hairy green caterpillars on sophora tomentosa
These hairy green caterpillars were on a necklace-pod plant (sophora tomentosa) in Vero Beach, FL which is mid-way up the Atlantic coast of Florida (at the northern limit of the tropical zone). The cats are about 1 1/2 inches long. Since the photo was taken one of them has pupated in a cocoon on the underside of a necklace-pod leaf. Your ID help is really appreciated. I can’t find any references which show necklace-pod as a host plant for any butterflies or moths and haven’t been able to find a match to the caterpillar on the internet.
Keep up the good work and thanks for your help!
Ed. Note: Before we could identify Kathleen’s caterpillars, she wrote back with the following information.
Thank you so much! Unfortunately I didn’t collect the pupa. It is no longer on the plant and I didn’t find any others (of course the cats might have crawled off to pupate in other places). I continued to search the internet and finally got an identification. I’m sorry to be late in telling you. When I went back to your site to let you know there was an odd error message about the site being offline because it had exceeded its allowed number of hits. It slipped my mind to try again later, I apologise. You offer a great assistance to the public and are a wonderful resource.
The caterpillar is a Genista Caterpillar, Uresiphita (=Tholeria) reversalis (Guenee) (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae). The references I found for it were about Arizona, Texas and the Pacific Northwest. In Texas it feeds on mountain laurel, crape myrtle, honeysuckle & laburnum. Other references said that it’s one of the few predators of Scotch Broom, an invasive exotic (legume family) in the Pacific Northwest. Apparently the caterpillar absorbs alkaloids from its host plants & is then unpalatable to predators. The following site states that the caterpillar is in the web-worm family and destructive to trees in Texas. I was very puzzled that I couldn’t find any data relating to the caterpillar as a pest for necklace pod. The moth must be uncommon to Florida. I don’t know how it would have gotten here but maybe there is Necklace pod is also in the legume family so that may be the connection. Necklace pod seeds contain an alkaloid that’s poisonous so maybe the leaves have some too. There appear to be few natural predators (I think the wolf spider is one) for this caterpillar due to the alkaloid absorption. Thank you for your searching and your thoughtfulness in sending the update. Warmly,