Lantanna Caterpillar
Location: Houston Texas
April 6, 2012 9:35 pm
My Lantanna Bush is crewling with these caterpillars. They aren’t on any other plant or bush. I have one in captivity and am having fun watching this funny creature devour the blossoms of this plant. I also have a great closeup video.
what is this and what will it be when it transforms?? How long does it take before he spins his cocoon?
Signature: hotairbabe

Salt Marsh Caterpillar

Dear hotairbabe,
This caterpillar is one of the Tiger Moth Caterpillars commonly called Woolly Bears.  We did a web search to see if any species are known to feed on Lantana, and we found a photo on Fred Walsh’s blog of a Woolly Bear similar to your individual, also from Texas, but it is not identified to the species level.  Upon searching BugGuide, we found a photo that looks nearly identical to your caterpillar, and it is identified as a Salt Marsh Moth,
Estigmene acrea, however, BugGuide does not list Lantana as a food plant despite providing a long list of larval food plants.  The University of Florida Extension website has a nice page on the Saltmarsh Caterpillar [note alternate spelling], and though they mention numerous host plants, Lantana is not on the list.  If our identification is correct, this caterpillar will eventually metamorphose into a white and orange moth with black spots known as the Salt Marsh Moth.

Salt Marsh Caterpillar

Thanks so much.  Yes I saw all of the references you mentioned while searching.  I am going to see if I can find a group here in Houston.  There is a meeting Tuesday nite near me of the Outdoor Nature Club that I may attend.   This little guy originally ate the leaves but now prefers the flowers.  Do you have any idea how long it will be before he spins his cocoon??  I polaced a stick in the box with him hoping he will use it.
thanks again,
Joan

Hi again Joan,
According to BugGuide:  “One generation per year in the far north, 2 in southern Quebec and Ontario, 3 or 4 generations in the south. Overwinters as a pupa in a spacious cocoon; adults emerge in early spring. Females lay 400-1200 eggs in clusters on leaves of host; eggs hatch in 4-5 days, and larvae pass through 5 instars over a period of 20-45 days; larvae are active dispersers, and are often found wandering over the soil in search of suitable food.”  You would live in an area considered the South, so if there were 3-4 generations, we expect pupation to occur very soon, and the pupa stage would probably last about a month.  The length of time in the caterpillar stage most likely depends on temperature as well as the availability of food.

Update from Joan
April 10, 2012
My litltle guy has gone into hibernation,  Day before yesterday he stopped eating and seemed anxious as he crawled all over the box,  for some reason I decided to add a small pile of crushed dry leaves at the base of his stick and later in the day I saw him under that pile.  Yesterday I could clearly see signs of the silky threads of a cocoon under the debris.  This is exciting and I look forward to seeing what will emerge.  I found this link that seems to be exactly what my caterpillar looks like: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arctia_caja
However all of the information is very differen regarding the timeline and food source etc.  I will keep an eye on him and see what happens in the weeks to come.
Thanks again,
Joan

Thanks Joan.  Please keep us posted and we would love a photo after the moth emerges.

 

Location: Texas

16 Responses to Salt Marsh Caterpillar

  1. cindy hennessy says:

    I found my Salt Marsh caterpiller munching on a milkweed leaf and found no websites to say they would ever eat that and I conitinued to feed it that for over a week. It is now in a chrysalis.

    • bugman says:

      It is nice to know that the diverse community of animal life that feeds on milkweed can add a new name to the list.

  2. craig says:

    found 1 salt marsh moth in wilmington delaware. on .rose leaf 7/16/16

  3. Milena says:

    Hi, my daughter and I found two on our porch in South Alabama. Orange-ish and fuzzy, with a black face. I’m trying to find out what kind it is because we kept one and want to feed it but we don’t know what it’ll eat. I assumed it was heading for our flower garden but so far it’s not eating any of the leaves I’ve given it… Does it sound like a salt marsh caterpillar? Do you know if it’ll eat any veggies or do I need to go out and gather some more leaves and weeds?

    • bugman says:

      BugGuide lists the following food plants for the Salt Marsh Caterpillar: “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.” Many plants on the list are considered veggies.

  4. Milena says:

    Thank you! Does anybody have an idea if they can get “depressed” and not eat? We tried a couple of the above mentioned leaves but our caterpillar wouldn’t eat a thing, he was just laying there not moving, unless we picked up the container he was in, then he’d frantically start trying to climb up the walls and escape. We let him go that evening because he hadn’t eaten but a couple of small bites all afternoon.

    • bugman says:

      They stop eating when they are getting ready to pupate.

      • Milena says:

        Oh! Well now I feel silly 🙂 This one was kind of small though, smaller than other ones of this kind that we had come across before. I would have never guessed he was ready to pupate… Thank you, I appreciate your replies!

        • Thomas says:

          hey i found one in Beasley tx i was rideing my bike on the rude when i saw her on the side of the rude so i pick her and whent home she will not but she tying to spin a cacoon what should do i raise 43 diffent kinds of moths and butterfly

  5. Judy says:

    I found a salt marsh caterpillar this fall, 2017 in Michigan. I found it on a milkweed plant, so that’s what I fed it. Healthy appetite, now in a pupate state. Glad to know he will overwinter.

    • bugman says:

      BugGuide does list milkweed as a food plant: “Larvae feed on a wide variety of mainly weedy plants including anglepod (Gonolobus), dog fennel (Eupatorium capillifolium), ground cherry (Physalis), mallow (Anoda), milkweed (Asclepias), pigweed (Amaranthus), and sicklepod (Cassia tora), 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.”

  6. Jenna Scheidegger says:

    Hi. I have a salt marsh moth. Caught it for my insect collection. It was ready to lay it’s clutch of eggs. Wondering if you know if it will die after it lays it’s 400-1200 eggs? Thank you very much!

  7. Jenna Scheidegger says:

    It did not feed while laying and did die after laying its eggs.

  8. Emma irizarry says:

    How many days does it stay in its cocoon I’ve had one in it cocoon for about 2 weeks and it still hasn’t emerged.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *