Currently viewing the category: "moth caterpillars"

Location: Guam
July 24, 2011 9:54 pm
Update from previous question to ID a caterpillar
They’re moths, not sure what kind?!
Signature: Holly

Tiger Moth: Argina astrea

Hi Holly,
Thanks for the update, but we cannot find your original identification request.  We believe we have correctly identified your moth as
Argina astrea on the Moths of Borneo website.  We are very interested in posting the photos of the caterpillars if you are able to resend them by attaching the images to this response.  We also want to commend you on successfully raising a caterpillar to maturity and taking photographs of the metamorphosis process.  The James Cook University website indicates that the common name, taken from the food plant, is the Crotalaria Pod Borer.

Tiger Moth Pupa: Argina astrea

Thank you! Wonderful information, I really appreciate it, I will be making a donation for your time! I have attached the photos of the plant we found them on as well as the caterpillars. Thank you again.
Holly Hutson

Crotalaria Pod Borer

Hi Again Holly,
We are most excited to be receiving your caterpillar photos, and you are most kind to make a donation even though we missed your first request.

Crotalaria Pod Borer

The plant you submitted is definitely a Crotalaria based on the Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide website.


LARGE Caterpillar found in Ozark, Missouri
Location: Ozark, MO (southwest Missouri)
July 21, 2011 10:39 pm
Can you identify this large dark/bronze/copper/brown colored caterpillar? We found it in early July in my flower bed, not far from my Walnut tree. It was about 3 inches long. We saw no others before or since. I’ve lived here 12 years and have never seen such a creature! In the photos, you can see the ”horns” and the tufts of ”hair”. It has a black ”band” across it’s head. Also, what Moth or Butterfly will it become?
Signature: ~Susi M.

Hickory Horned Devil

Hi Susi,
Your large caterpillar, a Hickory Horned Devil, will nearly double in size and change color from brown to aqua-green as it progresses through metamorphosis to become the largest North American Caterpillar.  We received our first Hickory Horned Devil sighting of 2011 a few weeks back and we have been getting numerous reports of the adult Royal Walnut Moths this summer, which makes us believe that there will be even more mature caterpillar sightings in August and September.  Folks don’t usually notice the Hickory Horned Devil until the caterpillars have grown to full size and  then climb from the trees to crawl upon the ground in search of a suitable location to dig beneath the surface where pupation occurs.  Walnut and Hickory, which provide the common names for the moth and its caterpillar, are just a few of the trees that serve as a host for the caterpillar.  Others include sumac and persimmon.  The adult Royal Walnut Moth, like other Giant Silk Moths, does not feed as an adult.  Adults live long enough to mate and lay eggs.  BugGuide has a nice series of images of various instars of the Hickory Horned Devil.  The fully grown caterpillar with its bright coloration and striking horns is often likened to a Chinese dragon.

Thank you SO much for replying so QUICKLY!! We found a very large moth last night fluttering against a rock wall here, put it in a jar and by morning it had laid numerous eggs! We think it may be the Royal Walnut Moth from our Hickory Horned Devil Caterpillar you identified! I will take photos and send them to you to be sure. It doesn’t look exactly like the other Royal Walnut Moths I’ve seen photos of at the Bug Guide link you sent me, but it may be one of them. I’ve lived here many years and have never seen these caterpillars near any walnut trees in this area. Where are they normally from? And why would they be appearing here all of a sudden? Thanks again.
~Susi Meredith
Ozark, Missouri

Hi again Susi,
Just because you didn’t notice any Hickory Horned Devils does not mean they were not present.  Even though they are large, they could easily escape notice in a large tree.  Since the adult moths fly, they are capable of increasing their range to places where there is available food.  Perhaps you are part of a natural range expansion.

The Big 5 are five potentially dangerous bugs.  Though we do not by any means endorse any wholesale extermination of the creatures on this list, we would caution all of our readers to treat these guys, though more are actually gals, with the utmost respect.  They will all bite and or sting, and they are all venomous.  There are no doubt deaths that can be associated with most if not all of them, though we would also add that the death to survival rate is very low.  We would now like to introduce you to The Big 5, though we expect that there will eventually be more than five creatures so tagged.

#1:  Tarantula Hawk
It’s really big, it flies, it announces itself with a buzz that sounds like a small airplane, and it advertises with aposematic coloration (orange and black), an it has a really big stinger, at least the female does.  There are not many creatures that can take on a Tarantula and win, but the Tarantula Hawk seems to have no problems perpetuating the species by feeding upon the meat of a tarantula during its formative period.

