From the monthly archives: "September 2006"

Unknown Beautiful Caterpillar
Dear WTB,
My 2-year old daughter discovered this caterpillar amongst “Primrose” jasmine and “Barbara Karst” bougainvillea here in Tucson, Arizona on Sep. 30, 2006. After being “captured”, it was offered jasmine and appeared uninterested. However, it seems to enjoy eating the bougainvillea. The color seems a little off in this photo. Its underside, head, and rear-end are leaf-green; its back and sides are maroon. The teardrop shaped “spikes” on each section of the body are metallic silver on the topsides and red-tipped white on the undersides. The “bumps” that line each section of the body are metallic gold. It is absolutely beautiful and, unfortunately, I have so far been unable to get a picture of it which does it the slightest bit of justice. My daughter absolutely loves the little critter and so we have given it a home in a large “bug house”. I’m not really sure how to care for it, but I have equipped it with a rigid stick for climbing, a damp cotton pad for moisture, and bougainvillea leaves for food. If you are able to tell me, I would be greatly interested in learning what kind of caterpillar it is, what it will become, and how best to care for it. I think it would be great if my daughter could witness its metamorphosis before we release it back outside. Thank you!

Hi Janet,
This is a Hubbard’s Silkmoth or Mesquite Moth Caterpillar, Sphingicampa hubbardi. The caterpillars food plants are listed as acacia and mesquite. Perhaps you have one of those nearby. If not, it seems we might be able to add bouganvilla to the list of host plants. The adult moths are grayish brown with rosy pink hind wings. We would love to recieve a photo of the adult if the metamorphosis is successful.

Hi There
Hi There,
I work on an oil rig in the middle of the north see half way between the Orkney islands and Norway. 150 miles north east of Aberdeen. We had what can only be descried as a shower of flying beetles here. 1000’s falling from the sky and settling on the deck of the platform, along with these bugs were numerous moths and red admiral butterflies, a very rare occurrence as we hardly ever see creepy crawlies out here. Following them were numerous small birds such as robins and warblers who took full advantage of this free meal, Following the small birds were two peregrine falcons that in turn took their fair share of the small birds. No major recent storms which could have blown them out here. There has been A long period of moderate Southern winds with warm air and fog . Can anyone tell me what they are?
Graham Johnston
East Brae Platform
Marathon Oil UK

Hi Graham,
Your account of the food chain at sea is fascinating. These are not beetles, but True Bugs in the family Pentatomidae. They are commonly called Shield Bugs and even more commonly called Stink Bugs.

What’s that bug?
I found this large moth under the patio. It measures 2-1/2 inches with its wings closed. I’ve never seen a moth this big in Torrance ( a suburb of Los Angeles). I’ve enclosed two photos. Can you tell me what kind of moth it is? Thank you very much.
Glen Yoshida

Hi Glen,
Your beautiful moth is a Pink Spotted Hawkmoth.

Rothschildia jacobaeae
My name is Vanesa I live in Buenos Aires. I found 2 days ago what I’ve been told is a Rothschildia jacobaeae female, I thought it was a common buttefly dying. It didn’t move. I took it to my appartment and put it in my balcony, the next day I found there was an other one just identical but smaller. Is it the male? I took both of them to a park five blocks away from my home and set them free yesterday and today I had the little one again in my balcony. 6th floor. What should I do? Is it dangerous? How do I know if it is a male or a female? Can you send me good information? Thank you so much Sincerely yours
Vanesa Mautner

Hi Vanessa,
Rothschildia jacobaeae is one of the Saturnid or Giant Silkmoths. It ranges from Brazil to Argentina. Adult females Saturnids have larger bodies and males have more feathery antennae. The female moth releases pheromones that the male senses with his antennae, allowing him to locate a female that is ready to mate. That is how the original male found the female on your balcony. When you removed the pair, the pheromones remained behind and attracted another male the next day. These moths and other members in the family do not feed as adults. They live to mate and die shortly afterwards. Thanks for sending your lovely photo to us.