Category: moths


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




Saved this larvae from the up coming storm and the cold weather outside. Small guy was crawling on a busy sidewalk and I decided to keep them until I get home and the weather clears up. What kind of larvae is this?

Can’t tell much from the photo but seems like it’d be a caterpillar. 

Looks like an armyworm moth of some sort! Don’t know where you are in the world, but in the US, the genus Spotdoptera is fairly prolific.

They grow up into these guys:

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

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


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

nanonaturalist: nanonaturalist: nanonaturali…







Millions of tiny mystery caterpillars -_-
What do they eat? WHO KNOWS???
What do they turn into? HELL IF I KNOW

Eggs were covered in white fuzz from mamas belly and they have five pairs of prolegs, egg mass was on live oak. I gave them the Polyphagous Caterpillar Variety Pack buffet (rose, live oak, hackberry, and sage). They should eat ONE of those.

Tiny mystery babs are the WORST because how do you keep them in a habitat??? They are SO SMOL. They’re in a lidded food container for now… hopefully they eat everything and grow very large

October 7, 2018

OKAY results of the taste test are in. They are delicious. Wait no that’s not what I meant!!

They nibbled all the plants, but they’re going nuts over rose leaves. So, that’s what they get!

October 8, 2018

The very hungry caterpillars

They are only eating rose, and they have tiny adorable spots. I think they may be tortricid moths.

October 9, 2018

Their hunger is endless

Getting big! Eating the flowers and making pink rose poops 😂

October 12, 2018

Starting to look like somebody!

Hmmmm these look like armyworms…..

They are growing VERY fast! Shouldn’t be long before I know for sure.

October 14, 2018

Yup, they’re armyworms! One of the key giveaways (besides that they… look… like armyworms), is the thing they do where you get your hand anywhere near them, and they DROP! and curl up into The Forbidden Spiral, safely hidden in piles of leaves and grass.

Still pretty small, but actually identifiable now. Next step: which armyworm?

October 24, 2018



Imperial Moth caterpillar

Check out this squishy baby I met today! Gif above, non-gifs below:

This is an Imperial Moth caterpillar! They grow up into these:


The caterpillars were brought in for show and tell at the Austin Butterfly Forum meeting tonight. So happy I got to meet them! The adult stopped by my house for a visit a month or so ago.

October 22, 2018

@dragonseekerart submitted:

@dragonseekerart submitted:

I’m back with a new friend! This guy was chillin near my front door when I left for work, so I snapped a picture real quick and just now got time to send it to ya! I live in northern Utah if that helps figure out what he is! I love him he’s so cute

Oh, I like him! Gorgeous! This is a “Dingy Cutworm Moth,” Feltia jaculifera. Here’s another one found in Utah on Bugguide! [link] Thanks for sharing!

October 22, 2018

Hey! So the luna moth I recently posted on iNa…

Hey! So the luna moth I recently posted on iNat got me thinking. All the luna moths I've seen (in pictures) are much larger with brighter green, translucent wings. That's why I wasn't sure if it was Actias luna, or just in the genus Actius. I guess the same can be said for the flannel moth I posted, too. It's so close, but a little different. Is this just normal species variation? Or something else? I figured if anyone could answer, it'd be you! Pleasexthanks

Hello (finally)! You are absolutely correct to think this is normal species variation, and this is one of the trickiest parts about learning how to identify any type of living organism. How do you know that a Chihuahua and a St. Bernard are the same species without memorizing all the dog breeds? 

There are key morphological features that are still the same within a species, even if they are vastly different sizes, shapes, or colors. Range is also extremely important when you are identifying species. Actias is a fairly small genus, with approximately 25 species worldwide. If for no other reason, your green moth has to be Actias luna because of those 25 species, only one exists in North America.

Naturally, you may wonder why is there so much variation? Well, why is there so much variation between people? Why are some people tall when others are very short? Why do some people have brown eyes, when others have green eyes? The same factors can influence animals in similar ways, even if they are vastly different species. 

Genetics: Maybe your moth had the “short” gene!
Sex: Males/females of the insect world sometimes look so different, you wouldn’t believe they were the same species unless you studied them. Size differences are common, especially in species where the females lay hundreds of eggs.
Diet: If you have a caterpillar who is eating a nutrient-poor food, or who has difficulty finding enough to eat, they will mature more slowly, and will be smaller as an adult as a result. Also, some species of animals will be different colors depending on their diet. For example, Flamingos are naturally white!


Above: Two Polyphemus Moths, scaled so the rulers match up. Top is a male who had been exposed to pesticide as a caterpillar, and was smaller than average as an adult. Bottom is his wild (and very healthy) mother. 

Health: Related to diet, if a caterpillar survives having parasites, was exposed to pesticides, or had an infection, if they survive, they will likely be smaller as an adult.
Injury: Once the moth emerges from their pupa, they have to deal with birds biting at them, surprise rainstorms, spider webs, and all sorts of other dangers. The color on moths’ wings are the result of scales, and these scales can easily rub off as they avoid dangers (or they can lose parts of their wings!). If you are used to seeing Luna moths with mostly transparent wings, and you see one that is very solidly colored, it’s likely you met him when he was brand-new!


Above: A Snowberry Clearwing moth… before his wings lost their scales to become clear!

I hope this helps, and congratulations on seeing a Luna Moth, I still haven’t met a wild one!

October 22, 2018 (SORRRRRY)