Touch-me-not Balsam pods explode without warning when they’re ready to disperse their seeds. The seed pods also happen to be the Netted Carpet Moth larva’s favorite food. So what happens when this hungry caterpillar eats from a pod that’s ready to pop? This BBC clip from The Lake District: A Wild Year, narrated by Bernard Cribbins, captures their challenge.
Some additional background from NationalTrust.org.uk:
Research has shown that this moth relies totally on touch-me-not balsam. This small delicate plant with yellow flowers is the only native species of balsam in the UK, but many invasive balsams are aggressively wiping this plant out. This means that the population of the netted carpet moth plummeted to near extinction in the 1980s and 1990s and has only recently begun to recover. The perfectly camouflaged larvae of this moth feed exclusively on the plant.
Numbers of this moth are returning thanks to a partnership of many organisations. Here in the south Lakes the National Trust ranger team has been working hard to play their part in the return of this species to many areas. By introducing cows to the favoured areas of the moth, research has shown that more aggressive plants such as Himalayan balsam are kept at bay, allowing the touch-me-not to flourish. Our rangers have also been “pulling up” invasive species such as yellow balsam to make space for touch-me-not to return.
Watch more exploding plants disperse their seeds with high pressure bursts.
Then watch more videos about seed dispersal, including this humidity-powered seed drills that itself into the ground.
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