Currently viewing the category: "moth caterpillars"

Crazy Caterpillar
Location: Plant City, FL
August 1, 2011 8:49 am
Dear Bugman,
My cousin and I were out touring Dinosaur World when we saw this massive and ornately decorated caterpillar. We thought it was so exotic looking and were wondering what it was called and what kind of butterfly it will eventually turn into?
Signature: Trini & Amii

Hickory Horned Devil

Dear Trini and Amii,
This is a Hickory Horned Devil, and it will metamorphose into a Royal Walnut Moth.

Helicoverpa zea
Location: New Jersey
July 31, 2011 8:14 pm
Hi buggy peeps!
I love your site and often rely on it to ID bugs for myself or friends.
Earlier today, I found a lovely caterpillar in the garden on one of my tomato plants. Thinking it was a butterfly, I took a few photos and rehomed it in one of our flower gardens. When I came inside, I showed the photo to friends who were alarmed that I had rescued a ”tomato worm.”
I ran outside, and promptly fed it to one of my chickens (who quite enjoyed it.) I know that you don’t endorse extermination, but perhaps this was ok because it was the ”circle of life?”
I came inside and searched online for tomato worms. It lead me to photos of green horned worms. Further searching lead me to Helicoverpa zea, which is considered a corn worm and not tomato worm.
I have two questions for you:
How did it get in my garden? We are not growing corn this year.
Is it ok for my chicken to eat this creature? I found out later that you should not feed the green tomato worms to chickens, so I got nervous about the corn worm.
Ok…I lied. Two more questions: Why is it called a worm at all? Isn’t it a caterpillar? I didn’t think caterpillars were considered worms? And… how do all of these agricultural type insects come to exist in veggie gardens? Are they always present in our yard and multiply in the right situation, or do they hitch a ride on other plants that may be brought in? The majority of our garden was started from seed here at the house.
Thanks so much for your time in reading this and the response if you are able to make one. I know you are very busy!
Hope you’re enjoying your summer as much as we are!
Signature: Annie

Corn Earworm or Cutworm???

Hi Annie,
Thanks for your lengthy and amusing query.  We believe you are correct that this is a Corn Earworm.  It fits the description provided on the University of Florida Entomology Departments Featured Creatures website which indicates:  “The larva is variable in color. Overall, the head tends to be orange or light brown with a white net-like pattern, the thoracic plates black, and the body brown, green, pink, or sometimes yellow or mostly black. The larva usually bears a broad dark band laterally above the spiracles, and a light yellow to white band below the spiracles. A pair of narrow dark stripes often occurs along the center of the back. Close examination reveals that the body bears numerous black thorn-like microspines. These spines give the body a rough feel when touched. ”  Images on BugGuide show some of the variability.  Despite its name, the Corn Earworm feeds on numerous garden crops, leading to other common names.  According to BugGuide, the Corn Earworm is also called a Tomato Fruitworm, Bollworm, Sorghum headworm and Vetchworm, and this is explained thus:  “As its common names suggest, larvae feed on a wide range of hosts, including many field crops, hence this species has been much studied.”  Since the caterpillar is the larval form of a moth that flies, adults gain entry to gardens on the wing and the caterpillars do not have to be introduced on plants. While we have heard that chickens will not eat Tomato Hornworms because of the taste, they will eat a multitude of other insects, and to the best of our knowledge, the Corn Earworm is not toxic to them.  You did some copious research before submitting your questions, and you even took the time to learn the scientific binomial name
Helicoverpa zea, which is the only true name that should be used to describe your insect.  Common names, though they are often quite catchy, would confuse scientists, especially those from linguistically diverse cultures.  The language of popular culture does not follow the strict scientific guidelines for names.  Caterpillars are wormlike, and the layperson would tend to use names that are descriptive and easy to remember, hence the name Corn Earworm to describe the caterpillar that will crawl into the ripening ear of corn to feed on the kernels.  

Any idea what this is?
Location: Sioux City, IA
July 29, 2011 9:51 am
Wondering if you have any idea what this caterpillar/worm is?
Signature: Maureen

Four Horned Sphinx

Hi Maureen,
This is a Four Horned Sphinx or Elm Sphinx.  We just posted a photo of a Four Horned Sphinx from Michigan that came a day later than your submission, and out of guilt for having so many backlogged identification requests, we are posting your image as well.

Thank you for quick response. I was amazed to find your website as I was trying to find out what that interesting caterpillar was. I have never seen anything like it before. Thanks again!

never seen this before
Location: Muskegon, MI
July 30, 2011 5:39 pm
Hi, we found this caterpillar outside our house and i was wondering what it is. I have never seen a caterpillar this large before, it was about 3in. long. sorry i couldn’t get a very good photo of it. i’m excited to find out what it is.
Signature: Thanks, Katherine

Four Horned Sphinx

Hi Katherine,
This is the caterpillar of the Four Horned Sphinx or Elm Sphinx.  You can see some nice photos that show the four horns on the head by viewing the Sphingidae of the Americas website.  We are amused that the common name Four Horned Sphinx ignores the prominent caudal horn, and perhaps a more fitting name would be Five Horned Sphinx.

Tomato Hornworm- Not shuttlecock!
Location: Housatonic, Massachusetts.
July 29, 2011 3:13 pm
I know you get hundreds of letters, and I apologize for annoying you!
I must admit, I have learned a LOT- and I mean A LOT from your site. I can now recognize insects/arachnids/etc. (Though, I’m still much better with canine breeds).
Funny story with this is, we were outside playing badmitten. My fiance hit the shuttlecock, which landed on the ground, nothing unusual. I went to pick it up, and noticed it landed right next to this handsome guy!
I was a little shocked, as I have never seen this caterpillar more than three times in my life. I was a little wary of the ’stinger’ but I am certain he was harmless. He was heavy and, might I add, looked quite delicious.
I petted him for a while before letting him go!
So, could you guys confirm my suspicions? Thanks again, and keep up the amazing work!
Signature: Terra

Laurel Sphinx Caterpillar

Hi Terra,
Many Sphinx Moth Caterpillars look quite similar, and you need to concentrate on the details to get the identifications correct.  We believe we have correctly identified your caterpillar as a Laurel Sphinx,
Sphinx kalmiae, thanks to the Sphingidae of the Americas website.  The blue caudal horn with black markings is correct, as is the black markings on the head, however, the typically black prolegs appear green in your photo.  We will contact Bill Oehlke to get his opinion.

Laurel Sphinx Caterpillar

Could u help me with this bug please?
Location: Bradstown ky
July 29, 2011 11:49 am
My friend found this caterpillar by the creek in our back yard. The closets thing i can find in your section is the Hickory Horned Devil? I am going to try to keep it and watch it transform but need to know what it is and how to take care of it.
Signature: Sue

Pre-Pupal Hickory Horned Devil

Hi Sue,
You are correct.  This is a Hickory Horned Devil, and it is pre-pupal, meaning it is about to pupate.  Hickory Horned Devils pupate underground.  For some reason, this individual did not bury itself.  You can put it in a container with loose earth and lightly bury it.  You will need to keep it from drying out, but the earth should not get soggy.  An adult moth should emerge next June or July.  You should keep it in a sheltered place over the winter that does not get too warm, like an unheated porch or garage.