Subject: Caterpillar eating water hyacinth
Geographic location of the bug: Lake Hiawassee, Orlando, Florida
Time: 02:02 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Closest I can find is Larva of the arctiid moth Paracles sp.
How you want your letter signed: Phil
We believe you might be correct. We found an Invasive.org posting of Paracles tenuis and the site states: “Host: common water hyacinth” and we are presuming the water hyacinth is the invasive species in question. iNaturalist lists the genus Paracles in South America. We don’t find the species listed on BugGuide, so this might be a new North American sighting. Right now we are being thwarted in our research by a glacially slow internet. We want to browse all Arctiinae caterpillars on BugGuide before we eliminate any native species.
Thanks for the reply and your efforts in this matter. The one I sent you a picture escaped when I wasn’t looking. I found a second smaller one (earlier instar, picture attached) and am continuing to look for others as I am mechanically removing the water hyacinth from the lake as it is an exotic and extremely invasive plant. I will attempt to rear this and any others I find to the adult moth to better secure the identification.
Thanks so much for your help.
Good luck eradicating those water hyacinths, an invasive plant species from the Amazon. We wonder if the caterpillars you found are part of a program to help control the water hyacinths with biological methods. We look forward to any further updated you can provide, including images of the adult moth.
I wouldn’t suspect the caterpillar as a means of control. I have found only 5 in an area of 400 sqft and from what I have seen they only sample a few leaves before moving onto another plant.
In addition to my hand removal of the water hyacinth, the city has sprayed a herbicide twice so far killing (and leaving to rot in place) far more than I could hope to remove by hand.
Bit by bit, but is an aggressive plant and dense to the point of killing all plants below it.
Thanks for your help. I will be back if I am successful in rearing a caterpillar.
Come look a Cobra in the eye!