‘yellow form’ which occurs on moorlands and in valleys. This has orange/yellow pinacula with yellow hairs which combine to give an overall much yellower appearance than those found in other parts of the Uk.
Update – Bill Deakins recorded the yellow form of Vapourer Moth caterpillar (left) from Dartmoor, Devon in September.
Interestingly, not only was it similar to those found in Cornwall but it was also recorded in similar moorland habitat and at the same time of year as those in Cornwall.
Foodplants of the Vapourer Moth caterpillar
The caterpillars feed on a wide range of deciduous trees such as Blackthorn, Hawthorn, apple and Oak as well as many shrubs.
In gardens they are frequently reported early in the year on Wisteria climbing up the sides of houses as well as many other shrubs such as Roses and Blueberry.
In Cornwall it’s suggested that ling may prove to be an important larval foodplant.
Rearing the Vapourer Moth
The caterpillars are very easy to rear and can be collected by sweeping. Late instar caterpillars found wandering prior to pupating are often parasitised.
Finding the eggs can be a laborious exercise and the simplest way to see the whole life cycle is to collect caterpillars and rear them through hoping a female will emerge.
She can then be taken outside on a sunny afternoon into an area known to have a population of Vapourer Moths to attract a male. Once mated she will readily lay eggs.
Overwintering eggs should be kept in a cool outhouse to experience outside winter temperatures – ( I’ve often put part of an egg batch in the fridge for several weeks during unusually mild Cornish winters)
Occasional fine spray of water prevents drying out.
Pest Status of Vapourer Moth caterpillars
In the majority of cases the Vapourer moth causes little damage to shrubs and trees other than slight defoliation. However, in some urban areas and in gardens they can occasionally become so numerous they become a pest, causing severe defoliation of shrubs and specimen trees – although, most trees will fully recover the following year.
By Ruth D’Alessandro, The Wildlife Gardener The Wildlife Gardener agreed to water a friend’s roses while she went to Glastonbury. Little did I know that, a fortnight later, my neighbourliness would result in a covetable prize for nature anoraks like myself: a real-time peek into the life cycle of a moth: the Vapourer moth (Orgyia antiqua) to be more specific. I vaguely remembered my countryman Dad telling me that Vapourer moths were particularly interesting: they have feathery antennae and the females send out powerful sex pheromones that have males from miles around flocking to be her gentlemen callers. Caroline’s roses were covered in these groovy psychedelic Vapourer caterpillars that would not have looked out of place in the mosh pit at Glastonbury:
It has been years since I’ve kept caterpillars in a jar and hatched moths. I figured Caroline wouldn’t miss a few punk rose-destroyers, and it would be educational for the Junior Wildlife Gardeners to do some captive breeding. So, I put five itchy-looking caterpillars in a big glass vase with damp compost and rose branches from the Wildlife Garden, some perforated clingfilm on top and placed them on the kitchen windowsill where I could watch them as I washed up. The caterpillars munched away for a week or so, then activity quietened down. I kept an eye on the vase to see if any little chestnut-brown moths emerged. Nothing. So I took the vase out into the garden to have a closer look at its contents. Whoah! What’s this?:
Bereft of a mate, this female Vapourer has laid a single egg on the leaf next to her
This curious furry little bug is a female Vapourer moth. She is wingless, and the sole purpose of her short life is to mate and lay eggs. Because she can’t fly about, she emits strong pheromones to attract male Vapourers to come to her. I thought I’d test the pheromone thing, expecting nothing much to come of it. I took the clingfilm off the vase and put it on the garden table. If there were to be any moth-on-moth action, I expected it to take place at dusk or beyond: I hadn’t realised that Vapourer moths are day fliers. Within TEN MINUTES two virile male Vapourer moths had appeared, one luckier than the other:
This handsome chestnut male with his magnificent feathered antennae paid court to his furry partner for about half an hour, to the huge amusement of the JWGs who couldn’t believe they were watching moths’actually having a sex’. And then he flew off. Wasting no time, the female got on with her life’s work: laying eggs to make more Vapourer moths:
Aaah. I’ll leave the story at this point. There’s still one caterpillar munching away in the vase, a couple of cocoons that I can see, and very soon, there will be a dead female. And I’ll feel a little bit sad. But I’ll have some Vapourer moth eggs to overwinter and release into the Wildlife Garden next year. As my Dad said, Vapourer moths really are special.
