Currently viewing the category: "moth caterpillars"

Strange Creature
My husband found this strange creature crawling on our truck under an oak tree. Is it some kind of larva camouflaged as a leaf? It was almost slug-like on its underside (but didn’t seem to be leaving a slimy trail) and had a very strong suction hold to the glass jar I had put it in. It was about 3/4″ in length. The “leaf” part appeared to be very soft/velvety. We live in SE Virginia. Can you help us identify this?

Dear Michelle,
Sometimes called the monkey slug, the full-grown hag moth (Phobetron pithecium) caterpillar is brown, 0.5 inch long, and has nine lateral lobes or processes with urticating (stinging) hairs. Some of these lobes protruding from the sides of the body are longer than others and are occasionally shed. Hag moths caterpillars are present in summer and fall. They produce one generation per year. Host plants include various forest trees and shrubs.
“Phobetron pithecium is called the Hag Moth because the dark brown larva has eight relatively long, fleshy, hairy appendages that cover the back, project from the sides and have a backward twist like locks of disheveled hair. They are, in fact, fleshy hooks covered with feathery, brown hairs among which are longer, black, stinging hairs. the cocoon is almost spherical and is defended by the hairy appendages that the larva in some way contrives to leave on the outside. These tufts give to the bullet-shaped cocoon a nondescript appearance and the stinging hairs afford a very perfect protection against birds and other vertebrates. The adults fly in midsummer. The female is brownish marked with yellow; the male is smaller.” according to Lutz.
Here is a great site with more information on stinging caterpillars.

I found this bug out in my yard this morning. It was near my tomato plants. It is a very odd looking thing. If you know what it is could you tell me if it is poisonous. It was thrashing around when I tried to pick it up. It reminded me of a snake. I have small dogs and was scared that they may try to eat it. They try to eat grub worms and I am afraid that they will make them sick. Thanks for your time.
Teresa Causey
Chavies, Kentucky

Dear Teresa,
I’m happy your photo arrived. We just received another siting from a young man who found one in his jeep, but there was no photo, only a verbal description. It is a Hicory Horned Devil, the largest North American caterpillar. It is the larva of the Royal (or Regal) Walnut Moth, Citheronia regalis. The forewings of the moth are olive colored with yellow spots and red veins. The hing wings are orange-red potted with yellow and the body is reddish brown with yellow bands. It is a beautiful moth. The caterpillars, though fearful in appearance, are harmless. They feed principally on Hickory, Walnut and Persimmon.
Ed. note: See next letter

My 8 yr old Daughter has been collecting different bugs, and such since we moved to Sierra Vista, AZ. Her latest are in the attached photos. both fuzzy, and two are blackish brown while the other one is orange-yellow.
THank You, RC

Dear RC,
The brown caterpillars are a type of wooly-bear, the larvae of a group of moths known as Tiger Moths,
Family Arctiidae. The exact species is difficult to determine, but it could be a Vestal Tiger Moth,
Maenas vestalis, the moth of which is white with conspicuous red forelegs, a Painted Arachnis,
Arachnis picta, the moth of which is beautifully marked with grey on white forewings and red
hindwings, or it could be another Tiger Moth. The yellow caterpillar is also a wooly-bear, perhaps Spilosoma virginica. Both are general feeders and shouldn’t be too hard to keep alive until they pupate, which they will do inside of a cocoon composed of their own hair. The best way to determine the species of the caterpillar is seeing what the adult moth that emerges looks like.

My son came in with a huge green caterpillar with big orange horns last night. It was probably 5-6 inches long and 3/4 inch thick. It extended across his hand. Looked like one of those chinese dragons.
He had been out in his jeep earlier and thought some how it had gotten in the car, for later when he was standing by the car, it crawled across his foot. We have never seen anything like it. Do you have any ideas?
Thank you, J.Hansel

Dear J.
It is the caterpillar of the Royal Walnut Moth,Citheronia regalis, which has the largest caterpillar in North America. The caterpillar, which your son found goes by the common name of Hickory Horned Devil. Please send a photo, we would love to have it. The moth is also quite beautiful. It has olive colored upper wings with red veins and yellow spots, orange red hind wings with yellow spots, and a reddish body with yellow bands.

Thank you for the quick answer. We took it to the zoo and found out you are correct. Such a thrill to see it. A couple of years ago I had a similar thrill I could share with the grandchildren. I captured a huge moth that was a big as my husbands hand. It was a soft tan color with pink designs in the wings. When I let it fly it looked like a bird going over the house. I remember looking it up but I forgot what I found . I feel the Lord truly blesses us when we see these things up close in their own environment. You know that you will never have the same experience again. Thank you for your help, Judy Hansel
P.S. I did get pictures with my new digital camera. When I learn how to send it I will send you the picture.

I’m glad we could be helpful Judy,
Don’t forget to send the photos when you have a chance. We would love to post one with your letter. The moth you found years ago is a member of the family Saturnidae, the giant silk moths. Based on your color description, I would guess probably an Ailanthus Silk Moth, though it could also be a Cecropia.

I did my research on your site (it was very helpful…thanks) and took this pic to send for your files if you want it…
Liisa Abbatiello

Dear Liisa,
I’m so glad our site was helpful. We have gotten several letters describing what your photo depicts, the parasitization of the Tomato Hornworm by Braconid Wasps. A picture is worth 1000 words. Thank you so much.

A HUGE bug I thought was going to carry my dachshund away!!!

Dear Bugman,
I looked through ALL of your pictures to try to ID my bug and not “bug” you, but I didn’t see it. I live in San Antonio, TX. The other night I heard a loud “bump” on the window near my recliner. I looked out to see the LARGEST bug I have ever seen. I thought perhaps it was a bird or a bat, but it hid under my son’s toy lawnmower, and my husband got a broom to move the lawnmower to get it out, and he said it was a bug. It was attracted to light, because when it was dark outside, it hit my window trying to get to my light inside. When we turned the lights on the porch on, he flew around, rather clumsily, toward the light. It’s wingspan had to be close to 6″-8″, and it was black and white variegated, almost like a flame stitch… kind of striped, but scribble striped. I swear I thought it had a skin-like covering over itself. I didn’t see an exoskeleton, but my husband swore it was a bug, and he was closer to it.
Thank You

Dear Rebecca,
I sure hope I can help you before you loose your dachsund. I’m not exactly sure, but here goes a guess. Tobacco Sphinx Moths, Manduca Sexta, grow large, and can have a wingspan in excess of five inches. They also have a robust body. They are attracted to lights and have a mottled pattern on the wings much as you describe. Since their bodies are covered with scales, they do not appear to have an exoskeleton. Here is a photo. Let us know.


Recently we have found about 6 of the very large tomato hornworms(?) on our 2 tomato plants. They look very similar to the black and white photo on your website. Half of them had white oval fuzzy pieces all over the outside of their bodies. What are those? Eggs? We took them off the plant by either breaking the stems they were on or by picking them off with a Popsicle stick. They are eating our plants down to the stalks!

Dear Rebecca,
Those “eggs” you saw were in fact the cocoons of a parasitic Braconid wasp which was devouring the tomato hornworm alive. Nature’s own pesticide.