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Here it is the end of November already and we still are seeing caterpillars out and about.

There's silk, holes and frass on some of the hollyhock leaves.

Those belong to the painted lady butterfly caterpillars, Vanessa cardui. 

Painted lady caterpillars vary a lot in color. This one may be lighter because it is a color variation or maybe because it just molted.

They feed on a range of plants, from thistles to sunflowers, but painted lady caterpillars always have a patch of silk around them.

The adult butterflies migrate this time of year. We often see them feeding on lantana flowers. You can see adult butterflies in this post from November 2008.

Once I finished taking photographs of those, over on the Texas yellow bells, Tecoma stans variety 'Orange Jubilee,' I found another sizable caterpillar feeding.

This is a rustic sphinx caterpillar, Manduca rustica. In the past we've found them on desert willow and cats claw vine. (You can see an adult rustic sphinx moth in this previous post from the beginning of November in 2014.) They are common throughout the southern parts of North America.

Although it looks a bit lethargic above, it was still able to crawl around.

Actually, it was nice that it was a bit slow. I could zoom in on some of the details.

For example, in this close up of the head, you can see the caterpillar's eye as the black dot right above it's black front leg.

At the other end is the spiky tail spine.

Sphinx moth caterpillars often have a "tail," which is what gives them the common name hornworm.

Caterpillars of painted lady butterflies and rustic sphinx moths in the same week. How cool is that?

Manduca rustica caterpillars usually feed high up in the desert willow tree and are hard to observe.

1-Manduca-rustica-caterpillar- 338This week one chose a low branch that was within easy reach.

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It was eating the willow leaves from tip to base.

 

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Can you see its legs, which is uses to hold onto the leaf? What about the antenna and eye, which are right by the mandibles?

The cream-colored oval behind the head is a spiracle. Spiracles are opening that allow air to pass into and out of the insect.

Have you ever watched a caterpillar eat a leaf? What kind was it?

One reason to keep a photo journal of insects like this is so you can record what you find the insects feeding on.

In the past we had found the caterpillars of the rustic sphinx moth, Manduca rustica, eating leaves high in our desert willow tree.

This week, however, we found a caterpillar munching on our cats-claw vine.

My son suggested that because both plants have tubular flowers, long seed pods and winged seeds, that perhaps the plants are related. I looked it up, and it turns out that both desert willow and cats-claw vine belong to the family Bignoniaceae. They are related!

From now on we'll keep an eye out for rustic sphinx caterpillars on both plants.