Prominent moths are a group of fascinating insects that can be found throughout North America. These creatures have chunky bodies and are often camouflaged in gray or brownish colorations. Their heavy covering of scales gives them a fuzzy appearance, while their heads and thoraxes often showcase contrasting colors. When at rest, they display unique behaviors including holding their wings over their body like a roof or curling their wings around their abdomens, which are lifted at an angle to the substrate they’re on .
There are 14 species of prominent moths belonging to the genus Datana in North America, and each is distinct in its own way. All of these species resemble dried leaves and have fuzzy, dark, rusty heads . Some prominent moths, such as hawk moths or sphinx moths, belong to the Sphingid family, which includes some of the largest moths in the world. These amazing creatures have long, narrow wings and thick bodies, allowing them to be fast flyers and highly aerobatic .
Moths belong under the Kingdom Animalia, which consists of multicellular organisms possessing traits like mobility and heterotrophy. Moth’s are closely related to butterflies, although there are distinct differences in features and behavior.
Arthropods are characterized by their exoskeleton, segmented body, and jointed appendages. Both moths and butterflies fall under this category due to sharing these traits.
Hexapoda is a group containing all insects, including moths and butterflies. They possess three pairs of legs, which is a common characteristic of insects.
Moths, as insects, belong to Class Insecta. Insects have three distinct body regions: head, thorax, and abdomen.
Lepidoptera refers to the group containing moths and butterflies, characterized by their scaled wings. However, there are subtle differences between them:
|Antennae||Feathery or saw-edged||Club-shaped with a long shaft and a bulb at the end|
|Flight||Active at night (nocturnal) or day||Primarily diurnal|
|Wing position||Hold wings over their bodies or curl around abdomen when at rest||Fold wings vertically over their backs when at rest|
Moths fall under the Noctuoidea superfamily, whereas butterflies are classified under the Papilionoidea superfamily. The main difference is the families included under their respective superfamily.
Prominent Moths belong to the family Notodontidae, which consists of moths with:
- Chunky bodies
- Camouflaged, gray or brownish colorations
- Heavy covering of scales for a fuzzy appearance
- Contrasting head and thorax colors
Examples of prominent moths include the spotted datana, gray furcula, and walnut caterpillar moth (source).
Prominent moths have a wide range of wingspans depending on the species. However, they are known for their long wings, which can be seen in many of the 3,800 species within the family Notodontidae 1. Some examples of prominent moths with distinctive wingspans include:
- Spotted datana
- Gray furcula
- Variable oakleaf caterpillar moth
- Walnut caterpillar moth
Nocturnal versus Diurnal
Moths can be classified as either nocturnal (active during night) or diurnal (active during day). Most moths, including prominent moths, are nocturnal and play a crucial role in pollination during the night 2.
However, there are exceptions as some moths are also active during the day. Different species of moths adapt their behavior and preferences according to their environments and food sources. This variety contributes to their vast diversity and prevalence across the globe.
Life Cycle and Habitat
Prominent moths begin their life cycle as eggs, laid by females on host plants. These eggs are often hidden on the underside of leaves, providing protection from predators and harsh weather. Example host plants where eggs are laid include:
- Oak trees
- Maple trees
- Huckleberry plants
Once the eggs hatch, the larvae (or caterpillars) emerge and begin to feed on the host plant’s leaves. As they grow, they go through several stages (called instars) and shed their skin to accommodate their increasing size. Some larvae have a unique relationship with ants, which provide them protection in exchange for sugary secretions. This mutualism between larvae and ants can be beneficial in the garden, as ants may help control other pests.
Range and Distribution
Prominent moths are found in various habitats across North America, including forests, meadows, and gardens. Their range spans from Canada down to Mexico, making them a common sight in many environments across the continent. Despite this broad range, the distribution of specific species within the prominent moth group may be more limited due to their differing host plant preferences.
|Location||Common Prominent Moth Species|
|Canada||Actias luna, Cerura vinula|
|United States||Datana integerrima, Nerice bidentata|
|Mexico||Euchaetes egle, Syntomeida epilais|
Overall, the life cycle and habitat of prominent moths are diverse, with different species demonstrating unique adaptations to thrive in various environments across North America.
Nadata gibbosa, also known as the rough prominent, belongs to the Notodontidae family of moths. These moths are characterized by:
- Chunky bodies
- Generally gray or brownish colorations
- Fuzzy appearance due to heavy scales
This species is commonly found in North America, with adults having a wingspan of 35-50mm. They can be spotted around hardwood trees, particularly oak, where their caterpillars feed on leaves.
Other Prominent Moths
Apart from Nadata gibbosa, there are many other species of prominent moths, such as:
- Spotted datana (Datana perspicua): Commonly found in deciduous forests, the caterpillar feeds on various types of trees.
- Gray furcula (Furcula cinerea): Inhabits mixed hardwood forests, the caterpillar feeds on willow and poplar trees.
- Variable oakleaf caterpillar moth (Lochmaeus manteo): Distributed throughout North America, the caterpillar feeds on oak and sometimes other deciduous trees.
- Walnut caterpillar moth (Datana integerrima): Commonly found in eastern North America, the caterpillar feeds on hickory and walnut trees.
Comparison between rough prominent and other species:
|Feature||Nadata Gibbosa (Rough Prominent)||Other Prominent Moths|
|Habitat||North America, hardwood forests||Varies, mainly deciduous forests|
|Size||35-50mm wingspan||Varies depending on the species|
|Host plants||Oak trees||Different types of deciduous trees|
In summary, prominent moths are a diverse group, and species like Nadata gibbosa have distinct characteristics and host plants. These moths are essential for maintaining the ecological balance in their habitats.
