Sweetpotato Armyworm Moth

Meet the sweetpotato armyworm caterpillar, a reasonably common backyard denizen in the southeastern US, Central and South America. This particular fat little bugger had an uninterrupted evening eating the only one of my sunflowers to successfully bloom, and was not gracious at all when I pulled it off my sunflower and set it on the…

Puss Caterpillar

The distinctive, furry, yellow puss caterpillar is actually the larva of the equally distinctive, furry, yellow southern flannel moth, Megalopyge opercularis. The adult moths are lovely, cuddly-looking things, yellow and cream, with big soft wings and fluffy abdomens. The caterpillars are equally cuddly looking, but the soft yellow setae (hairs) on their body are interspersed…

Zebra Longwing Butterfly

This is Florida’s state butterfly! A lovely and distinctive black butterfly with narrow yellow stripes on its elongated wings, the zebra longwing (also known as the zebra heliconian) is native to peninsular Florida and south Texas in the US (sometimes migrating into states further northward). They also live all over South and Central America. Heliconius…

Polydamas Swallowtail

This glorious, 6 cm long gothic horror will grow up to be a gorgeous black and gold butterfly. The polydamas swallowtail (also known as the gold rim swallowtail and tailless swallowtail) is one of only two butterflies in the genus Battus in the US. It is also the only swallowtail in the US to lack…

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

A common and striking yellow and black butterfly seen across the eastern United States, this is the eastern tiger swallowtail, Papilio glaucus. It’s a male, because its hindwings have almost no blue — in females, there are big blue patches right above the black parts on the hindwings. Females are actually dimorphic, and have two…

Coffee-Loving Pyrausta Moth

This red and gold crambid moth has some individual variation to its gold-stripes-on-red pattern, but I find most of them look a lot like a smiling jack-o-lantern! You can probably guess by the common name, coffee-loving pyrausta moth, what the larvae of this moth enjoy eating most — wild coffee, Psychotria nervosa. Pyrausta tyralis lives…

Forest Tent Caterpillar

A cousin to the eastern tent caterpillar, the forest tent caterpillar (Malacosoma disstria) doesn’t actually make tents; instead, it constructs silken mats along tree trunks and branches. Like its cousin, however, it also congregates in large numbers and the mats can be just as unsightly and large as the tents. The caterpillars are harmless to…

Eastern Tent Caterpillar

I remember, as a small person, gathering these up by the dozens and keeping them in a jar for a few hours, marveling at them. Anyone who grew up in the eastern United States remembers eastern tent caterpillars, which form a huge, white silken tent in the branches of trees where they’re eating, occasionally gathering…

Dorantes Longtail

The family Hesperiidae, including the skippers, duskywings and cloudywings, is an exercise in frustration for field identification: 3500 species of “medium size, brown butterflies with spots” and varying patterns on the wing fringes. Add in the vagaries of amateur entomologist photography and, well. I originally identified this as a southern cloudywing, Thorybes bathyllus, based on…

Whirlabout

This dainty little yellow skipper butterfly has one of the neatest names I’ve seen — the whirlabout. Its Latin name is Polites vibex. They live in the southeastern US coastal plains (think Texas – Florida – North Carolina), mostly in sunny, open areas. The caterpillars eat grasses, especially Bermudagrass and St. Augustine grass. “Skipper” butterflies…

Drab Brown Wave Moth

If you squint, you can just about see the concentric lines on this moth’s wings which sort of resemble waves lapping at a sandy beach. Other “wave moths” have much more distinct waves-on-a-beach markings — it’s just my luck I found the only one that looks like cookies ‘n’ cream. The drab brown wave moth…

Grass Tubeworm Moth

Another in the unexpectedly immense category of “little brown moths”, Acrolophus arcanella has some neat geometric patterns and — well, I’m sure that real entomologists don’t call it a “pompadour”, but it’s a neat little lion’s mane of fluffy scales on the back of the head and “shoulders”. The name Acrolophus actually comes from the…

Cypress Emerald Moth

The moth family Geometridae has a number of brilliant little bright green moths in it, not even all in the same genus. To make things weirder, the cypress emerald moth (Nemoria elfa) also comes in a red or brownish flavor, which appears to be seasonal to cooler weather. Adults are approximately 9-12mm across, with females…

Casemaking Clothes Moth

To get a sense of how tiny this moth is, it’s sitting on my window screen. The whole moth is perhaps 3mm long. The casemaking clothes moth gets its common name from its behavior — its larvae, which look like regular caterpillars, form flattened cases for themselves out of whatever’s handy, and primarily eat fibrous…

Saddleback Caterpillar

This spectacular fellow is the saddleback caterpillar, Acharia stimulea. It is named for that bright green “saddle” on its abdomen, but its most notable feature is the four tubercles (one on each “corner”), each featuring some serious-looking, spiky armament. The sharp spines on those tubercles are venomous, and will break off in your skin if…

Yellow Mocis

Moths in the genus Mocis are generally medium-sized (about 26mm across), and yellowish with closely related spot patterns. There are five such moths in North America, all in the southeastern US, more or less. The range of the yellow mocis is roughly from the east coast of Texas, all along the Gulf coast, through to…