Category: entomology


Adventures in Giant Caterpillars

Earlier today, I posted this ask from @witchyfishyfun [link] about a wandering prepupal Imperial Moth caterpillar. Well. Guess what?

We staged a secretive handover in a parking lot off an interstate.


I was right about baby being prepupal, he had turned PINK! by the time I picked him up! For whatever reason, many caterpillars tend to turn pink before pupating.

I love him!!!

Okay, enough nonsense, let’s let him pupate already. I gave him the Bowl o’ Dirt with Leaf Garnish, snapped the lid on, and put him in the nice, cool, dark garage.


November 8, 2018


Imperial Moth Larvae?


@witchyfishyfun submitted:

He just wandered into where I work, I was wearing gloves when I handled him since I wasn’t sure whether or not he was venomous but I wanted to move him somewhere out of foot traffic.

I would love to help him stay safe but I don’t know what to feed him or what he needs.

This babe is a prepupal Imperial Moth caterpillar and needs a dark place to cuddle up in and pupate. He’s not going to eat anything at this point. They are typically a darker/brighter color, but when they are getting ready to pupate, they lose much of their fantastic color and texture. At this stage of their lives, the structures of the pupa are starting to develop inside of them, so they get kinda weird and sausage-y.

Imperial Moths are Saturniids like Io Moths and Polyphemus Moths, but unlike those species, they will burrow underground and pupate in the soil like Sphinx moths do. If you give this baby a nice cozy place to pupate, you can see him when he comes out as an adult:

November 8, 2018

caterpillar-gifs: Tawny Emperor Caterpillar m…


Tawny Emperor Caterpillar molting

New babies!

Moth Variety Pack from the front yard tonight….

Moth Variety Pack from the front yard tonight.

I have been STRESSED OUT and BUSY and also I got bronchitis (but I didn’t lose my voice until AFTER I finished teaching a four hour workshop on iNaturalist Saturday morning, thankfully). The Master Naturalist Annual Meeting (and that four hour workshop…) was the major time sink the past few weeks so now I have no excuse for slacking in the blog department (besides the whole desperate employment search thing).


October 30, 2018

“Safe Space” Stagmomantis carolina…

“Safe Space” Stagmomantis carolina (Carolina mantis) adult gray female accepts mealworm. Such a good girl. #stagmomantiscarolina
#carolinamantis #carolina #prayingmantis #mantodea #mantis #nature #wildlife #animals #invertebrate #insect #science #entomology #alien #pets #photography #blackandwhite #mantismonarch

I love these buttheads. Hackberry Emperor cate…

I love these buttheads. Hackberry Emperor caterpillar (Asterocampa celtis).

October 26, 2018


Giant Leopard Moth

I am inexcusably behind on introducing y’all to one of my new babies. Please meet:

This fuzzy bab. It’s good advice to never touch fuzzy or furry caterpillars, because sometimes they sting. But, if you know, for sure, what a caterpillar is, and you know it doesn’t sting, then it’s fine. The older caterpillars of these moths are very easy to identify, and they are safe. The above photos are NOT of an older caterpillar, though! I wasn’t sure yet, so I let him hang out on my front porch.

Above photos from October 14, 2018

A few days later (October 17), I found the bab, but bigger, fuzzier, and orangier! Those thin orange rings between body segments will identify this black fuzzy caterpillar as a Leopard Moth! In my area, Giant Leopard Moths are the most common, so that’s what I have him identified as. At that point, I brought him inside. I mean, look at this face:

It had been a little while, so I went looking for him today, and I found him hibernating (?) in this dried up leaf!

You may be wondering what happens to all these caterpillars over the winter. How do they stay safe when it gets so cold? They will enter a state similar to hibernation called “diapause.” Essentially, they stop eating, they may change color or shape, and they find a safe place to be while they wait out the winter. Many moths and butterflies “overwinter” as a pupa. Moths have the added protection of their cocoons to stay safe. But some butterflies overwinter as a chrysalis, too! One of my favorite childhood memories was finding a Swallowtail butterfly chrysalis in the pile of branches my dad had pruned off our bushes, putting it into a container, and checking it one day in early spring to find the butterfly had emerged!

But! Many caterpillars stay in caterpillar form over the winter. They can stay camouflaged, but they can also respond to threats by periodically moving around. My Tawny Emperor babies will overwinter as younger caterpillars. And Leopard Moths also overwinter in caterpillar form! I’m not sure if my fuzzy baby is overwintering or getting ready to molt (I had caterpillars into November/December last year!). My guess is he’s about to molt, but it seemed like a good opportunity to talk about diapause!

I didn’t mention: some species will overwinter as adults! Question Mark and Comma butterflies are some examples. Their wings resemble dead fall leaves for a reason!

October 24, 2018

nanonaturalist: nanonaturalist: nanonaturali…












Mystery Tussock Moth caterpillar livepost continues! Unsettling egg raft and hatching photos over here (trypophobia warning!)[link] 

The babes are still pretty small, but oh boy they are HUNGRY. Their poops changed color from yellow to the standard green color. They are escape artists and I have to continually put them back into their habitat when I’m feeding them (I use a paintbrush to move them, very convenient!), and there are SO MANY of them. 

September 8, 2018

They are still so tiny but SO FURRY!! Look at all that FLUFF!! These babes are a pain in the butt and are constantly trying to escape. I can’t wait for them to get bigger and fluffier.

September 9, 2018

First Molt Underway

Prepare for

The Fluffening

Their head capsule includes the earmuff dongles I’m d y i n g

September 10, 2018

First Molt Complete

Still no idea who they are!

I did an enclosure change today. How do you move hoardes of tiny caterpillars, you ask?

See related video, Painting by Caterpillar: Tussock moth

September 11, 2018

They’re perfect

Starting to look a little more tussocky! Still very small.

September 12, 2018

I have been a bad caterpillar liveposter, BUT these things have molted a second time and they are still almost impossible to see without a microscope.

If anything, the fluffier they get, the harder they are to see!

These are from last night :X

September 15, 2018

They are taking forever and I’m impatient.

This one hadn’t moved in three days or so. Turns out he was just molting??? (That’s his old skin next to him)

September 25, 2018

I guess they’re a little bigger?


Also, those hairs?


Don’t touch! The fluffy looking hairs have a strange texture, and they may be the irritating hairs that can cause allergic reactions. I really need to read up on stinging caterpillar anatomy!

October 2, 2018

Are you ready?

I love them 😭

October 11, 2018

I think we have an ID!

Looks like a Yellow-banded Tussock Moth! Still need to see the adults to know for sure, but these babs match the photo in the caterpillar guide perfectly!

October 15, 2018

Large and terrifying

Very cute, but wow those hairs all look like trouble!

October 20, 2018

Punk Hairstyles for the Distinguished Caterpillar

Arching his back… almost like he’s trying to maximize his chances of stinging somebody.

I can’t believe how OLD they are! They just keep growing and molting. I don’t know how big they get, but I believe they still have aways to go.

October 24, 2018

This handsome man stole my heart! 

This handsome man stole my heart! 

Tarantula Hawk wasp, seen at Lake Travis outside Austin, TX

August 4 / Posted October 2, 2018







Physically, yes I could eat a wasp gall. But emotionally? Imagine the toll

why would you need to eat one in the first place

my monkey brain says this is fruit

imagine adam and eve but the fruit of knowledge is a wasp gall

Galls are delicious! Try one of our many varieties!

Refreshing fruits!

Savory nuts!

Indulgent candies!

Tart berries!

Full of fiber and protein, everything a developing wasp could possibly need!

October 23, 2018