Food and Pest Management
Prominent moths are known to feed on a variety of plants and materials. Some common food plants include:
- Other fruits and vegetation
In some cases, prominent moths can cause damage to wool, as their larvae feed on the fibers.
Companions and Pests
Moths can co-exist with other insects or even potentially benefit from companion plants. Some examples of companions for moth-infested areas are:
- Lacewings: predators that feed on moth eggs and larvae
- Parasitic wasps: these wasps lay their eggs within moth larvae, eventually killing them
Prominent moths can also be considered pests, depending on the species and situation. For example, the Spongy Moth is a significant pest that poses a threat to North American forests, while the Indian Meal Moth is a common pantry pest.
|Lacewing||Feeds on moth eggs and larvae||Spongy Moth||Threat to forests|
|Parasitic Wasp||Kills moth larvae||Indian Meal Moth||Spoils food in pantries|
One effective way to manage moth populations is by using Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a combination of common sense practices and pest control methods that reduces reliance on pesticides.
Identification and Resources
Genera and Synonyms
Prominent moths belong to various genera within the family Notodontidae. Some common genera include Furcula, Nadata, and Datana. It’s essential to learn about the genera and synonyms to facilitate the identification process. Here are a few features to help identify prominent moths:
- Chunky, camouflaged bodies
- Gray or brownish colorations
- Fuzzy appearance due to scales
Over time, taxonomic changes may occur as experts discover more information about moth species. Keep updated on these changes to maintain accurate identification and improve understanding of prominent moths.
There are numerous internet resources available to help you identify prominent moths and learn more about their biology. Some reliable websites are:
- Moth Photographers Group — Plates Series: Offers a large collection of moth images to study their appearance and characteristics.
- PNW Moths: Contains information on more than 1,200 species of moths found in the Pacific Northwest, along with high-resolution photographs and an interactive identification key.
Utilizing these resources and observing prominent moths under various conditions, such as different lights and environments, will help you in the identification process.
- Prominent moths are known for their chunky bodies and camouflaged, gray or brownish colorations1.
- They often have contrasting colors on their head and thorax1.
Some notable characteristics of prominent moths include:
- A heavy covering of scales, giving them a fuzzy appearance1.
- Holding their wings over their bodies like a roof or curling them around their abdomens when at rest1.
There are 14 species of prominent moths in genus Datana in North America, all resembling dried leaves with fuzzy, dark, and rusty heads2. When it comes to pollination, moths can be active during the day as well as at night3. They are attracted to nocturnal flowers with pale or white colors, heavy fragrance, and copious dilute nectar3.
Pros of prominent moth pollination:
Cons of prominent moth pollination:
- May not cover extensive areas for pollination.
- Limited to specific plant species.
|Features||Prominent Moth1||Other Pollinators4|
|Active Time||Day & Night3||Day|
|Color||Camouflaged, gray, or brownish1||Varied|
|Attracted to||Pale, White, Fragrant Flowers3||Various types of flowers|
|Appearance (head/thorax)||Contrasting Colors1||Varied|
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Prominent Caterpillar
Bright Pink Caterpillar/Worm?
Location: Caneyville KY
August 28, 2010 2:39 pm
This little guy was found in Caneyville Kentucky. He is approximately 1-2 inches long, bright pink in color, an orangish face with two little black eyes very close together. I cannot see any legs, so I suppose this could be some sort of grub worm? Any ideas?
We knew immediately that this was a Prominent Moth Caterpillar in the genus Heterocampa, but we needed to browse BugGuide to determine the species. We are quite confident that this is the Caterpillar of the White Blotched Heterocampa, Heterocampa umbrata, and we even found an identical color match on BugGuide. The normally green caterpillar changes color just prior to pupation.
Letter 2 – Blue Caterpillar probably White Dotted Prominent
Subject: Blue caterpillar in nj
July 24, 2017 1:16 pm
Hi bug man, my sister found this blue caterpillar in mj. In all my years I have never seen one like that. Would you please let us know what it is. Is it a caterpillar, moth? Hank you so much!
Signature: Blu caterpillar
We cannot provide a conclusive identification. We did locate this very different looking blue caterpillar on BugGuide, and it is unidentified. We suspect this is some type of Cutworm, the caterpillar of a moth in the family Noctuidae.
Karl Provides an Identification: White Dotted Prominent Caterpillar
Hello Daniel and Blu caterpillar:
By any chance, was this caterpillar found on an oak tree? If so, I believe it may be White-dotted Prominent moth caterpillar (Notodontidae: Nadata gibbosa). The description according to ‘Caterpillars of Eastern North America’ (Wagner 2005), includes “Sea-green to waxy blue-green, stocky caterpillar, with weakly developed subdorsal stripe; densely salted with white dots. Head enlarged, pale green; mandibles yellow with black tips. Anal plate edged with yellow.” The angle of the shot makes it difficult to make out with certainty, but I think I can make out a hint of yellow at both the front and back end.
Before cropping the image, our editorial staff can attest to the leaf in the image being an oak leaf. This BugGuide posting looks like a perfect match.
