Nature on our doorsteps: The Angle Shades moth

By Rosaleen Dwyer

Rosaleen Dwyer is the County Heritage Officer at South Dublin County Council – every week she gives us an insight into the natural heritage around us and the beautiful biodiversity of the plants and creatures

As the weather warms up, gardeners are pottering around their gardens getting ready for the growing season ahead. 

As they tidy up the withered leaves in the flower beds, one creature they might encounter at this early stage in the year is the caterpillar of the Angle Shades moth.

The angular pattern of the markings on the Angle Shades moth gives it its name 1

The angular pattern of the markings on the Angle Shades moth gives it its name

This sturdy caterpillar can come in two colour forms, either very bright green or in a mixture of brown and cream.

Many insect larvae overwinter as cocoons or pupae. The Angle Shades caterpillars, however, only hatched from their eggs last autumn. 

They survive winter as a caterpillar, coming out to feed on nettles, grasses, and brambles during milder weather.

In late spring, the caterpillar will form a flimsy cocoon just under the surface of the soil. 

Here, it will transform, emerging as a new adult moth in April or May.  

The bright green caterpilalr of the Angle Shades moth is very distinctive in sprintime 1

The bright green caterpillar of the Angle Shades moth is very distinctive in sprintime

The adult moth is a lovely insect. It has a wingspan of about 5cm and, as its name implies, these wings are beautifully patterned with angular markings. 

These markings come in shades of brown, pink and light green.  

The tips of its wings are also scalloped-shaped, making it look like a withered leaf. 

This colour pattern and wing shape make the Angle Shades moth a camouflage expert, allowing it to sit unnoticed on wooden fences or tree branches in the middle of the day. 

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