Friday, 14 May 2010

Parasitism amongst the Sage

On the 11th April 2010 I noticed a dead noctuid caterpillar lying on top of a Sage leaf in my front garden.

The cause of death was easy to establish as there was an obvious Apantales-type cocoon tucked underneath the rear end of the caterpillar. I also recognised the caterpillar as being a half-grown Noctua fimbriata (Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing), presumably a sibling of 75% of the cast starring in my home-made Christmas card last December!

I kept the caterpillar and cocoon in a container and when the adult parasitoid emerged on 30th April 2010, I posted it to Mark Shaw in Edinburgh.

Mark (an Honary Research Associate at The Royal Museum of Scotland) kindly identified the parasitoid as Cotesia hyphantriae (Riley), quite an isolated species in its genus, that is known to overwiner in low-feeding noctuids. He also emailed the caterpillar photograph to Jim Connell (working on caterpillar ecology in Austria) and received confirmation that the caterpillar was, indeed, Noctua fimbriata.

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