Subject: Caterpillar in utah
Location: Hwy 95, south of Hite
May 16, 2013 10:40 am
We found a strange caterpillar in the desert of southern Utah on Hwy 95 south of the town of Hite on the Colorado river. We looked in the books and on line and could not find the little guy! He was about 3 inches long hiding in some Mormon Tea plant.
This spiny guy is a Buck Moth caterpillar in the genus Hemileuca. Here is a similar looking individual from BugGuide that is identified as Hemileuca griffini and Bugguide only has sightings from Utah. According to the Butterflies and Moths of North America: “Habitat: High desert scrub. Range: Southern Utah south to central Arizona, west to southern Nevada.” The site also notes: “Populations should be inventoried and monitored to determine conservation status and impact of grazing on habitat.” BugGuide also has these remarks: “This species is considered to be threatened, due to its restricted range, and possible threats to its habitat from grazing of livestock. (4) Like other species in this genus, H. griffini caterpillars have venomous spines that cause a painful sting.”