Three Caterpillars

I’ve had more than a few encounters with caterpillars the past week or two. Here, I’ve photos of three of them.

First, the delicate cycnia (Cycnia tenera). It’s common enough and may be seen from June to October in our area. If you have dogbane growing in your immediate area, give a look, you may have either the caterpillars munching on the plant or adults mating or laying eggs on the underside of the leaves.

The adults may be seen during the daylight hours, which is why I have photos posted here. Most moths are nocturnal creatures making the acquisition of photos of them much more labor intensive.

C. tenera on dogbane.
C. tenera from a different perspective.
The adult moths of C. tenera on dogbane leaf.
Same individuals as above.

The next caterpillar encounter was a fortunate one indeed. At one time here at the museum we had approximately a half acre of Black-eyed Susans growing on one section of our 84 acre campus. I would purposely seek out this 1/2” caterpillar as they were often found on the plant whether on the stalk, leaves, or bright yellow flower petals. Although common, they were not always easy to locate, even when you knew what you were looking for.

Camouflaged looper on partridge pea.

Recently, I was surveying a patch of partridge pea for an entirely different caterpillar, cloudless sulphur, when I spotted what looked like a shriveled flower dangling from the plant. As I got down close to the object, it bent itself upward, then down again. It was alive, and I knew what it was. I’m speaking of a camouflaged looper (Synchlora aerata).

Camo loopers cover themselves in various plant debris including flower petals, leaf pieces, or even seeds. It’s a very effective camouflage. They reveal themselves when they move, but even so, they can be difficult to locate.

As adults they’re referred to as wavy-lined emeralds. They’re small, attractive green moths, but unfortunately I don’t have a photo of my own to show you. The internet has many photos (wavy-lined emerald).

Closer look (head on left).

And finally, a sphinx moth caterpillar. There’s no shortage of pine trees on the Museum grounds, yet this is the first pine sphinx (Lapara coniferarum) I’ve seen here. At first, I wasn’t sure I was looking at a pine sphinx when I came upon the caterpillar. The head is not so prominently pointed in most of the photos I was able to view of this caterpillar. I’m not sure whether or not the pronounced conical head is a characteristic of a particular instar of the caterpillar or simply a variation.

Pine sphinx moth caterpillar.
Unusually large projection above head.

Unfortunately again, I do not have photos of the adult pine sphinx moth of this caterpillar.

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