Rusty tussock moth
Damage, symptoms and biology
The polyphagous rusty tussock moth is a generalist feeder for which about 50 coniferous and hardwood host species have been recorded. The larvae emerge in the late spring and feed until late July or early August. They first attack current-year foliage, which quickly turns brown. Later in the season, they feed on both older and current-year needles of conifers. Defoliation occurs first in the upper crown, then in the outermost portion of the branches and finally in the lower crown and farther back on the branches.
Rusty tussock moths are relatively easy to identify: they are fairly long (about 30 mm), very hairy, with black heads, dark grey backs and yellow bellies. Their bodies have four to seven tufts of dense, short, yellowish white hair, which are perpendicular to their bodies and radiate from orange tubercles. The caterpillars also have two long black pencil tufts projecting forward from the first thoracic segment and a similar one back from the rear of the body. The female moths are wingless.
Vapourer Moth Orgyia antiqua
On 26th June 2011 I found a 6mm long larva on mistletoe and immediately recognised is as that of a Vapourer Moth Orgyia antiqua (Fig. 1.). I removed it and put it into a large plastic container with the intention of rearing it to an adult moth. By the next day it had shed its skin and was eating the mistletoe leaves. It shed its skin again on 1st July and now had the characteristic hair tufts. I therefore assumed it was the third moult (Brooks 1991). Four days later it shed its skin again. However, now that it had grown to 16mm long, it was taking longer to go through this process. Six days later the larva became inactive again and this time it took approximately 36 hours to finally shed its skin. It was interesting to note that at each moult the skin was shed in two halves, the front end and the tail end. After four more days the larva had grown to 30mm long and at this stage I decided to move it to a half-sized propagator and I introduced a small log for it to pupate on. By 21st July it had decided to ignore the log and climbed to the underside of the propagator top and begun to spin its cocoon. This was completed in approximated two days. I understood from my book (Brooks 1991) that both the male and female pupae were shiny and black but this pupa was not and remained yellowish in colour.
At 8a.m. on Saturday 20th July I was both surprised and delighted to find that the adult moth had emerged and it was a wingless female. It was already ‘calling’ to attract a male. I had to go out on that morning and it was not until 12.35p.m. that I was able to put the female outside. Within approximately six minutes a male had arrived and mating commenced (Fig. 2.). By 1p.m. the male had left and the female had started to lay eggs. I had inverted the propagator top for the male to gain access to the female. This meant that the female was sitting on top of the cocoon and not clinging on to it. No doubt the enabled the female to continue laying eggs for longer than would have otherwise been the case. No more eggs were laid after 7.30a.m on the 2nd August and by this time the number of eggs exceeded 300. The moth continued to move its position on the batch of eggs and did not cease moving until 10th August (Fig. 3. & Fig. 4.).
The Vapourer Moth is one of the eleven Lymantriidae (Tussock moths). The moth has the advantage of its larvae being able to feed on almost any kind of bush, shrub, tree or plant and during 2011 was found on two other kinds of foliage in my garden. In late April I found a small larva feeding on a wild South African Pelargonium Pelargonium lateripes in my greenhouse and in late May I found a 17 mm long larva feeding on my bonsai hazel.
Brooks, Margaret. 1991. A complete guide to British moths. Jonathan Cape, London.
Fig. 1. Vapourer moth larva. ©Frank Screen.
Fig. 2. Vapourer moth mating pair. ©Frank Screen.
Fig. 3. Vapourer moth female commencing egg laying. ©Frank Screen.
Fig. 4. Vapourer moth female laying nearly complete. ©Frank Screen.