Please be on the lookout for caterpillars and pupae to be displayed in the Insectary. Butterfly and moth larvae are welcome, although very common pest species, such as leaf rollers, webworms, and genista caterpillars, are not as useful for educational purposes and will probably not be kept and raised.
Points to keep in mind:
queen larva and chrysalis
- Think very small - most caterpillars will be less than 1 inch in length, especially when they are young. These critters look a whole lot bigger in close-up photos!
- While some caterpillars will be obvious, a lot of them are very cryptic, often matching the color of leaves or flowers they are eating. They must remain hidden to avoid predators.
- All caterpillars have jaws that munch plants, so look for leaf damage. What goes in must come out, and droppings are often a giveaway for a well-camouflaged larva.
- Some kinds of larvae create loose webbing around their feeding area, which can look a bit like spider webs. This helps protect the caterpillars from parasites and predators, but also helps you notice them. Another defense strategy is to hide in a retreat created by using silk to hold leaves together.
- Make note of the host plant. Some caterpillars will eat a variety of species, but many are very particular. Collecting a bit of plant with the insect is a good idea, especially since caterpillars eat almost constantly.
- Don't forget trees. A number of interesting caterpillars feed on elm, oak, hackberry, and other woody plants.
- If you find a caterpillar wandering on the ground or elsewhere and not eating, there is a good chance it is ready to pupate and is looking for a nice spot. These are excellent subjects to bring in.
- A few moth caterpillars have poisonous spines so, when in doubt, don't touch spiny or hairy larvae with your bare fingers.
Examples of leaf damage and larva droppings:
crescent larvae and droppings
plume moth larva and leaf damage
tawny emperor larvae, eggs, and leaf damage
Examples of butterfly larvae:
buckeye larva on winecup
painted lady larva on thistle
question mark larva on elm
red admiral larva wandering
bordered patch larva on sunflower
crimson patch larva on flame acanthus
gulf fritillary larva on passionflower
giant swallowtail larva on amyris
cloudless sulphur larva on Lindheimer's senna
southern dogface larva on dalea
orange sulphur larva on bluebonnet
clouded skipper larva on johnsongrass
long-tailed skipper larvae on false indigo
Henry's elfin on redbud
Examples of moth larvae:
armyworm on cowpen daisy
bagisara larva on Turk's cap
scribbled sallow larva on toadflax
tobacco budworm on rose mallow
eight-spotted forester larva on mustang grape
cerathosia larva on rain-lily
blackberry looper on
saltmarsh caterpillar on mistflower
milkweed tussock caterpillar on milkweed
pareuchaetes larva on mistflower
woolly gray larva on hackberry
yellow-shouldered slug on hackberry
ypsolopha on agarita
tobacco hornworm on jimsonweed
imperial caterpillar on live oak
Examples of moth larvae with poisonous spines (handle with care!):
puss caterpillar or asp
tussock moth larva
buck moth larva
io moth larva
Pupae and cocoons are great, as they do not need to be fed. They are harder to find, though. Some pupae will be found in the soil, but others will be attached to branches, leaves, rocks, or your house. While it is easy to bring in a leaf or twig with the attached pupa or chrysalis, those found on rocks or walls might be difficult to remove. Spraying the pupa with water will loosen the silk and allow it to be gently removed. If you are unsure of your skill at removal, rather than risk injuring the insect, leave it in place and enjoy it as it is.
Examples of butterfly pupae (chrysalises):
Examples of moth pupae (some species enclose their pupa within a cocoon):
leopard moth pupa
typical moth cocoon