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Butterflies (Lepidoptera) are the most species-rich insect order. However, they can almost always be clearly identified by their caterpillars (larval stage). Below you will find an overview of the frequently occurring caterpillars in June.

In a nutshell

  • Caterpillars are the larvae of butterflies before they pupate
  • are very voracious and nibble on the flowers, twigs, leaves and sometimes the roots of their host plants
  • pupate after some time
  • the butterflies later hatch from the pupae and are very important for pollinating many flowers
  • a very dangerous caterpillar in Central Europe, for example, is the des
    Oak Processionary Moths

Types from A - F

Bramble Moth (Macrothylacia rubi)

  • Appearance: initially velvety black hair, soft gray with bright orange segment incisions, later colored black to reddish brown
  • Length: 80 mm
  • Habitat: in open, both humid and dry areas in almost all of Europe to Central Asia, for example in bogs, dry grasslands, meadows at forest edges and embankments
  • Food: besides blackberries also raspberries, sloe, winged broom, small burnet, vetches, buckhorn but also clover
  • the butterflies hatch the following May
  • pupation in webs

Alder Owl (Acronicta alni)

  • scientific name:
  • Appearance: initially black in the front area and whitish at the end, later black with bright yellow transverse bands
  • Length: up to a maximum of 35 millimeters
  • Habitat: Widespread in Germany in areas where alders grow, but also on open meadow orchards and in bushes and hedges
  • Lining: all types of alder and sometimes other deciduous trees such as poplar, elm and hornbeam
  • the butterflies hatch from May to June of the following year

Oak processionary moth (Thaumetopoea processionea)

  • Appearance: dark, broad topline with long hairy reddish-brown warts and areas covered with velvety hair
  • Length: up to a maximum of 50 millimeters
  • Habitat: Lowland in oak-rich forests, prefers open and dry places and sometimes on street trees
  • Lining: oak
  • The butterflies hatch in August or early September
  • form webs in which they shed their skin

Attention: From their 3rd stage, the caterpillars develop stinging hairs with barbs. They contain a nettle toxin called thaumetopoein, which can cause caterpillar dermatitis in humans.

Types of G - K

Great Frost Moth (Erannis defoliaria)

  • Appearance: Varied, mostly reddish-brown, tawny or black-brown on the back with broad yellow stripes bordered with black towards the top
  • Length: 32 millimeters
  • Habitat: in deciduous forests, parks, scrubland and orchards
  • Lining: beech, birch, oak, hornbeam, linden and elm
  • the butterflies hatch from the end of September
  • pupate in a loose web on the ground

Big fox (Nymphalis polychloros)

  • Appearance: dark grey, almost black in color with orange bands on the sides while on the back and orange colored branching spines
  • Length: 45 mm
  • Habitat: light forests, parks, meadow orchards, wooded warm river valleys, vineyards with dry stone walls
  • Lining: Deciduous trees such as aspens, elms, willows, pear and cherry trees
  • The butterflies hatch at the end of June or beginning of July

Lesser Winter Moth (Operophtera brumata)

  • Appearance: inconspicuous, colored green
  • Length: 6 to 8 millimeters
  • Habitat: can be found in a wide variety of biotopes in Europe if deciduous trees are present there
  • Lining: almost all deciduous trees, including fruit trees
  • the butterflies hatch October to December
  • form webs in buds and between leaves

Small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae, Syn.: Nymphalis urticae)

  • Appearance: Black-brown basic color with tufts of bristles and double, yellowish longitudinal bands on the back
  • Length: 22 to 30 millimeters
  • Habitat: occurs throughout Europe as well as in Asia in the mountains (up to 3000 meters altitude) as well as in the lowlands
  • Lining: only large nettle
  • the butterflies hatch from May of the following year
  • live in cocoons until the last moult

Mullein monk (Cucullia verbasci)

  • Appearance: yellowish to greenish-white basic coloration with bright yellow transverse bands on the segments and many black spots and dots
  • Length: up to 50 mm
  • Habitat: in north-west Africa and almost all of Europe in ruderal corridors and gardens with stocks of the forage plant
  • Lining: all types of mullein
  • the butterflies hatch in late spring the following year

Types of L - O

Linden Hawk-moth (Mimas tiliae)

  • Appearance: initially pale green, later green or blue-grey
  • Length: 55 to 65 millimeters
  • Habitat: Except for a few southern parts, widespread throughout Europe on damp mountain slopes and light river valleys with stands of lime trees
  • Lining: mainly linden trees, but also other deciduous trees
  • the butterflies hatch in May to June of the following year

Evening primrose hawkmoth (Proserpinus proserpina)

Source: Philipp M. Moore, Evening primrose hawkmoth caterpillar, edited from Plantopedia, CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Appearance: light green, beige-brown to black-brown basic color with dark dots on the back, yellow dot on the tail and dark stripes or spots on the flanks
  • Length: 60 mm
  • Habitat: Widespread in southern and central Europe in climatically favorable places with humidity
  • Lining: all kinds of evening primrose and fireweed
  • the butterflies hatch from mid-April of the following year

Medium vine hawkmoth (Deilephila elpenor)

  • Appearance: initially green, later brownish to black-brown in colour
  • Length: 80 mm
  • Habitat: throughout Europe, except in the north, in residential areas, gardens and riparian forests
  • Feed: mainly willowherb, purple loosestrife, fuchsias and evening primrose
  • the butterflies hatch from May of the following year

Types of P - Z

Plum spider moth (Yponomeuta padella)

  • Appearance: yellowish to green in color with black spots, dark legs and head capsule
  • Length: 15 to 22 millimeters
  • Habitat: in all biotopes in Europe and the former Soviet Union where their food plants are found
  • Lining: sloe thorn, plum trees and single-pitched hawthorn
  • the hatching time of the butterflies is July
  • appear in groups and form webs

Tip: Cutting off the branches infested with webs and caterpillars is the most effective method against the plum web moth. To do this, however, you have to recognize the webs in good time.

Peacock butterfly (Aglais io, Syn.: Inachis io, Nymphalis io)

  • Appearance: black with many branched thorns and small white spots
  • Length: 40 to 50 millimeters
  • Habitat: Central Europe except north to Japan in parks, gardens and open woods up to 2500 meters
  • Feed: large nettle, hops, on the island of Samos erect vitreous
  • the butterflies hatch from July of the following year

Willow borer (Cossus cossus)

The willow borer turns out to be a stubborn enemy of the rosemary willow.
  • Appearance: yellow on the underside, conspicuously dark red on the back, while the head and nape shield are shiny black with a few white hairs
  • Length: 100 mm
  • Habitat: Europe, North Africa and temperate zones of Asia on flowing water, where there are old willows, in parks and on meadows up to 1500 meters above sea level
  • Lining: Wood from willow, apple trees, silver birches, pears, black alder and other deciduous trees
  • the butterflies hatch in May 2 to 4 years later

Notice: The caterpillars smell strongly of vinegar. This allows you to identify a severe caterpillar infestation on a tree.

frequently asked Questions

How dangerous is the plum spider moth for the plum?

In essence, the infestation is not fatal to the tree, even if the infestation is severe. It can even sprout again after defoliation. However, the yield is strongly influenced. A lower yield is also to be expected in the following year.

How did oak processionary moths get their name?

The caterpillars of the oak processionary moth go in single file in groups of 20 to 30 specimens in search of food. That is why they are called processionary moths.

Can I touch caterpillars?

Better not, as some caterpillar species have stinging hairs that can trigger allergies and asthma. If you want to collect caterpillars from infested plants in the garden, it is better if you wear gloves.

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