Today I found several caterpillars thriving in a small weedy patch, that I deliberately leave to grow wild for the butterflies, insects and bugs.
Magpie Moth caterpillars eat ragwort leaves and there are several ragwort plants in the weedy patch. As you can see from my photos, below, they are very healthy caterpillars.
Scientific name: Nyctemera annulata
Common name: Woolly bear, Mokarakara
The moths can often be seen feeding at flowers; it is common around its preferred food plants of the daisy family, for example Groundsel (and other Senecio spp.), ragworts and cineraria.
The colourful hairy larvae feed openly on the plants, often stripping off all the leaves. The mature larvae will sometimes wander from the plant to pupate. The loosely spun cocoon incorporates some of the larval hairs and may also be found amongst leaves.
In New Zealand its liking for the introduced ragwort causes its caterpillars to be sometimes mis-identified as those of the Cinnabar moth which was introduced as a biological control for ragwort. The magpie moth’s ‘woolly bear’ caterpillars are predominantly black with reddish-orange stripes running along the length of their bodies and have long black bristles, whereas by contrast cinnabar caterpillars have smooth bodies and alternating yellow- and black-coloured rings around their bodies.