Baby Cat

It’s always remarkable how much we each see when we slow down, cast our gaze narrowly but intently, and just watch.

~Zoe Weil

I was out walking a country gravel road the other day, hoping to find some caterpillars. I did see some signs of Luna Moth larval feeding on the ubiquitous Sweet Gums, but not much else. Fnally, I caught something out of the corner of my eye…

Polyphemus larva - early instar 2

Early instar, Polyphemus Moth larva (click photos to enlarge)

A tiny green eating machine, sort of chunky, with small clusters of bristles on red-tipped tubercles. It was on a small Winged Elm tree. I had never seen a larva like this on that tree species, but it looked like an early instar of a moth species I have seen many times in the past. When I checked Bug Guide, it was, indeed, a Polyphemus Moth caterpillar, Antheraea polyphemus.

Polyphemus larva early instar 3

Polyphemus Moth larva, lit from side with twin flash

I am guessing it could be a late first, or early second instar, so this little fella has a few more weeks of eating and growing before it becomes the large, plump, bright green caterpillar I have seen and used in programs so many times before . They resemble the larvae of Luna Moths, but lack the long stripe that runs most of the length of the abdomen, and, instead, have a series of oblique stripes that pass through the spiracles along the abdomen. Polyphemus larvae feed on a variety of deciduous tree leaves, but I have found them most often on various oaks and River Birch. Hopefully, this little guy will still be feeding by the time BugFest rolls around on September 20.


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