Currently viewing the category: "moth caterpillars"
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Do you know what this caterpillar is?
Location: San Diego, CA
May 27, 2011 12:31 pm
We found this caterpillar in San Diego CA at Mission Trails Regional Park on a willow tree. We can not figure out what it is. Can you help. Thanks.
Signature: D in SD

What's That Nymphalid Caterpillar???

Dear D in SD,
The basic coloration and morphology of your caterpillar and its presence on Willow immediately suggested a Mourning Cloak, known as a Camberwell Beauty across the pond, however, no photos on BugGuide look like this.  Mourning Cloak Caterpillars are black spiny creatures (DO NOT TOUCH) and they have 8 rows of orange red dots along the back.  Your caterpillar appears to have 9 double rows of orange spines and its variegated pattern is beautiful.  We really wish your lateral view was not so blurry.  We suspect your caterpillar, whatever it might be, may irritate human skin if in contact with the spines.  We did additional research and the Green Comma,
Polygonia faunus, also feeds on “willows and birches and others” according to Jeffrey Glassberg’s book Butterflies through Binoculars The West.  The photos we found online look even more drastically different than the Mourning Cloak Caterpillar photos posted to BugGuide.  Could it be Chlosyne harrisii Harris’s Checkerspot, which we found on the Moth Photographers Group by scrolling down the page.  What does Chlosyne harrisii eat?  NOPE according to BugGuide, it ranges elsewhere.  Here is the Butterflies and Moths of North America website page on the Green Comma.

Brush Footed Butterfly Caterpillar on Willow

Alas, our search has turned up nothing conclusive.  We strongly believe that the key to a correct identification here is the presence on Willow.
P.S.  NEW THOUGHT:  Might it be a moth caterpillar like a Buck Moth?

Correction courtesy of Keith Wolfe
“D” and Daniel, this is a Hemileuca (Saturniidae) larva.  These nymphalid look-alikes confused me, too, when I first started studying young butterflies.
Best wishes,

Hi Keith,
Funny, Buck Moths did cross my mind when I was researching this caterpillar.

Hi there.  Thanks for looking into this for me.  After looking Butterflies and Moths of N.A. I do think it is a Nevada Buckmoth.
I really appreciate the time you took to check it out.
D in SD

Bill Oehlke supplies a response
It is definitely Hemileuca nevadensis for first one
and for second one as well.
Bill Oehlke

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Location: East Tennessee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
May 24, 2011 8:24 pm
I found this oddball on my shirt after walking through some trees ( mostly ironwood, sweetgum, red maple, but there were other around) near a river in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in TN – about elevation 1500’. Sorry just one picture! I couldn’t find anything like it in David Wagner’s excellent Caterpillar field guide…
Signature: John D.

Horned Spanworm

Dear John,
Most caterpillars have five pairs of prolegs at the anterior end of the body and these prolegs assist in the caterpillar locomotion.  Many caterpillars in the family Geometridae have only two pairs of prolegs, so their method of locomotion is unusual.  They crawl forward on their true legs and then loop the rear portion of the body forward.  Because of this manner of locomotion, they are commonly called Inchworms or Spanworms.  The filaments on your specimen are very unusual and immediately indicate it is a member of the genus
Nematocampa, most likely the Horned Spanworm, Nematocampa resistaria, which we identified on BugGuide.  According to BugGuide:  “Larvae feed on many hardwoods and several softwood species of shrubs and trees including pine, hemlock, fir, larch and spruce.”

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Crazy caterpillar
Location: Amani Nature Reserve, Northeast Tanzania
May 18, 2011 3:18 am
I’ve seen 3 or 4 of these guys now, but the only help I’ve gotten on ID is that it is some type of moth. Anybody out there know?
Signature: Phil

Stinging Slug Caterpillar

Hi Phil,
This is sure a beautiful photograph.  Our money is on a Stinging Slug Caterpillar from the family Limacodidae, but we haven’t the time at the moment to research an accurate species identification.

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What the heck?
Location: South Dakota kitchen floor
May 18, 2011 8:34 am
I found this on the floor. At first I thought it was something off a sunflower but found this worm looking thing inside.
Signature: Please help

Unknown Thing

We are baffled as to how to even categorize this thing.  There are not enough visible characteristics except to say that it resembles a grub or maggot, but being in that casing is quite curious.  Furthermore, why are there two of them?  The casing looks fibrous and hemplike, or possibly like fur.  Do you perhaps have a house pet with similar looking hair?  We are going to feature your photo in the hopes that our readership is able to provide some information.

Karl solves the Mystery
Mysterious Encased Grublike Thing – May 18, 2011
Hi Daniel and Please help:
Your mysterious objects look to me like the mature, presumably overwintered, seedheads of burdock (Arctium sp.). If so, the little grubs are likely the larvae of the Burdock Seedhead Moth (Metzneria lappella), a variety of microlepidoptera in the family Gelechiidae. The larvae feed on the developing seedheads, then overwinter as larvae and pupate within the seedhead in the spring. Burdock is very common here in southern Manitoba and in the fall the seedheads are typically very heavily infested with these little guys. Perhaps they hitched a ride into your home on someone’s clothing, or maybe a dog. Burdocks were originally Eurasian species but they have been naturalized in North America for a very long time. I suspect the same goes for the Burdock Seedhead Moth. Regards.  Karl

Wow Karl,  that was an impressive identification.