Letter 3 – Two Caterpillars from Puerto Rico: Silverking Butterfly Caterpillar and Prominent Moth
Caterpillars from Puerto Rico (moths?) Sun, Jan 25, 2009 at 7:18 AM
These caterpillars were photographed in the humid karstic forest of northern Puerto Rico. The one with the “horns” is huge. I found it on a Piper shrub (Piperaceae), and the several I’ve seen are always out at night. At first I thought it would be a species of Heraclides (Papilionidae) but after checking some pictures, I decided it can’t be. I was photographed in summer (though seasons i Puerto Rico are not well defined, except rainy/dry).
The other caterpillar was shot by day, in the same general habitat. I was photographed just a couple of weeks ago.
I have a lot of unidentified insects in my website on Caribbean Natural History ( www.kingsnake.com/westindian ). If it is OK with you, perhaps you can pay it a visit and provide me with any corrections/information you might think is relevant.
Thanks a lot for your kind help.
Puerto Rico, northern karstic humid forest
Hello again Alejandro,
We fear we are not really being of much assistance to you today. In our humble opinion, we would guess that these might be Prominent Moth Caterpillars in the family Notodontidae. You can see some North American specimens on BugGuide. Many Prominent Moth Caterpillars have unusual projections on their bodies similar to the ones on both of your specimens. We will post your photos in the hope someone can assist in the identification. We will also link to your marvelous website and hope your site doesn’t crash from the additional traffic.
Confirmation from Eric Eaton
Monday, January 26, 2009
I think you are probably correct with the caterpillar IDs….
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
I haven’t been able to identify the first image but I believe the second one is of a Prominent moth in the genus Nystalea, probably N. collaris. The web site for Area de Conservación Guanacaste (ACG) has a huge searchable database of moth (adult and caterpillar) images, including many for the various instars and color phases of N. collaris. The species ranges from southern Texas to Costa Rica, and the Antilles. Regards.
Update: February 13, 2009
Greetings Father Sánchez,
Since my research is limited to the early stages of butterflies (not enough hours in a day to add moths), I can only identify your first photo. It is a caterpillar of the Silverking butterfly, *Archaeoprepona demophoon* (Nymphalidae, Charaxinae), which feeds on several genera in the Lauraceae, its presence on *Piper* a result of wandering. As you discovered, *Heraclides* swallowtail larvae look entirely different and more or less like this:
Update: Sat, Feb 14, 2009 at 8:05 AM
The caterpillar in the first image is not a Prominent moth, but a Leafwing butterfly (Nymphalidae : Charaxinae). It is a Two-Spotted Prepona (Archaeoprepona demophoon); not to be confused with the One-Spotted Prepona (A. demophon). The name Silverking may be more common in the Antilles. The distribution of A. demophoon is from Mexico to northern Argentina, including the Caribbean. Within that area the genus is broken down into at least 10 sub-species, each with its own fairly distinct distribution. The variety found in Puerto Rico (and apparently nowhere else) is A. d. ramorosum. The ACG site mentioned above has numerous images of A. demophoon caterpillars and adults. Regards.
Letter 4 – Black Rimmed Prominent
Subject: Black Rimmed Prominent
Location: Mancelona, MI
June 29, 2014 5:37 pm
This distinctly-patterned moth is the Black Rimmed Prominent (Pheosia rimosa). It can be found throughout North America. Evidently there’s another color morph, with a darker pattern, that was formerly considered a different species–you can see it on Bugguide. The young feed on aspen and willows. This adult showed up on a window after a warm late-June night.
Hi again Helen,
Thanks for continuing to provide moth images lacking in our archives. According to BugGuide: “”Caterpillar resembles young hornworm caterpillars. Color may be yellow, lavender, pink, green, brown or nearly black. Skin is very shiny. Black horn on last abdominal segment and hard red-edged anal plate.
Letter 5 – Black Spotted Prominent Caterpillar
Purple and orange caterpillar
September 1, 2009
I found this odd little caterpillar on a Black Locust tree near my house in south-western Pennsylvania. I tried searching through books and the internet, hoping to find out what this little guy is with no luck. [S]he is about 2″ long. Hopefully you can help identify the bugger!
Pittsburgh Area, Pennsylvania
We started by searching the Owlet Moth Caterpillars on BugGuide, and then progressed to the Prominent Caterpillars. Eventually we identified your Black Spotted Prominent Caterpillar, Dasylophia anguina, on BugGuide. Distinguishing features according to Craig Biegler on BugGuide include: “the black ‘shoulder’ spot, shiny black ‘button’ on A8, raised rear end, elongated anal prolegs.” The Caterpillars of the Eastern Forests website indicates: “Splendidly rendered in shiny lavender, orange (or red), yellow, and black; both color and pattern variable. Head orange and unmarked. Middorsal and 2 or 3 subdorsal and supraspiracular stripes, these thin, broken, and black; subdorsal stripe orange, broad; spiracular stripe lemon, broad. Eighth abdominal segment with black dorsal button. Subventer with line of raised shiny black spots just above legs. Food: lead plant, locusts, and other legumes. Caterpillar: June to October; apparently 2 generations.”
Letter 6 – Drexel's Datana Caterpillars
Location: northeast Pennsylvania
August 26, 2010 5:00 pm
I’m looking for the identity of these caterpillars. They were feeding on a blueberry bush. They fed in bunches at the end of a branch and raised their head and tail when disturbed. Seen in mid- August.
The defensive posture you have described and photographed is consistent with the Prominent Caterpillars in the genus Datana, and the food plant and the coloration indicate that your specimens are Drexel’s Datana, Datana drexelii, which is described on BugGuide.
Thank you!! I’ve been trying to find out what tese are ever since I first saw them! I really appreciate your help.
Letter 7 – Mottled Prominent Caterpillar
Subject: Some kind of Prominent?
Geographic location of the bug: Purdys, Nee York
Time: 08:26 AM EDT
Failed to find this caterpillar on several sites and David Wagner’s beautiful book. Found it crawling on our driveway mid-September. Overhead were Japanese Maple, Dogwood, Red Maple, Elm, with many other species in vicinity.
How you want your letter signed: L Jones
Dear L. Jones,
We really must commend you on figuring out that this is a Prominent Moth Caterpillar from the family Notodontidae. We believe it resembles this Mottled Prominent, Macrurocampa marthesia, that is pictured on BugGuide. According to BugGuide: “larvae feed on leaves of beech, maple, oak, and other deciduous trees” so the trees you observed most likely have provided a food source for your individual.
Wow. Exactly! A bit embarrassed I missed that. Thanks a bunch!
Letter 8 – Oval-Based Prominent Moth
Subject: Oval-based Prominent Moth
Location: Mancelona, MI
July 6, 2014 6:30 pm
The Oval-based prominent moth (Peridea basitriens) is overall a rather dull gray. What makes it stand out are the oval/almond shaped rings/patches that surround its fluffy ruff. It almost makes it look like a stained-glass window. Thus says Bugguide: it has a wingspan of 3-3.5 cm, and it appears to occur here and there throughout the Easter US. I saw several last night, so moth-hunters here in Michigan, keep an eye out for this nifty moth!
Thanks for sending your image of an Oval-Based Prominent Moth. We are linking to the BugGuide page.
Letter 9 – Pre-Pupal Drab Prominent Caterpillar
Subject: fat, pink, and roly poly
Geographic location of the bug: vermont, usa
Time: 04:50 PM EDT
I work at a childcare center on the vermont-new hampshire border, and i’ve seen a bunch of unusual bugs on the playground this year. i wish i’d found this site earlier, because it would have been able to answer a lot of questions for the curious kids- and their teacher!
I found this guy just crawling around on the ground in the bark mulch and i’ve never seen anything like it before. It was pretty warm earlier this week for late september, could that have anything to do with it?
thank you so much for all your hard work!
How you want your letter signed:
Your caterpillar bears an uncanny resemblance to a Mottled Prominent Moth Caterpillar we just posted, except that individual is green and yours is pink. Many caterpillars change color just prior to pupation, and that pre-pupal state is often a change in color from green to pink. We located this image of a pink Mottled Prominent Caterpillar on BugGuide and we consider that an anfirmation of our suspicion, but, closer inspection has us doubting that since your individual is lacking the rear-end projections visible in this BugGuide image and our own image. We still believe this is a Prominent Moth Caterpillar from the family Notodontidae. We now believe, based on this BugGuide image, that it is a Drab Prominent Caterpillar, Misogada unicolor. According to BugGuide, the: “larvae feed on cottonwood and sycamore” and “larvae can be found on the underside of cottonwood and sycamore leaves April-September.”
Thank you so much! The kids were all very fascinated, even if some of them didn’t completely understand. Keep up the good work!
Letter 10 – Probably Prominent Moth Caterpillar
Subject: What’s that larvae
Geographic location of the bug: Lowveld
Time: 04:13 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Please help. Very unique but stumped me out.
Thanks a mill
How you want your letter signed: Andrew
We have yet to find an image that we can use as an identification, but our suspicion is that this is the Caterpillar of a Prominent Moth in the family Notodontidae. Perhaps one of our readers will have more luck than we have had.
Thanks so much for the efforts. I am trying to get a few more pictures to ease identification.
That would be great. Do you know what plant it was feeding upon?
Letter 11 – Prominent Caterpillar
Hi, we need a little help identifying this caterpillar. We found it moseying across our driveway this afternoon (we live in mid-Missouri). My daughter wants to keep it to see it transform, but I told her we can’t unless we can find out what it is and what it needs to eat! thanks for any help,
You have one of the Prominent Caterpillars, probably from the genus Heterocampa. They have a distinct saddle pattern on the back which your photo illustrates nicely. There is some variability in coloration. I would recommend looking at the site Caterpillars of the Eastern Forests. If I were to try an exact identification, I would say the Oblique Heterocampa (Heterocampa obliqua) . The caterpillar feeds on oak.
Letter 12 – Prominent Caterpillar
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
September 3, 2010 3:34 pm
We found this in the yard in Pittsburgh, PA. ANy ideas as to what it is and what kind of moth/butterfly it will turn into?
signature: Wendi Martin
Though your photo doesn’t show the head, this pattern and coloration is characteristic of Prominent Caterpillars in the genus Heterocampa just prior to pupation. BugGuide has good images of the caterpillars in the genus Heterocampa as well as images of the adult moths.
Letter 13 – Prominent Caterpillar
Subject: pink caterpillar w front spine dorsal chevron
Location: 49°08’58.11″ N 123°10’26.48″ W
August 11, 2015 4:47 pm
My wife found this walking on paving in our back yard in Vancouver, British Columbia. May have arrived on new plants brought from nursery. We have looked at every single caterpillar pic on the web (feels like) but have failed to see anything even close. It doesn’t want to eat or spin a cocoon, but we’re hoping it will pupate so that we can see what emerges. But in case it doesn’t, we’re hoping you can tell us what it is.
30mm long (sorry for not including scale in photo)
Signature: Pierre van Aswegen
Good Morning Pierre,
This is a Prominent Moth Caterpillar in the family Notodontidae, probably in the subfamily Heterocampinae. We have not had a chance to do a more thorough search for its species identity, but we are posting the image in the meanwhile. Many caterpillars turn pink just prior to pupation, and the color is not necessarily diagnostic. See BugGuide for possibly genera in the subfamily.
