The Monarch and the Skiff

A Monarch caterpillar on the Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) next to the Ornithopter munches away on the leaves of the plant.

The Monarch caterpillar (Danaus plexippus) that I’ve been monitoring on the Butterfly Weed in Catch the Wind has disappeared.

monarch larva
When last seen, the caterpillar was very busyily eating the milkweed.

The larva was last seen on 25 September. The next opportunity that I had to check the caterpillar’s whereabouts was the twenty-eighth, three days later. The caterpillar has apparently gone off to pupate. I searched, and searched, and searched, but could not find a chrysalis. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a chrysalis, but that I couldn’t find one. Hopefully, the caterpillar is currently pupating and will become a butterfly within the next week or so. If all goes well it will plot a course to the southwest to join millions of its relatives overwintering in Mexico.

While pondering whether or not one of the trees here at the Museum was a Mocker Nut or some other hickory, I spotted a Skiff Moth Caterpillar (Prolimacodes badia) on one of its leaves. I last saw one of these strange looking caterpillars on October 8th of last year. This one was different, it was green.

skiff moth
A Skiff Moth caterpillar crawls across a hickory leaf.
skiff moth larva
The view from the front.

Skiff Moths are apparently not particular about what they feed on. The list of host plants includes many woody plants including, of course, hickory.

skiff moth larva
This Skiff Moth Caterpillar appears very leaf-like, even to the point of having brown areas that mimic damaged leaf tissue.

These caterpillars overwinter as a pupa, emerging as an adult moth the following spring.

The name Skiff Moth must surely come from the caterpillar’s shape which is similar to an inverted skiff, a small inshore fishing, sailing, or rowing boat.

The caterpillar also resembles one of those hats made from newspaper. After doing some Internet searching, I came across this image, a combination of both hat and boat. Now that’s bizarre!

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