The Asteroid

Red caterpillar
September 30, 2009
Hi Bugman!
I found this in my field in north central Ohio this afternoon on a weed (goldenrod I think). It was a chilly day and it wasn’t moving at all. I’ve looked through my insect guides and on the web to try to identify it, but no luck. Do you know what it is?
Mt. Gilead Ohio

The Asteroid
The Asteroid

Hi Kirsten,
WE just love it when caterpillars have poetically descriptive common names, like the Monkey Slug, the Hickory Horned Devil, or the Orange Dog.  Your caterpillar is a first for us.  We thought it resembled the Brown Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar, so we searched the genus Cucullia on BugGuide.  We quickly located The Asteroid, Cucullia asteroides, more commonly called the Goldenrod Hooded Owlet.  The caterpillars are highly variable, and there are no images posted to BugGuide that exactly match your specimen, but the coloration is represented in several images from New Hampshire.  The caterpillars are described on BugGuide as:  “Caterpillar: ‘Usually bright green or brown with yellow, black and white striping, but exceedingly variable…mid-dorsal stripe yellow, often narrowly edged with white, occasionally flanked by variously developed black subdorsal stripe. If subdorsal is absent, then five or six black pinstripes above level of spiracles.’ – Wagner p. 388(1) Base color may also be tan, or purple and brown, especially in later instars.”  Your lovely red specimen lacks the dorsal stripe, and has that awesome yellow racing stripe up the side.  BugGuide also indicates:  “There has been significant discussion whether all these are the same species of Cucullia or not. Seems as though there may be several species that look very similar as larvae.  See Also  Cucullia postera, C.omissa, C. florea are likely to have similar caterpillars, according to Wagner.”

Thank you so much for taking the time to identify my caterpillar.  When I took the picture I thought it was so distinctive that it would be easy to identify.  Ha!  I’ve spent a lot of time on your site in the past few days and it’s awesome!  Thanks again!

Leave a Comment