Letter 14 – Prominent Caterpillar
Subject: Found this little guy
Geographic location of the bug: Texas, Redbud Vanilla Twist Tree
Time: 02:37 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I found this little guy on one of my new letters. At first, I didn’t realize it was a caterpillar, until I got a closer look. Good thing I always have a camera close, especially in my backyard. I have never seen this one before and I surely don’t want it to eat all the leaves on the young tree.
How you want your letter signed: Kate in Texas
Dear Kate in Texas,
This is a Prominent Caterpillar in the family Notodontidae, and we spent a considerable amount of time trying to get a species identification for you. The closest visual match we found on The Moth Photographers Group is Schizura badia, though we are not certain that is correct. According to Discover Life, the common name is the Chestnut Schizera, and the same common name is used on BugGuide where it states “The larvae feed on Northern Wild-Raisin and other Viburnum species.” The Red Humped Caterpillar, another member of the genus, is known to feed on redbud, but your caterpillar is most definitely not that species. Scientists and naturalists don’t always have comprehensive knowledge of the feeding habits of caterpillars. Leaf loss due to caterpillar feeding is rarely a concern for a healthy tree.
Letter 15 – Prominent Caterpillar, genus Heterocampa
caterpillar in a miami park
Location: southwest of Miami, FL
April 5, 2012 12:13 pm
Greetings from Miami. I recently photographed this caterpillar in a Miami preserve. I am a naturalist and am familiar with common caterpillars but this one was new to me. Can you provide an ID? Many thanks!!!
Signature: Jennifer in Miami
Your caterpillar is one of the Prominent Moth Caterpillars in the genus Heterocampa. We cannot be certain for sure, though BugGuide has photos to help to distinguish the various species. We would guess that your individual might be a Wavy Lined Heterocampa, Heterocampa biundata, based on this photo posted to BugGuide.
Thank you so much!! AFter googling around a bit, it seems like Heterocampa are fairly variable and difficult to ID. I never would have gotten it. Thank you for your time.
Letter 16 – Prominent Caterpillar: Lirimiris truncata
Location: Southern AZ
August 20, 2017 11:47 am
Signature: Len Nowak
One of your newly attached images is a much nicer image of the “Arizona Devil” you sent earlier and we will be adding that image to the previous posting. We are really excited about the yellow and orange caterpillar images you submitted. We quickly identified them as Lirimiris truncata thanks to The Firefly Forest site where it states: “Lirimiris truncata caterpillars are bright yellow and tiger-striped with black and white, and they have a few patches of white bristles, a red head, and an even larger red tail hump. This large tail hump might function as a false head meant to divert predators’ attacks away from the more vulnerable actual head. The garish coloration of Lirimiris truncata caterpillars makes them highly visible to birds and other predators, but these caterpillars’ bold yellow, red, and black colors are actually a universally recognized type of aposematic (warning) coloration meant to warn away potential predators. I don’t know if these caterpillars are actually poisonous or noxious, but many caterpillars in the same family have chemical defenses and can spray foul-smelling, irritating, or toxic fluids if disturbed. Noting this caterpillar’s bright warning colors, I didn’t try handling it.” We verified that identification on BugGuide where it states: “The placement of this species is Notodontidae is uncertain. Lafontaine and Schmidt listed it as incertae sedis in their 2010 checklist (1). BOLD places it under Dicranurinae.”
Letter 17 – Prominent Caterpillars: Datana perspicua
Subject: Pretty but voracious
Location: Lincoln, Nebraska, USA
July 28, 2012 2:18 pm
One day I suddenly found my smokebush covered with these caterpillars, which were stripping the leaves in short order. When alarmed they raised their heads and rears and froze. They were 1.75” long. Can you tell me what they are?
A second attempt
August 1, 2012
I later found the same caterpillars on a sumac, if that helps you with ID. Thank you
We apologize for not responding to your original email. We are totally swamped with identification requests at this time of year and our small staff cannot handle every identification request. This is a Prominent Caterpillar in the genus Datana, and the behavior you describe of raising their heads and rear ends is typical of this genus. We believe we have correctly identified your species as Datana perspicua thanks to this image on BugGuide which shows a group of caterpillars feeding on Sumac. Thank you for your patience.
Daniel, thank you for the confirmation of my caterpillar ID. I was conflicted when I cross referenced other images of this species on the Bug Guide. Some images showed images of Datana perspicua being black and yellow and labeled as final or penultimate instar. Other images with the coloration my caterpillar were labeled as 25mm, mid-instar. Mine was twice that size and I have several in a jar that have burrowed into the dirt to pupate, so they were the final instar. That conflicts with labels of the black and yellow caterpillars. Could those have been mis-labeled or mis-identified? Considering the time of year, are my pupating caterpillars likely to emerge this year for a second brood? Any guess on how long they will pupate if they do emerge this year? It will be good to have the adults to submit with the caterpillars when I submit any photos.
Thanks so much for your time, I realize you are overwhelmed at this time of year. I have now registered with the site and will contribute some $ to it, because it is AWESOME! Thanks again.
