Day one on Mt. Meron, I worked the mountainside trail. So much to see and photograph. On my way back to the trailhead, I weighed the options for me that morning. The road up to the mountain ends at the large parking lot for visitors and tour buses and a restricted turn in the road leads to the very restricted military base at the mountaintop.
Roadsides can be good places to find butterflies. This roadside differed from most, with IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) personnel speeding up and down, often. Just a few yards from the trailhead, the guy who rarely finds caterpillars could not believe his eyes! There, about 2 feet from the asphalt, was this Verbascum Sinuatum plant. On it, in screaming yellow and black spots & bands, were 2 caterpillars. Eureka!
What Mama butterfly (Moth?) laid her eggs on this wildflower plant? Was she insane? The road to the top of the mountain passes rocky outcroppings on its one side, and was almost a natural wind tunnel. This Verbascum was in almost constant motion, blown by the wind that never stopped. Vehicles, cars, trucks, buses passed by often, and they too buffeted the Verbascum stalks.
Think that that bothered the caterpillars. Nope. They just ate and ate and move up or down to . . . eat.
I decided that I would score good images of host plant and caterpillars. After all, Jeff rarely finds caterpillars (although Jeff knows that they are there, somewhere).
My field guides for Israeli butterflies and moths do not offer a caterpillar match. What Leps will these cats become, on this mountainside in the northernmost Galilee region of Israel?
Thanks to Oz Ben Yehuda who identified these caterpillars as the larval stage of Charaxes jasius, the Mullein moth. I saw them on their favorite host plant. Get this, you can also see them in Western Europe, Southern Europe, Central Europe and in much of North Africa. Adult moths fly at night, and, these caterpillars are considered . . . pests, stripping crop plants, bare. Hmm.