And what’s a butterfly? At best, He’s but a caterpillar, drest.
Another season of caterpillar finds and larval programs is winding down. We have been searching high and low for larvae and, consequently, caring for a menagerie of crawling critters for several weeks now. My caterpillar programs have ended, and Melissa’s will be finished later this week. Our charges have been oohed and aahed over by hundreds of wide-eyed learners at a series of events at the North Carolina Botanical Garden, the museum’s BugFest, and a well-attended (and well-run) Master Gardener’s conference in Greensboro. These little guys have really earned their keep this past month. Many have pupated in preparation for their long winter’s nap, others have been (or will be) released back into the wild, and, sadly, many have succumbed to a variety of parasitoid wasps. It is somewhat shocking how many caterpillars meet this fate, but I suppose it is one of the main reasons we are all not knee-deep in frass (caterpillar poop) by the end of the summer.
So, this post is to say thank you to all the marvelous Lepidoptera larvae that have graced us with their beauty and fascinating behaviors these past few weeks. Their variety of “attire” and striking forms are just one of the reasons that I have developed such a fondness for caterpillars over the years. Here are a few of the stars of this caterpillar season…
Hog sphinx on wild grape (click photos to enlarge)
Same hog sphinx, later instar
Waved sphinx on ash
Rustic sphinx on beautyberry
Pawpaw sphinx deciduous holly
Hummingbird clearwing on possum haw
Four-horned sphinx on river birch
Yellow-haired dagger, early instar
Hoary alder dagger moth on tag alder
Bantam maple dagger on maple
Salt marsh caterpillar
Strange, communal pupal case of parasitoid wasps that emerged from the salt march caterpillar
Black-etched prominent “whipping its tails” as a defense
Mottled prominent, early instar, on oak
White-barred emerald, a wonderful twig mimic, on oak
Purplish-brown looper, a huge twig mimic with a head capsule that resembles a leaf bud, on sweetgum
Imperial moth on sourwood
Wavy-lined heterocampa just after a molt (you can see the thoracic antlers of the early instar on the shed skin), on wax myrtle
Stinging rose caterpillar about to eat its shed skin (I accidentally touched this guy at BugFest and felt a mild bee sting sensation for about 45 minutes), on persimmon
Puss moth caterpillar shedding its skin (note color change), on wild cherry
Spiny oak slug on witch hazel
Smaller parasa on ironwood
Nason’s slug on oak
Io moth on hickory
Black-waved flannel moth, early instar
Same black-waved flannel moth, later instar
Skiff moth, last instar, on wild cherry
Same skiff moth, getting ready to pupate
Viceroy butterfly chrysalis
Monarch butterfly chrysalis
Just beautiful. Thank you.
Thanks for sharing your love of caterpillars. These are beauties and I can hardly wait to show them to my almost 3 year-old granddaughter. She’s so into all the crawly-things and along with getting outside and searching plants and turning over logs your blogs are a wonderful way for her to learn. I wish we could have made it to Bug Fest but we weren’t in town. Hopefully next year! Thanks again for sharing your knowledge and photos!
Thanks, Pam. That is great you are passing along your love of nature to your granddaughter!
Wow, what a collection! Thanks I enjoy your photos!
Which one do I like best? Well, maybe the Io moth with all those green spikes! Lots of fun, have read and reread this. It’s amazing to me what is going on outside that most of us never take time to see. Thanks Mike!
Thanks, Mary Kay. The title is obviously quite appropriate for me.