A rare, red, black and pale green caterpillar, not thought to have been seen in Essex for nearly 150 years, has been found at RHS Garden Hyde Hall in Chelmsford.

The 10cm insect which feeds on Spurge (Euphorbia) and belongs to the migrant Spurge Hawk moth (Hyles euphorbiae) native to Southern Europe, was found in the gardens by visitors Keith and Jennifer Fridd.

Spurge Hawk moths are only occasionally found in southern England with reports of caterpillars even less frequent. Sightings of the moth in Suffolk have been reported this year, but the caterpillar found at Hyde Hall is thought to be the first seen in Essex since 1872. Warm weather conditions have been attributed to the find, with several other uncommon migrant moth species observed in the UK this year.

Elliot Wagstaff, Horticulturalist at RHS Garden Hyde Hall, said: “To find this attractive caterpillar at Hyde Hall is a real privilege and a fantastic addition to the wide range of wildlife that the gardens support. It’s possible that more could be found by eagle-eyed visitors but it may be that others have already entered the soil to pupate.”

Since 1997, RHS Garden Hyde Hall has been re-establishing woodlands on its 360-acre estate creating the perfect habitat for a growing number of flora and fauna. Some of the first animals to return have been owls, kestrels and butterflies. As time passes, and the woodland matures and grows, the Royal Horticultural Society hopes to see many more of Britain’s favourite woodland creatures returning to Hyde Hall.

For more information about RHS Garden Hyde Hall in Chelmsford, Essex, visit www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/hyde-hall