Hi again Marilyn,
Thanks for the donation. Wow, where to begin with your questions. We are going to take license and just speculate without researching for now. Actually, reheated homemade ravioli sounds like just the thing needed before we begin. …
… We have an opinion on the coloration discrepancy you describe. We believe these Datana perspicua have a documented color match on BugGuide. We believe the species is most likely variable in coloration between races and perhaps within the same brood as well, though we cannot recall having ever seen a photograph where a single Datana individual was differently colored than its siblings. We also believe that caterpillars that bury themselves to pupate often have longer periods of dormancy and most likely more climate specific eclosion requirements. We do not believe this Datana Caterpillar has multiple generations per year so we would expect a winter pupation, but we may be wrong. The homemade spinach and ricotta ravioli in garden fresh pesto was yummy.
Letter 18 – Prominent Caterpillars in genus Datana
Subject: Gulf Fritillary Caterpillars?
Location: Baker, Florida
September 7, 2012 10:00 am
My 6 year old daughter, Ocean Rose, had this very special find in our backyard on September 2, 2012. I’m thinking they may be Gulf Fritillary Caterpillars (because we have alot of those butterflies around here) but wasnt quite sure.
Gulf Fritillary Caterpillars only feed on Passionflower vines. These are Prominent Moth Caterpillars in the genus Datana, but the different species in the genus have similar looking caterpillars and there is also much variability within each species with regard to markings and coloration. The posture they assume, with both head and tail end arched above the middle is typical of Datana caterpillars when they are disturbed. If we knew what plant they were feeding upon, we might be able to determine the species. See BugGuide for additional information on the genus Datana.
Letter 19 – Prominent Moth
September 2, 2009
Since you recently posted a prominent moth caterpillar, I thought you might like this image of an adult (albeit a different species). Using Bugguide, I believe I have identified it as a Sigmoid Prominent Moth, Clostera albosigma.
I found this moth on the wall of an outhouse at Huntington Lake, in the Sierras east of Fresno, CA. The date was mid or early July. Unfortunately, the lighting in the outhouse was not designed for great photography.
This moth was holding very still, and was in the same position two days in a row. I actually thought it was a cocoon. Then on the third day it moved to different wall in the same restroom, and I caught a glimpse of its legs. When I poked it to see if it would move, I found that the knob on the back end of its body is soft, like a brush. I’m wondering if this protrusion acts as a false head to deceive predators.
Huntington Lake, CA
Thanks for identifying your Prominent Moth for us. We are also creating a Prominent Moth page to accommodate your submission. We are also posting your blurry image that has good color, and your sharp image that is polluted by the light source.
Letter 20 – Prominent Moth Caterpillar
Hello What’s That Bug:
Some months ago, I was photographing bugs and stumbled upon two odd looking caterpillars. At first they appeared to be a chrysalis, but they were moving and when I looked closer they were caterpillars. I was wondering if you could identify the caterpillar for me. Here is a link to the picture I took:Thanks in advance for any information,
Where in the world was the photo taken?
In south Texas near San Antonio…it was just crawling around in my backyard. There were two of them eating on the same plant. I don’t know what the plant was, but it’s some kind of weed, with large, serrated-looking leaves. The caterpillars were about an inch and a half long at most, gray in color, and had humps on their backs which appeared to be tipped with stingers of some sort. The photograph was taken just Northeast of San Antonio Texas in late summer.
Hi again Michael,
This is a Prominent Moth Caterpillar in the genus Schizura, probably Schizura ipomoeae, the Morning Glory Prominent.
Letter 21 – Prominent Moth Caterpillar
We aren’t sure if this came out of our greenhouse or from one of the trees in our yard. It is approximately 2″ long. We live at Moose Pass, Alaska, on the Kenai Peninsula.
This is one of the Prominent Moth Caterpillars, possibly in the genus Furcula.
Letter 22 – Prominent Moth Caterpillar
i found this crazy caterpillar
Location: Denton, NC
September 5, 2011 10:52 am
Hello.. while sitting outside this crazy thing came strolling by and I just had to know what it was!! Can you help?
Signature: Amanda Presker
This Prominent Moth Caterpillar in the genus Heterocampa is most likely the White Blotched Heterocampa, Heterocampa umbrata. You can see many examples on BugGuide of similarly colored purple individuals. This species, like many caterpillars, changes color right before pupation, and the green camouflage coloration is replaced by this stunning purple and magenta coloration.
Letter 23 – Prominent Moth Caterpillar
Subject: Kids and Caterpillars
Location: Central Texas
September 27, 2016 6:45 am
My 4yo found a caterpillar he desperately wants to see turn into a butterfly. I have no idea what kind it is or what to put in the terrarium for it to eat. Can you help?
We live in central Texas. It was found on the ground in some dirt after it rained for a few day. It is Sept 27th. It has been really hot here in the 90-100’s but is now cooling off into the 70’s.
Signature: Little One from Texas
Dear Little One from Texas,
This is a Prominent Moth Caterpillar in the genus Heterocampa, but we are not certain of the species as the members of the genus all look quite similar. Browsing through BugGuide may help you identify possible food plants. When it is getting ready to pupate, it might turn a purple or pink color.
Thank you so much. We are going to try to let it pupate in our terrarium. Here is an updated photo of the little guy!
Thanks for the updated image. Your caterpillar is turning purple right on schedule.
Letter 24 – Yellow Necked Caterpillar
Subject: caterpillar ID please
Location: Kansas City, MO
December 1, 2016 6:27 pm
Can you ID this caterpillar on a crabapple in the Kansas City area (see photo)
Signature: Dave Tylka
The posture of your caterpillar is a characteristic of the Prominent Moth Caterpillars in the genus Datana. Your individual looks exactly like this Yellow Necked Caterpillar, Datana ministra, that is pictured on BugGuide. According to BugGuide: “Early instars feed gregariously and skeletonize leaves. The larvae feed on Malus, Quercus, Betula and Salix species. Young larvae skeletonise the leaves of their host plant. Later, they feed on all of the leaf except the leaf stalk. They feed in groups.” BugGuide also indicates: “A common pest in orchards.” Crabapple is a Malus species.
