Breaking New Ground

Reconnecting People with The Brecks

Image by Matthew Blissett, NWT Breckland Reserves Manager.

Image by Matthew Blissett, NWT Breckland Reserves Manager.

The Hungry Caterpillars of Weeting Heath

Weeting Heath is  home to the Lunar Yellow Underwing moth (Noctua orbona). This nocturnal species is recognised by its central crescent and yellow hindwings.  Now confined to the Brecks and a couple of small holdings on the Salisbury plains, it is now a rare moth to find! It is a great habitat quality indicator and requires calcareous sites with patches of well-drained soil, bare ground and tufts of grass. This makes Weeting Heath an ideal habitat for it to thrive. 

This year Breaking New Ground (BNG) are holding a series of events across the Brecks. One Thursday evening on 4th February, BNG in partnership with Butterfly Conservation (BC) ran a Lunar Yellow Underwing caterpillar event at Weeting Heath.  Sharon Hearle and Sam Neal delivered an interesting talk about the caterpillars and then it was off to the heath to hunt them down! With torches in hand we went across the heath to see what we could find! Lunar Yellow Underwing caterpillars have a long larva life cycle from November to March, which is also reflected in their long flight period from July to September. By February, the caterpillars are significantly larger (and easier to spot) than if you went caterpillar hunting in November. Optimum temperatures for caterpillar hunting is ideally above 4-5 degrees.

In the Brecks, these hungry caterpillars prefer to feed on sheep fescue, wavy hair grass and brown bent. Avoiding the rabbit holes, we searched the tops of these grasses where they like to perch.

Matthew Blissett our new Breckland Reserves Manager managed to capture the hungry (LYU) caterpillars on camera in their larval stage.

Weeting Heath reopens this season on Easter Weekend on Friday 25th March. Come and visit to see what wildlife you can find, and join in with  Easter activities to celebrate the 90th Anniversary of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust!

Extracts from Norfolk Wildlife Trust's blog post. To read the full blogpost click here.

This Event was part of Wildlife Recorders of Tomorrow. To learn more, click here to go to the Project Page.