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by Valerie

February, 2013

Henry's Elfin Caterpillar

Henry's elfin caterpillar

Even butterfly enthusiasts might not be familiar with the 1/2 inch long, slug-like caterpillars of Henry's elfin (Callophrys henrici). In fact, they are hard to find at all, let alone recognize just what they are. For the curious, the head is at the right. It is hidden down underneath, as are the legs, so not much of what we normally associate with insects is actually visible. The adult butterfly is small and brown, also easy to overlook. This species has a full-year life cycle and the caterpillars and adults are only active in the early spring. Here in central Texas the emergence of the adults from their pupae occurs in early February, about the time the first shrubs and trees are starting to blossom. A couple weeks later, the eggs will have hatched and the caterpillars start to feed. They are most easily seen on Redbud, where they feed, well-camouflaged by their usually maroon color, on the blossoms. Caterpillars also come in green and a sort of tan color, but I've seen very few of these other colors. They are known to eat a wide variety of plants, mostly blossoms, but are most likely to be found on Redbud and Mexican Buckeye.

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