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…

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…

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…

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…

Spurge Spanworm Caterpillar (and Predator)

This spurge spanworm caterpillar (Oxydia vesulia) is expertly camouflaged as a stick, but that did not do it much good against the nest of tiny scorpions it happened to wander over. I saw the caterpillar on the wood and took a photo of it — and only saw the suspicious, grasping claws after enlarging the…

Oak Beauty Caterpillar

There is a surprisingly large number of moths in the family Geometridae whose caterpillars “look like a stick”. Beyond that very general description, the caterpillars have huge variation: little pinstripes, big, bold black markings, warts and bumps and protuberances, and generally it is very difficult to pin down just which Geometrid moth caterpillar, or inchworm,…

Episemasia cervinaria caterpillar

Ordinarily I prefer using the common name as the title for the post, but this caterpillar, and the moth it will become, has no common name, and unfortunately “Geometrid Moth Caterpillar” does not narrow it down far enough. Its scientific name is Episemasia cervinaria. For those who follow Hodge nomenclature, this is Hodge #6714. When…

Eastern Black Swallowtail

This is a newly hatched baby eastern black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes). It’s only about 6mm long, practically invisible on this plant. By the time it’s ready to become a butterfly, it will have molted four or more times, and will be about four inches long (see photo below)! The white spot on its back is…

Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

I got all excited, thinking this was a monarch butterfly, but no, it’s a (still gorgeous) impostor — the caterpillar of the eastern black swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes). The monarch caterpillar has long “antennae” or tendrils on both ends; the swallowtail lacks these appendages. The eastern swallowtail is known by a variety of other names,…

Salt Marsh Moth Caterpillar

This little fellow is (very probably) a Salt Marsh Moth caterpillar (Estigmene acrea), but again this is one of those “identifications” wherein this could also be any one of a number of closely related species.