Category Archives: Arctiidae

End of the season

It’s finally fall here in New England, and the insects are on their way out – either dying, or bundling up for the winter. However there are always a few that cling to life through the first few cold nights, unwilling to admit that summer is over (I know that feeling quite well).

Here are a few caterpillars I found while walking in a nearby park at dusk.

First is Schizura unicornis, the Unicorn Prominent, of the family Notodontidae. In this photo you can see the “horn” from which the name is derived. It looks as if the caterpillar is molting, with the old head capsule just barely clinging to the head.

This species overwinters as a larva, fashioning a protective cocoon in leaf litter. They wait until spring to actually pupate, which is unusual amongst caterpillars (typically pupation occurs in the fall, and the winter is spent as a pupa). I imagine these caterpillars will be above ground feeding until their host plants succumb to the cold.

20140920_190334 copy

These caterpillars appear to be Hyphantria cunea, the Fall Webworm, of the family Erebidae. There were several fuzzy clumps of them on various plants, surrounded by loose webbing. These guys will continue to live gregariously in their messy webbed homes until they are ready to pupate in preparation for the winter. 20140920_190404 copyI’ll keep on the lookout for others, there are still plenty of hardy, determined caterpillars out there.

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Caterpillar sprint

Introducing the first caterpillar collected for our lab in 2012! It’s a Grammia species, in the family Arctiidae. They are also known as the tiger moths. If it looks closely related to a woolly bear, it’s because it is!

One of the undergrads in the lab, Louis (we’re going by middle names lately… I’m Valencia, by the way) found this caterpillar crawling on the pavement outside his apartment. He is keeping it fed and happy until it decides to pupate. Whenever he has taken it out to show other lab members it tries to leap off his hand and make a mad dash for safety. So I thought I would get a video clip of how silly this thing looks when it runs. Enjoy.

Lazy moths

Here are some visitors who didn’t have the motivation to fly away from the sheet as daylight approached.
I hope they take off soon… the chickadees have found the buffet.

First is a pretty arctiid – Lophocampa caryae, the hickory tussock moth.
I’m still getting used to all the changes with Arctiidae now being a subfamily and all that…

This one is sneaky… I thought it was some sort of arctiid, but it’s actually a notodontid! Furcula borealis.
(ID thanks to dougeee on flickr)

And an adorable fuzzy lasiocampid, Phyllodesma americana. I love how they hold their wings… hardly looks like a moth at all! And that’s the whole point, I suppose.

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