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As our last post for National Moth Week, which is going on now, let's take a look at some caterpillars that turn into moths.

1. Family Saturnidae

Remember these large moths from our moth identification post I? As you might imagine, the caterpillars are also large when they are mature.

Take the captive-reared cecropia moth caterpillars in this video, for example.

They will form a cocoon and then eventually emerge as a cecropia moth.

Hyalophora_cecropia1(Public domain photograph of cecropia moth  by Tom Peterson, retrieved from Wikimedia.)

Zephyr-Eyed-Silkmoth-Caterpillar-4589Saturnid moth caterpillars can have various spiky projections, like these Zephyr Eyed Silkmoth larvae that look thorny (Automeris zephyria).

2. Family Sphingidae - called sphinx moths, hawk moths or hummingbird moths

Sphinx moth larvae or caterpillars are sometimes called hornworms.

white-lined-sphinx-caterpillarExamples include the white-lined sphinx caterpillar,

manduca-larva-largeand tobacco or tomato hornworm larvae.

hornworm-caterpillar-0051Hornworms are named for the spike-like projection at the rear end of the abdomen.

manduca-rustica-212Some species have a similar shape, but may lack the spike, like this rustic sphinx caterpillar.

3. Family Erebidae -Tussock and Tiger moths

hickoy-tussock-moth-caterpillarTussock moth caterpillars often have tufts of "hairs," like this hickory tussock moth caterpillar.

woolly bear caterpillarTiger moth caterpillars are also "hairy." The woolly bear caterpillar is a common example.

4. Family Noctuidae - the noctuids or owlet moths (Moth Identification II post)

Noctuid caterpillars are often mostly bare.

budworm-2This budworm larva has a few hairs, but they are sparse.

cabbage-looper-larva-leafCabbage looper caterpillars also have only a few sparse hairs.

Note:  many of the looper caterpillars belong to the family Geometridae (which means "earth measurer.")

There are many, many more fascinating caterpillars that turn into moths.

Have you seen any interesting caterpillars lately?

Related:

 

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If you wondered what the insect eggs from last week's post hatched into, here's a peek at the tiny caterpillar. To give you a sense of scale, I placed it on a white paper towel with a human hair.

Check out how big the head capsule is in relation to its body.

This looping behavior suggests it is a cabbage looper caterpillar.

I scooped it up with a fine paintbrush and put it back on a plant when I was done. Maybe it will grow into one of these:

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It’s cabbage looper season here again. In some places cabbage loopers might be considered to be pests, but in our yard they are considered to be pets. They are hardy, will eat a wide range of foods, and they show up every year.

cabbage looper

The looper gets its name from the fact it “loops up” in the middle while walking. The caterpillar has two sets of appendages. Its six true legs are right behind the head. Towards the rear is another set of fleshy, wider appendages called “prolegs.” Scientists don't count the prolegs, so the caterpillar still has the six legs characteristic of insects.

cabbage looper

The caterpillar holds on with the true legs and brings its back end forward. The prolegs meet the true legs, and the back forms a loop. Then it releases the true legs. The head and front spring forward. The looper holds on with its true legs and the process repeats.

This one was nibbling my mint, but I'm not too concerned. The mint is prolific and the caterpillar has a lot of enemies. It is eaten by birds, wasps and parasitic flies. So, loop on little buddy.

Edit: The cabbage looper moth is featured in a later post.