Skip to content

3

While I was out for my morning walk, I found a caterpillar on the sidewalk.

The vibrant yellow lines on its back caught my eye. In the sun they look almost like gold leaf.

The larva was quite still, probably because it was in the 40s this morning.

It was still alive and began to crawl once I'd warmed it in my hand.

It is an armyworm, possibly a yellow-stiped armyworm given the yellow. If it completes its life cycle, it turn into an owlet moth (Family Noctuidae).

Armyworms get their name from the fact that they can migrate in large groups (armies). This one was a lone soldier.

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: