Currently viewing the category: "Caterpillars and Pupa"
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I have grown tomatoes for many, many years and this is a first for me. I have enclosed a picture. Can you identify the larva/pupa? that is building the cocoon on my tomato? Good bug – bad bug? Thanks so much for your help.
Pat in Ida

Dear Pat,
That is one beautiful tomato. The caterpillar might be an Omnivorous Looper, Sabulodes aegrotata which matures into a medium sized rather pretty moth, however they are still garden pests. They defoliate my mint plants every year and also eat the leaves from my roses. As their name implies, they eat most any plant. They are very abundant in city gardens. During the day, the caterpillar hides in a loose webby shelter that they spin in a leaf fold, or between leaves, or in your case, on a ripe tomato. They will probably not chew the tomatoes, just the leaves.

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Can you identify this little guy for me?

Dear Karen,
It might be a Great Spangled Fritillary, Speyeria cybele, whose spiny caterpillars feed on violets. The butterflies are beautiful and well worth sacrificing a few viola.

The little guy hasn’t eaten much…….it seems well worth it……

(7/5/2003) Dear Bugman,
Thanks so much for the fast reply, and you were right on target (even if I did throw in the bit about the teeth – – I’m a professional writer – – what can I say – – ). I’m delighted to discover that he is a Giant Swallowtail. I’ll nurture him and let him eat my lemon tree as much as he wants! I had continued to research last night, and I had mistaken him for a “horned” catepillar from Cuba (the photo was very similar). Perhaps this is why he didn’t respond to Spanish when I spoke to him!
Thanks again for your assistance. Your site is gret!

Editor’s Note: We lost Sarah’s original letter, which had a crazy exaggerated description. Here is a photo of an Orange Dog though.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

I was wondering if you could identify this bug on my tomato plant for me…THANKS
Colloquially known as the “tomato bug”, the tomato hornworm is the caterpillar of the Tobacco Sphinx, Manduca sexta or Manduca quinquemaculata, large night flying moths.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Hi. Digging in the dirt where I usually plant my tomato plant, I discovered a cocoon the size of my thumb. It is brown and like I said, it is the size of my thumb. Any ideas what it may be? I put it in a jar with some of the dirt from where I was digging. I hope it will live. I can send a picture If will help you identify it.

Dear Michelle,
Did it have what looks like the handle on a jug? If so, it is the pupa of a Tobacco Hornworm Moth (Manduca sexta) which in its larval, caterpillar form is the dreaded Tomato Hornworm, a four inch long behemoth that devours the leaves of tomato plants, sometimes leaving them defoliated. The larva eventually buries itself in the dirt to pupate without spinning a cocoon, leaving its bare pupa to mature. The handle of the jug is actually the place where the long proboscus, a tubelike mouth that the moth uses to gather nectar from deep throated flowers. We would love a photo.

Hi Daniel. Thanks for getting back to me. I have attached a photo, but I’m afraid it’s not a very good one. It sounds like your know your bugs. My next question is, how do I get this thing to hatch? Is the moth beautiful? I would imagine that it is. I currently have it in some soil in a jar without a lid. Should I keep it out side or in the house? Let me know.


Dear Michelle,
The moth is large and mottled grey with very elongated wings. There are a series of yellow spots along the body. They are very strong fliers. While not traditionally beautiful, they are truly awesome. They are very similar to the moth used in the “Silence of the Lambs” advertisements, and you can also see a swarm of them crawling on Patsi Kensit (spelling?) in the totally awesome movie” Angels and Insects”. You are doing the right thing as far as getting the pupa to metamorphose. Do not let the soil either dry out or get too wet. Keep it out of the direct sunlight.

Thanks again for your time and the information. I hope I get to see him. I think I forgot to ask if you know how long it could take? Do you know?

Dear Michelle,
Normally they overwinter as pupa and then metamorphose in the spring. I’m guessing your specimen has passed the necessary time underground and it should be happening soon.
Good luck.

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Caterpillars Second submission, once again from Hickory, NC. These caterpillars were all over town a week ago, but now they seem to either died or cocooned. Please identify and provide some background. Thanks!
Gene Annas

Hi Gene,
The website Caterpillars of Eastern Forests has a photo which identifies your caterpillar as an Orange-striped Oakworm (Anisota senatoria). The site says it is: “Charcoal black with orange-yellow stripes that fade appreciably in prepupal individuals. Head black. Second thoracic segment with long, black spinulose horns. Abdominal spines relatively small. Gregarious in early instars, then solitary. Occasionally reaches outbreak densities. One related species occurs in southern Ontario, and another in Florida and Georgia. Food: oaks and chestnuts. Caterpillar: August to October; 1 generation.” The adult moth is a pretty orange color.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Dear What’s That Bug,
I was walking through the woods yesterday evening when I ran across several of these creatures. We live in the southeastern U.S….these were found near dusk in a drizzle in a forest. I have always heard of them being called ‘cherry bugs’ due to the scent that they emit when startled or feel threatened…they are between 1.5 and 2.5 inches in length, black, with yellow spots down not only the sides, but also down the center of the back as well. All markings are symmetrical. They look *very* similar to a picture I saw of a yellow-spotted millipede…the difference being the extra row of yellow spots down the center of the back….plus, the yellow-spots are from Oregon…and we are in Tennessee. I am curious to know what exactly these are, they are interesting creatures, and I’d like to know a bit more about them. Also, any care advice would be appreciated as well.
Thank you! –
Christina Loder

Dear Christina,
Unfortunately, if you enclosed a photograph, it did not arrive. Based on your description, and your latitude and longitude, I would guess that you have stumbled upon some caterpillars, more specifically, the larvae of some local swallowtail (Papilio sp.) My guess would be the larvae of the black swallowtail butterfly, which feeds on parsley and related plants including Queen Anne’s Lace which grows in uncultivated meadows. The caterpillars are green, black and yellow, and have two orange horns which are hidden near the head. When the caterpillar is threatened, the horns emerge, along with a musty smell that I would not really liken to the scent of cherries. Try this:

If you keep them in captivity, you can feed them carrot tops. They will form a crysalid and a butterfly will eventually emerge.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination