Subject: Pretty but voracious
Location: Lincoln, Nebraska, USA
July 28, 2012 2:18 pm
One day I suddenly found my smokebush covered with these caterpillars, which were stripping the leaves in short order. When alarmed they raised their heads and rears and froze. They were 1.75” long. Can you tell me what they are?
A second attempt
August 1, 2012
I later found the same caterpillars on a sumac, if that helps you with ID. Thank you
We apologize for not responding to your original email. We are totally swamped with identification requests at this time of year and our small staff cannot handle every identification request. This is a Prominent Caterpillar in the genus Datana, and the behavior you describe of raising their heads and rear ends is typical of this genus. We believe we have correctly identified your species as Datana perspicua thanks to this image on BugGuide which shows a group of caterpillars feeding on Sumac. Thank you for your patience.
Daniel, thank you for the confirmation of my caterpillar ID. I was conflicted when I cross referenced other images of this species on the Bug Guide. Some images showed images of Datana perspicua being black and yellow and labeled as final or penultimate instar. Other images with the coloration my caterpillar were labeled as 25mm, mid-instar. Mine was twice that size and I have several in a jar that have burrowed into the dirt to pupate, so they were the final instar. That conflicts with labels of the black and yellow caterpillars. Could those have been mis-labeled or mis-identified? Considering the time of year, are my pupating caterpillars likely to emerge this year for a second brood? Any guess on how long they will pupate if they do emerge this year? It will be good to have the adults to submit with the caterpillars when I submit any photos.
Thanks so much for your time, I realize you are overwhelmed at this time of year. I have now registered with the site and will contribute some $ to it, because it is AWESOME! Thanks again.
Hi again Marilyn,
Thanks for the donation. Wow, where to begin with your questions. We are going to take license and just speculate without researching for now. Actually, reheated homemade ravioli sounds like just the thing needed before we begin. …
… We have an opinion on the coloration discrepancy you describe. We believe these Datana perspicua have a documented color match on BugGuide. We believe the species is most likely variable in coloration between races and perhaps within the same brood as well, though we cannot recall having ever seen a photograph where a single Datana individual was differently colored than its siblings. We also believe that caterpillars that bury themselves to pupate often have longer periods of dormancy and most likely more climate specific eclosion requirements. We do not believe this Datana Caterpillar has multiple generations per year so we would expect a winter pupation, but we may be wrong. The homemade spinach and ricotta ravioli in garden fresh pesto was yummy.