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I have recorded the species not too far away from where this was found. Will have a look now.
It is quite like it David but I'd like to look at a few more pics. The cat I have above had a really distinctive marbled red and brown surface and looked like bark of a tree. I'll look more at Swallow Tail.
At this stage David I still think the nearest likeness I can find so far is the willow beauty larva on ukleps titled 'An early instar larva different colour form'. It has the reddish marbling which my photo possibly doesnt show as well as what I saw. If viewed in close up it might be easier to see?
I had a quick look at a few more larvae of species I record at the spot where this one was found. I thought there was a similarity to an Engrailed caterpillar in ukleps, a possibility. What do you think yourself?
Rearing it on would be a good way to find out for sure.
Its not something I have tried before, is it a simple procedure? Could I put a few larvae into a ventilated box/fish tank in the garage and leave them to it? Any advice much appreciated.
It varies from species to species. I tend to rear in well ventilated boxes providing leaves from food plants. If doing it that way you need to refresh the foodplant every day or so. Alternatively you can have a growing plant (or at least a cutting in water) which means less frequent replacements (but make sure to block up any water pots or the caterpillars may drown themselves).
Line the bottom of the container with kitchen paper or similar to catch frass (a surprising amount) and clean out frequently.
When the things are looking to pupate provide them somewhere to bury themselves (if they are a burying species). Various options but perhaps the easiest is just to get some soil, microwave it to kill off everything in it, let it cool and use that.
Of course a significant proportion of caterpillars taken from the wild are infected with something or parasitised already and die despite your best efforts. If a parasite emerges that is worth retaining as they are seriously under-recorded.
Thanks for all this advice and a very informative post. Its very much appreciated. I am hoping for a less wintery night to look for more caterpillars and I might take a few home if I think they are close to mature, and maybe close to pupating. Thats interesting about microwaving the soil.
I might look out for a fish tank and place a few caterpillars in that before winter gets into full swing, it already seems to be here this evening.
A good book on caterpillar rearing is "Breeding Butterlies and Moths" by Ekkehard Friedrich.
Now out of print but crops up pretty frequently on ebay and other second hand book sites. There are usually a few on sale at the AES exhibition each year (http://www.amentsoc.org/events/listings/0561/)