Subject: id caterpillar
Location: northwest NJ
January 16, 2013 5:25 pm
Good afternoon. This morning I found over two dozen of these caterpillars all dispersed throughout my yard on the snow! This is in NJ can’t understand what brought them out in this weather! Thanks.
This is a Winter Cutworm, the caterpillar of the invasive, exotic Large Yellow Underwing, Noctua pronuba. This species appears to be rapidly spreading in North America. According to the Diagnostic Services at Michigan State University: “Noctua pronuba caterpillars were found in large numbers in the fall of 2007 in central and northern Michigan; extension agents reported thousands of caterpillars around homes and in hay fields. The extensive defoliation of hay is one of the first confirmed reports of economic damage attributed to this insect in the U.S. … In large numbers, caterpillars move across fields and roads, similar to armyworm. However, unlike other caterpillar species winter cutworm is very cold tolerant, emerging even in the winter to feed. Thus if a large cutworm-like caterpillar is found late in the fall or during the winter, it is likely Noctua pronuba.” According to BugGuide: “Introduced from Europe to Nova Scotia in 1979, this species has since spread north to the Arctic Ocean, west to the Pacific, and south to the Gulf of Mexico.”
Great information – thank you so much for taking the time to research!