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Caterpillar emergence
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
May 15, 2011 9:35 am
I need to know the emergence dates of the following moth species. They have been stored in my garage since last fall. All but the Polyphemus were hand-reared. I live in Pittsburgh, PA. The moths are Promethea, Royal Walnut and Polyphemus. Thanks!
Signature: June

Hickory Horned Devil: early instar

Dear June,
We don’t believe we can predict with accuracy the exact emergence dates for the Giant Silkmoths you have listed because emergence is not something that can be calculated by counting days, weeks or months.  Temperature and other climactic conditions are significant factors.  However, we can use historical sighting information on adults of the species to try to predict emergence dates.  Since Giant Silkmoths don’t feed as adults, their average longevity would be about a week, during which time they mate and reproduce, if they are lucky, though many individuals provide food for other creatures and never manage to mate.  One of our favorite yearly activities involves tracking the northern emergence patterns of the Luna Moth which began in Texas in late February this year.  Our most northern reports thus far this year have been from Virginia and Iowa, and we expect to begin hearing from Main and possibly Canada by late May or early June.  Later in the year, reports of a second brood will come again from the southernmost portions of the range in Texas and Florida
We don’t really track the other Giant Silkmoths the way we do the Luna Moth.  Starting with the Promethea Moth, according to BugGuide:  “One brooad flies June to July northward. Two broods southward, flying March to May and July to August.”  The data page on BugGuide with information on sighting in specific states has sightings in March, June and July in Ohio and May and July in Pennsylvania.  The March sighting might have been a cocoon since various stages of the metamorphosis are not aggregated in the data presentation.  We would predict a June hatching for your moths.  Regarding the Royal Walnut Moth or Regal Moth, the adult of the Hickory Horned Devil you have provided as an illustration, BugGuide indicates:  “Adults fly from late May to September” however, that is information spread out over the entire range.    The data page on the Regal Moth on BugGuide indicates sightings from June through September in Pennsylvania and July and August for Ohio, but that information would include adults and caterpillars, and we always get Hickory Horned Devil sightings in September.  Our best guess is that you can expect emergence of the Royal Walnut Moth from the pupa in June, or possibly as late as July.  Regarding the Polyphemus Moth, BugGuide indicates:  “In southern United States, adults fly April-May and July-August (2 broods); in northern part of range, adults fly from May to July (1 brood).”  According to the data page, sightings in Ohio run March to September exempting May and those for Pennsylvania are from May to August.  Based on that information, we might expect your Polyphemus Moths to hatch the soonest, possibly beginning now and into June.

Thanks, Daniel!  I have been successful in the past with the Promethea as far as mating and collecting eggs.  I would like to try the same with the other moth species.  I’m thinking it might be best for me to attach the cocoons to the inside of the metal hardware cloth cage that I have used for the Promethea and wait to see when each emerges.
Thanks for your efforts in researching my questions.  I appreciate it very much.

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Name that bug?
Location: Perth, Western Australia
May 13, 2011 3:50 am
We have passed this around our office (staff of over a hundred), and no one has been able to identify.
Please help us!!
Signature: Unknown

Vine Hawkmoth Caterpillar

Dear Unknown,
We quickly identified your caterpillar as
Hippotion celerio on the Butterfly House website devoted to the Lepidoptera of Australia.  It is commonly called a Gabi Moth or Vine Hawkmoth.  The Butterfly House website indicates:  “This Caterpillar occurs world-wide. It can occur in several different colour forms: green, brown, red or dark grey. It usually has an eyespot each side of the first and second abdominal segments, those on the first segment being larger. There are variable cryptic stripes and bands along the rest of the body. The Caterpillar has a tailhorn curved slightly backwards which tapers to a point.”  This is actually an Old World species and it is not found in North America or South America.  According to the Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic website, it is described as:  “A notable migrant in most years from tropical Africa and India to the western Palaearctic region. In warm years, new colonies may even be established in North Africa and Europe, so the delineation between resident and migrant ranges cannot be clearly defined. It is, however, resident in the Canary Islands, and probably also in the Azores and along the Atlantic coast of Morocco. It is certainly resident in many areas of the Levant and the Arabian Peninsula (Pittaway, 1979b), and Egypt (Badr et al., 1985).  Extra-limital range. Tropical Africa, Asia and Australia, with occasional records from northern New Zealand.”  The caterpillar in your photo is reacting as though it was threatened based on this information on the Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic website:  “As with most larvae exhibiting anterior eye-spots, the head is retracted when the larva is alarmed, expanding the large eye-spots on the first abdominal segment. When feeding, it rarely consumes the whole of a leaf; shoots with quarter- or half-eaten leaves often indicate the presence of a larva. Whereas young larvae may be found beneath a leaf, fully-grown specimens usually rest away from the feeding area, farther down the stem.”  This species is known to feed on grape as well as numerous other plants.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination