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.
(Public domain photograph of cecropia moth by Tom Peterson, retrieved from Wikimedia.)
Saturnid 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.
Examples include the white-lined sphinx caterpillar,
and tobacco or tomato hornworm larvae.
Hornworms are named for the spike-like projection at the rear end of the abdomen.
Some species have a similar shape, but may lack the spike, like this rustic sphinx caterpillar.
3. Family Erebidae -Tussock and Tiger moths
Tussock moth caterpillars often have tufts of “hairs,” like this hickory tussock moth caterpillar.
Tiger 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.
This budworm larva has a few hairs, but they are sparse.
Cabbage 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?
- Life cycle of the moth post
- Samuel Jaffe has photographs and videos of moth caterpillars.
- Tom Murray has an extensive page of moth caterpillar photographs.