Impressive creature stops George in his tracks

A hairy oobit
A hairy oobit

Hairy Oobits, to use the local parlance, are those big furry caterpillars you often see marching across paths and roads at this time of year, writes George Hogg (Hogg Estate Services).

They have done all their eating and growing and are now looking for some where to pupate over winter.

Though the term is used for any hairy caterpillar such as Garden Tiger and Ruby Tiger, the biggest, most impressive, and usually the most common ones are Fox Moth caterpillars.

Golfers, in particular, are likely to be familiar with these striking creatures.

Dare I say golfers who spend a lot of time in the rough will be even more au fait with them!

At this time of year Fox Moth caterpillars literally cross my path frequently.

Over the years I must have seen hundreds, which is maybe why this one stopped me in my tracks the other day.

Instead of the usual ginger fur under long dark brown guard hairs, this one was all black and quite beautiful.

Melanism, the opposite of albinism, is common in many creatures, but this was the first time I had ever found a melanic Fox Moth larva.

Furthermore, I have asked around among others whose work takes the through wild grasslands on a regular basis.

So far I have found no one who has seen this colour aberration before.

This seems the 'penny black' of the caterpillar world.

In the old days I'm sure the collecting habit of naturalists would have seen the creature taken into captivity in the hopes it would eventually pupate into an equally rare colour variant of Fox Moth.

Perhaps even a black one, which would no doubt be killed and pinned to a display board as a great trophy.

Me? I let it continue on its merry munching way.