Garden Carpet Moth (Xanthorhoe fluctuata)
The Garden Carpet deserves its name, for it is a common species in gardens indeed. The groundcolour is some kind of creamy white, showing three clear dark patches. The first is a very dark band running all over the wing at the basic part. We may also say it has very dark shoulders. The middle of the wing also shows the beginning of a band, usually more brownish than the one at the shoulder. This band is very wide at the edge of the forewing, but narrows and stops or fades out half way. In similar species, such as the Galium Carpet and the Common Carpet this second band runs over the entire wing. That's a good way of telling the Garden Carpet apart. Almost at the tip of the wing a third band appears to be starting. Usually it consists of two black spots, but the second spot might be missing. The underwings are also marked. Melanistic forms do turn up regularly, but appear to be a local speciality in some regions only. The resting pose is typical of the geometer family. The Garden Carpet is not very large, for it only reaches a wingspan of 27 to 31 mm.
This usually is a double-brooded species, but often has one generation in the far north and sometimes three in the south of England. It may overwinter being a pupa, but is also seen overwintering as a larva. The caterpillar is extremely variable in colouring: it might be whitish, brownish, greenish or even pinkish. And combinations of these colours also appear every now and then. There are small white dots on the back, which are very striking in darker specimens. The head is yellowish brown. The caterpillars are not seen regularly as they only feed during the night. They will reach a length of some 25 mm. The Garden Carpet pupates in a cocoon in a small hole in the soil. The caterpillars eat crucifers mainly, such as wall-rocket and garlic mustard, but will feed on cabbage and other garden plants as well. In contrast to the easy to find caterpillars of the various whites, the caterpillars of the Garden Carpet are very hard to find on cabbage, doing their damage at night only.
The Garden Carpet flies about for a long time each year, because it appears in April and the last are often seen in October. However it never appears in great numbers. It has nothing against human presence and often rests during the day on walls, fences etcetera. Comes freely to lights. A common species, especially in suburban areas, found all through the British Isles. On the continent een common species too.