Subject: Mantis vs Caterpillar?
Location: Coryell County, Texas
October 13, 2015 7:37 am
Hello again, hope you are both well!
This smallish mantis (another male Carolina mantis, perhaps?) was hanging upside down from an Autumn Sage bush (Salvia greggii). At first I thought it was holding a flower, then realized it was eating prey. He made short work of it, too, with many quick, small bites.
I think it is a pink bird-dropping caterpillar, quite small, but had a lot of trouble getting a good photo due to the wind, dim lighting, an uncooperative flash, and my own lack of finesse. Please tell me that this wasn’t a Giant Swallowtail caterpillar. I can’t find any references to any butterflies using Autumn Sage as a host plant, although many pollinators and hummingbirds love the flowers.
Very warm, upper 90’s, around 5 PM, shaded corner of the garden.
Thank you so much and best wishes!
We agree that this is most likely a male Carolina Mantis, and upon searching our own archives for a pink caterpillar on sage, we located this posting of what might be a Tobacco Budworm, Chloridea virescens, eating Russian sage. There is a BugGuide posting that indicates the caterpillars have been found on sage and BugGuide also notes: “Caterpillars vary greatly in color. They seem to take on the color of the flower they are eating – green, pink red or maroon forms are described. Consistent features include small dotlike black ‘microspines’ giving the body a rough texture. Later instars typically have a brown head capsule and stripes along the body including a broad pale subspiracular stripe.” Our original posting especially resembles your caterpillar.