Subject: Mourning Cloak Caterpillar?
Location: Lebanon, TN
May 23, 2012 9:34 am
I found this caterpillar at the park and my mom says it might be a mourning cloak caterpillar. Do you think she is right? That’s me holding it on a stick.
The the Mourning Cloak has a black spiny caterpillar, we believe this is a Buck Moth Caterpillar, Hemileuca maia, which you may verify by comparing your caterpillar to this image on BugGuide. It is also noted on BugGuide that: “Caterpillar is variable, with base color ranging from black to almost white. Thorax and abdomen densely flecked with white dots. Many-branched spines can deliver a painful sting” and “Larvae feed on Oaks, Quercus, especially Scrub Oak, Quercus ilicifolia. Wanders in later instars.” This late instar was probably wandering to find a good place to pupate. By comparison, the Mourning Cloak Caterpillar has a row of red spots along the back that is missing from your caterpillar.