Location: Arcadia, FL
February 1, 2011 8:43 am
My very curious and observant 2nd grade students found this caterpillar rolled up in a ball in the grass in our school yard on January 31. We are in Nocatee FL, just outside of Arcadia FL. (Southwest FL but more inland) He reminds me of a wooly bear but without the banding. I can’t find any photos online that look quite like him. They are all either too hairy, too orange, etc. We put some oak leaves/branches in our butterfly habitat with him but he doesn’t seem to be eating. I need to know what he eats! Also if he is some sort of tiger moth then everything I read says they will be in a pupa for most of spring/summer – would be good to know so we are not waiting endlessly for something to happen. Just wondering what you can tell me… THANK YOU!!!
Signature: Mrs. Maiolo’s 2nd Grade Class
Dear Mrs. Maiolo’s 2nd Grade Class,
There is a reason this Salt Marsh Caterpillar, Estigmene acrea, reminds you of a Woolly Bear. Both species are in the Tiger Moth tribe Arctiini. BugGuide provides this information: “Larvae feed on a wide variety of mainly weedy plants including pigweed (Amaranthus spp.), anglepod (Gonolobus spp.), Sicklepod (Cassia tora), Dog Fennel (Eupatorium capillifolium), ground cherry (Physalis spp.), and mallow (Anoda spp.), plus crops such as alfalfa, asparagus, bean, beet, cabbage, carrot, celery, clover, corn, cotton, lettuce, onion, pea, potato, soybean, sugarbeet, tobacco, tomato, and turnip. On rare occasions, they also feed on leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs: alder, apple, cherry, elderberry, pear, poplar, and serviceberry, according to Handfield.” BugGuide also indicates: “Adults fly from May to September. Adults fly year round in Texas” and we expect the year round flight may also apply to Florida. If your caterpillar is getting ready to pupate, it will cease eating.
Thank you! I did go outside today and pick some various weeds, etc and he was munching a bit.
(Then, my kids came in with what appears to be a Silk Moth today… oh boy… and it started laying eggs in our butterfly habitat! So that is another adventure… never had a class that was so “into” bugs before… these kids are constantly bringing me critters!)
Thanks again for your help!
February 3, 2011
Sorry to keep bugging you (no pun intended), but thought you might like to add this photo to the caterpillar entry… it made a cocoon today! So, now we wait!…..
Thanks for the update. Like many Woolly Bears, the Salt Marsh Caterpillar incorporates its hairs into the spinning of its cocoon.