Dear Daniel Marlos,
Many thanks for the ID and natural history of the yellow necked caterpillar! We sincerely appreciate you and your group providing this service to us, the general public. I will share this lep information.
Letter 25 – Prominent Moth Caterpillar
Subject: Found crossing driveway
Location: Austin, Texas
May 14, 2017 2:36 am
Found on May 12, 2017 in Austin, Tx. We were working in my garage and noticed this guy was crossing my driveway so we moved him to the flower bed destination he would have reached (to insure he didn’t get stepped on).
I would love to know what kind of caterpillar this is – never seen one before.
Signature: Karen Lewis
We believe that based on this BugGuide image, your Prominent Moth Caterpillar is a White Blotched Heterocampa, Heterocampa umbrata. Was there an oak tree near the sighting? According to BugGuide: “The larvae feed on oaks (Quercus). Two generations per year in much of range, multiple generations in Florida.”
Letter 26 – Prominent Moth Caterpillar
Subject: Green caterpillar, white and red splotches
Geographic location of the bug: South Jersey (NJ)
Time: 12:23 PM EDT
This guy appeared on my grandson’s shirt when no one was looking. We were sitting outside under the “umbrella tent” on the deck table around noon Wed 8/30/17. Can’t find an image online. (Would like to keep it but don’t know what it eats.) Thanks!
How you want your letter signed: Monarch Mama
Dear Monarch Mama,
If you compare your caterpillar to this BugGuide image, you should see the similarity to the Prominent Moth Caterpillar, Heterocampa guttivitta. We cannot state for certain that the species is the same, but we are confident that the genus Heterocampa is correct. Was that paper really that pink? We color corrected it and the green on the caterpillar looks better, but we will delete our color corrected image from the posting if the paper background for the caterpillar was really pink.
Letter 27 – Prominent Moth Caterpillar
Geographic location of the bug: Franklinville, NC in edge of woods
Time: 03:41 PM EDT
Would appreciate help in identifying this caterpillar. Its body appears light purple, almost see thru. I’m thinking the pink is its innards. I love bugs and all insects and am curious about this one. It is so distinctive and different colored than most. Appreciate your help. Thanks.
How you want your letter signed: Lex Bakarich
Prominent Moth Caterpillars in the genus Heterocampa like your individual frequently change color from green to pink or purple just prior to pupation.
Letter 28 – Prominent Moth Caterpillar
Subject: Found it
Geographic location of the bug: Carthage, MO
Time: 11:43 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Knowest caterpillars in my area, but have no idea what this one is. It’s a little bigger around then a pencil.
How you want your letter signed: Clarissa
This is a Prominent Moth Caterpillar in the genus Heterocampa, and there are several similar looking species. These Caterpillars are green most of their lives, but when pupation time nears, they often turn pink or purple, so your individual is pre-pupal.
Letter 29 – Prominent Moth Caterpillar
Subject: Pink prominent moth caterpillar
Geographic location of the bug: Windham NH
Time: 02:23 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I found the caterpillar here in your pages. I see many different prominent moths. We wondered what moth comes from the specific pink one we found.
How you want your letter signed: Larry
We just finished posting another pink Prominent Moth Caterpillar. Like that individual, we are confident your individual is in the genus Heterocampa, but we are not certain of the species, and we cannot currently access BugGuide, which must be experiencing technical difficulties. Heterocampa Caterpillars are green, and many turn pink or purple as metamorphosis time nears.
Letter 30 – Prominent Moth Caterpillar: Early Instar
I found this little guy on a trail I walk regularly in Gloucester, MA. I am a nature enthusiast with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and have never seen this type of insect before. I am assuming he is a caterpillar because of the feet, but I could be wrong. Please help me solve this mystery. Thanks!
Tara A. Talbot
When a caterpillar hatches from an egg, it is termed the first instar. As it grows, it molts and often changes appearance drastically. Most caterpillars go through about 4 or 5 instars. This is one of the early instars of a Prominent Moth, probably the Tentacled Prominent in the genus Cerura. They are also called Puss Moths.
Letter 31 – Prominent Moth Caterpillar: Heterocampa species
Unknown Caterpillar From Arkansas
I found this caterpillar on an asphalt parking lot at Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas on October 6, 2006 at about 3:00 PM. My description of this caterpillar is: Smooth segmented, non-hairy, pinkish gray body with dark pink linear and blotch markings on dorsal area. Two dark pink spots at bottom last two segments. White spiracles, short black stalk eyes, with a strong, smooth mouth. I have never seen a caterpillar like this in Arkansas and would like to know any information about it.
This is the caterpillar of a Prominent Moth in the genus Heterocampa.
Letter 32 – Prominent MOth: Nadata oregonensis
Subject: butterfly in farm garden
Location: Battle Ground, WA
June 24, 2013 4:39 pm
I know the Xerces Society put out a rare alert for a checkered butterfly. I remembered I took this photo of one and also saw more underneath the tall mints on our organic farm. Can you help me identify this one?
I’m including a few more that I’m unfamiliar with.
Thanks for your help.