Tarantula Hawk

Update:  August 9, 2011
We just received this comment on a Tarantula Hawk Posting:
“Went back to the location where I took the Tarantula Hawk Pic hoping to see a bit more. Saw one dragging a male tarantula along and got to close. You are correct they have a very painful sting, got me on the hand twice. I dropped the camera went back to get it and got zapped again, this time on my calf. Being handicapped and unable to run, though I did a fairly good impression of all three stooges melded into one trying to make my escape, I will take appropriate measures next time I try to get that close to something and its food. I almost had to have my ring cut off my hand it swelled up so fast. The only pics taken that day were of me after a shot of benadryl, not so hilarious pics taken by my ‘firends’ while I was passed out from the benadryl and drooled on the sofa. Those stings are about on par or worse with the few scorpion stings I have had in the past. A regular wasp or bee sting pales in comparison. I am just glad that I did not have a very severe allergic reaction. So be warned do not attempt to get to close to these flying strike force wasps once they have their prey in ‘hand’.”

#2:  Bark Scorpion
Bark Scorpions in the genus
Centruroides are among the most dangerous North American Scorpions.  Here is what BugGuide has to say about the sting of several species of Bark Scorpions:  “The sting of most scorpions is not serious and usually causes only localized pain, some swelling, tenderness and some discoloration. Systemic reactions to scorpion stings are rare.
The sting of one of our scorpions, however, Centruroides sculpturatus(until recently thought to be the same as Centruroides exilicauda), the Arizona Bark Scorpion, can be fatal. Most healthy adults are not at significant risk- only children, with their smaller body size, are in danger (treatment with antivenom has pretty much put a stop to deaths where available, but bark-scorpion stings should still be taken very seriously). The site of the sting does not become discolored.  Another scorpion known to have an intense sting is Centruroides vittatus, but no deaths have been attributed to it directly.”

Bark Scorpion

#3:  Red Headed Centipede
Most of our reports of Red Headed House Centipedes,
Scolopendra heros, come from Oklahoma and Texas and they are reported to grow as large as 8 inches in length.  All Centipedes have venom, but the Tropical Centipedes in the order Scolopendromorpha are generally considered the ones with the most virulent venom.  There are several subspecies of Scolopendra heros, and there are also numerous color variations.  Not all individuals have a red head.

Red Headed Centipede

#4: Black Widow
With her glossy black body and red hourglass marking, the Black Widow Spider is an icon of warning coloration.  The venom of the Black Widow is a powerful neurotoxin, and according to Emedicine Health, it is described as:  “Local pain may be followed by localized or generalized severe muscle cramps, abdominal pain, weakness, and tremor. Large muscle groups (such as shoulder or back) are often affected, resulting in considerable pain. In severe cases, nausea, vomiting, fainting, dizziness, chest pain, and respiratory difficulties may follow.  The severity of the reaction depends on the age and physical condition of the person bitten. Children and the elderly are more seriously affected than young adults.   In some cases, abdominal pain may mimic such conditions as appendicitis or gallbladder problems. Chest pain may be mistaken for a heart attack.   Blood pressure and heart rate may be elevated. The elevation of blood pressure can lead to one of the most severe complications.   People rarely die from a black widow’s bite. Life-threatening reactions are generally seen only in small children and the elderly.”


Black Widow

#5:  Cowkiller
The Cowkiller is a female Velvet Ant, a flightless wasp that is alleged to have a sting painful enough to kill a cow.


Runner-Up:  Creechie
Unlike the Big 5, the runner-up, the Paederus Rove Beetle, does not bite or sting, but it can cause an horrific skin reaction by merely touching it.  Most of our reports of Creechie (African name) where it is also called the Acid Bug, AKA Cari-Cari in Malaysia, Potó in Brazil  and potentially Bicho de Fuego in Panama, come from tropical countries.  Though most of our reports of Paederus Rove Beetles have come from Africa, Asia and South America, we did receive a report from Arizona two years ago and one from West Virginia in 2008 in December which we imagine means Creechies can survive the cold.  Paederus Rove Beetles also sport aposematic coloration.

Creechie in Camaroon or Cari-Cari in Malaysia

 Runner-Up:  Muskmares
Walkingsticks in the genus Anisomorpha are commonly called Two Striped Walkingsticks or Muskmares. The second common name is due to the frequency that these Walkingsticks are found in the act of mating.  These Muskmares are capable of spraying a noxious substance with great accuracy over some distance, and they are good at hitting the eyes of a potential threat.  The effects wear off shortly, but will cause the eyes to water and blur as well as sting.  The latest information posted to BugGuide has the potential for harm as more serious:  “Members of this genus can deliver a chemical spray to the eyes that can cause corneal damage.” 

Mating Muskmares

Update:  August 10, 2014
Runner-Up:  Asp
A comment today has prompted us to add the Asp, or Southern Flannel Moth Caterpillar, to The Big 5 tag.  This stinging caterpillar is reported to have a very painful sting.

Asp or Southern Flannel Moth Caterpillar

Asp or Southern Flannel Moth Caterpillar


Big caterpillar in Cali
Location: South Lake Tahoe, Ca.
July 17, 2011 11:10 pm
We camped In South Lake Tahoe the week of July 9 – 16. Once we got there my daughter
instantly found one of these large caterpillars. Over the next couple of days, we found
them everywhere. We asked the camp host what they were, but she didn’t know. She said in
the twenty years she had been there, that was the first time she saw them.
They average about 3 1/2 inches in length, and about 1/2 to 5/8 inch in diameter. Every
time we found one they were walking on the ground, so we couldn’t tell what they were
eating. By the end of the week, we would only see one or two.
Signature: Eric and Talia, Bughunters

Pandora Pine Moth Caterpillar

Dear Eric and Talia,
We identified your caterpillar as
Coloradia pandora pandora, the Pandora Pine Moth according to the Butterflies and Moths of North America website, which states:  “Females deposit eggs in groups on pine needles or on the tree trunk; eggs hatch within 3-7 weeks. Young caterpillars are gregarious, with 3-5 caterpillars feeding together on the same pine needle. Older caterpillars feed alone. Two years are required to complete development. Second- or third-stage caterpillars overwinter the first year in tight clusters, resume feeding in the spring, pupate in June or July, and spend the second winter in underground pupation chambers lined with silk and plant litter. Some can remain in the pupal stage for up to 5 years before emerging as adults.”  Sadly, there is not a photo of the caterpillar on that website.  Luckily BugGuide has a photo that matches.

What in the world is this???
Location: Central Texas
July 13, 2011 3:34 pm
I was uprooting my tomato plants when I saw this in the soil in the container (IE: not from the ground) At first glance, I thought it was just a small pine cone or something…until it MOVED. Thought it might be a ”stinger” on the end, so I didn’t touch it. Is it harmful? Is it some kind of larvae? What in the world is this?
Signature: Craig

Tomato Hornworm Pupa

Dear Craig,
You have unearthed the pupa of a Sphinx Moth in the genus
Manduca.  There are two species in the genus whose caterpillars feed on the leaves of tomatoes and related plants.  Gardeners sometimes call them Tomato Bugs and they are also frequently called Tomato Hornworms because of the prominent caudal horn.  The body part that seems to resemble the handle of a jug is the case for the long proboscis, the strawlike sucking mouth of the adult moth which enables it to draw nectar from deep throated flowers like honeysuckle.

Thanks Daniel!
After not having a CLUE what it was on my own investigation, I found your website.  Appreciate your expert identification.  It’s nice to finally but a name with a face…..or….bug… 😉
Thanks for your time!

Unknown Catapiller
Location: Denver, Colorado
July 13, 2011 2:56 pm
Does anyone know what this is? I live in Denver and have never seen anything like it in 65 years. It was about 3 inches long and just appeared in a friends lap while sitting on the porch. He was sitting under some Virginia Creeper on a trellis.
Signature: Mark W in Denver

Achemon Sphinx Caterpillar

Dear Mark,
This is the caterpillar of an Achemon Sphinx.  In addition to Virginia Creeper, they feed on the leaves of Grape and a few other vines.  The caterpillars of Sphinx Moths are known as Hornworms, however, a few species, including the Achemon Sphinx, lose the horn in an early molt.  All that remains of the caudal horn in the Achemon Sphinx Caterpillar is a Caudal Bump that might be mistaken for an eye by a predator.  You may read more about the Achemon Sphinx on the excellent Sphingidae of the Americas Website.

Thank you very much!!!!  I really appreciate your knowledge and you taking the time to make me smarter!