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…

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…

Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle

This globular, yellow creature is the larva of a swamp milkweed leaf beetle, Labidomera clivicollis. Leaf beetles, in the family Chrysomelidae, tend to be named after the plants on which they specialize; as you may guess, the swamp milkweed leaf beetle eats the leaves of the swamp milkweed plant, Asclepias incarnata. These larvae will grow…

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,…

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.