Signature: Jacqueline Freeman
Your butterfly image did not attach. We just posted a photo of this Prominent Moth, Nadata oregonensis, from Seattle and we didn’t regognize it. We got some assistance in its identification from our readership. The final insect is a species of Crane Fly.
Letter 33 – Redwashed Prominent Caterpillar
Caterpillar on Cornus
Please help me identify this hitchhiker. I found it on a Cornus mas cutting I took from a friend’s garden. He is oriented facing downward on the twig. In the first photo, you can see two ridges coming from either side of his body and coming together along his back, just above another similar protuberance that is just above his tail. The horn above his head has two red-tipped points. He has a very small, round head that is tucked-in under a hood-like structure above his head. He appears to have three different kinds of feet: the front three pairs are small and pointy. The middle four pairs are fleshy. The last pair, near his tail, are small and stubby. I put the Cornus mas cutting with a potted Cornus nuttallii in case he should need more food, but when I checked on him the next day, he was nowhere to be seen. Can you help me identify him, and what he eats? Thanks
This is a Redwashed Prominent Caterpillar, Oligocentria semirufescens. According to BugGuide, the caterpillar eats a wide variety of leaves, including “Apple, beech, birch, poplar, oak, maples, roses and willows.” Based on your latter, we can add Cornus to the list.
Letter 34 – Tentacled Prominent
Hi, I spotted this caterpillar and was wondering if you could tell me what type it is please.
I live in Kent, in the South-East of the UK.
Hi Alley Katt,
Stateside we have an identical caterpillar known as the Tentacled Prominent or Puss Moth, Cerura species. They range over most of North America. It is obviously either a very close relative you have or an introduced species. When disturbed, this caterpillar extends whiplike filaments from each of the two fleshy hornlike projections at the tip of the abdomen and waves these filaments. It can eject an irritating fluid from glands on the thorax.
Letter 35 – Linden Prominent Caterpillar from Michigan
Subject: Green caterpillar with reddish/brown markings along the back
Geographic location of the bug: Benzie Michigan
Time: 07:37 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Is this a harmless caterpillar or one that can kill trees?
I looked at 100s of green caterpillar photos to identify it and none look like this one
I’ve been having some tree problems and he was found in the area but I’m thinking not the culprit. Maybe, maybe not. Trying to decide if I should relocate him, as the gypsy moth virus/fungus is helping remove those caterpillars and it might be contagious
How you want your letter signed: C
For the most part, native caterpillars are rarely a threat to native plants. Introduced species like the Gypsy Moth have no natural enemies when they are introduced, which is why exotic imported species often threaten sensitive ecosystems. We do not recognize your striking Caterpillar, and our initial internet investigation did not produce anything worth citing, so we are posting it as Unidentified and we are hoping our readers help us identify what we suspect is a Noctuoid Caterpillar.
Update: Thanks to a comment from Cesar Crash, we are confident this is a Linden Prominent Moth Caterpillar, Ellida caniplaga, which is pictured on BugGuide. BugGuide notes “The larvae feed on the leaves of basswood (=linden)” and “The larvae are rarely seen (for many years the description of the caterpillar was not known) because they usually feed high in the canopy of basswood trees; they are most likely to be observed descending the trunk of the tree enroute to their pupation site in the soil.”
Letter 36 – What’s That Moth??? A Prominent Moth
Subject: Moth identification
Location: Pacific Northwest
June 23, 2013 8:02 pm
Can you help me identify this lovely lady? I thought she was a cocoon of some sort until I got up close to her. It was not until after I snapped the photo and zoomed in on her that I realized the reason for her extreme stillness, notice the tiny green eggs she is laying. Photo taken by me, approximately 6 PM, 06/23/2013, Seattle, WA. Coincidentally, the evening of the supermoon!
Signature: Sincerely, K. P. Sullivan
Dear K.P. Sullivan,
We didn’t think this would be a difficult identification, however, we were not successful at getting an identification. We aren’t even certain of the family. Perhaps one of our readers will post a comment today and help us successfully provide you with an identification.
W.C. Eddie provides an identification: Prominent Moth
See BugGuide for information on Nadata oregonensis.
Letter 37 – White Dotted Prominent Moth
Subject: White-Spotted Prominent
Location: Mancelona, MI
June 27, 2014 7:48 pm
This absurdly lovely moth is the Nadata gibbosa, or White-spotted prominent. (It’s not the Nadata oregonensis–Michigan is well out of the range of that look-alike.) This particular one was perched on a bracken fern in a deciduous forest. Yet another of our many recent visitors here just outside Mancelona, Michigan. It’s about 3.8-5.9 cm–thus says Bugguide.
Hi again Helen,
We fully appreciate the time investment that goes into identifying the incredibly diverse number of brown moths that can be found in North America, and we often never drill down to the species level when we write back to people, hence many moths on our site are identified only to the family level because that is all that time allows. Thanks again for the research and the excellent image of Nadata gibbosa, which according to BugGuide is commonly called the White Dotted Prominent Moth, not the White Spotted Prominent Moth as you have indicated. BugGuide also states it is called the Green Oak Caterpillar Moth.
Letter 38 – White Furcula: Metamorphosis of a Prominent Moth
Great site! Here are some before and after photos of a furcula moth. Have we identified it correctly?
We are thrilled to have your correctly identified images of the moth, cocoon and caterpillar of the White Furcula, Furcula borealis, one of the Prominent Moths. It is also called the Wild Cherry Furcula and it looks like your wonderful photos also show the host plant. Your images are Audubon quality. Can we be picky and request the egg images at a later date?