Sulphur caterpillar rescue and cocoon
October 22, 2009
I think this is an orange barred sulphur based on photos I’ve seen. We rescued this caterpillar and it’s brother from a family member’s cassia tree (she was going to kill them!). I cried a little and she let me take them off and bring them home.
Anyway, we bought cassia bushes for them the next day and they both formed cocoons within 48 hours. So exciting!
Here’s the strange part: a few days later we looked at the bushes and there were five sulphur caterpillars! We’re completely stumped because we searched the bushes carefully everyday for eggs and there were none to be found. The caterpillars were all different sizes (including two full grown). Can caterpillars crawl from another place to a host tree? I thought they ate where they were hatched. Anyway, we’re so excited to have our first butterfly nursery. The new caterpillars look more like cloudless sulphurs, though.
Elizabeth from Orlando
WE often have trouble distinguishing the Orange Barred Sulphur from the Cloudless Sulphur in the caterpillar phase. Phoebis philea, the Orange Barred Sulphur, which can be viewed on BugGuide, and its more widespread relative, the Cloudless Sulphur, Pheobis sennae, also viewable on BugGuide, both have variable caterpillars. It seems yellow caterpillars often are found feeding on the flowers and green caterpillars are found feeding on the leaves. Both are masters of camouflage. Caterpillars can grow quickly. It is entirely possible you missed the caterpillars on the Cassia plant when you purchased it, and we consider that to be far likelier than that the new caterpillars migrated from elsewhere. We would reserve exact species identification until the adults emerge.