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Green slugs

There are caterpillars called “slug caterpillars” due to their, well, slug-like appearance. They are the Limacodidae, and they are some of the most beautiful and bizarre caterpillars out there.

Not to be outdone, there are a few species in the genus I’m studying, Acronicta, which resemble the infamous slug caterpillars. Blobby green things that hide their heads while at rest.

lepetita_1

If slugs were green and had little spikes all over.

These caterpillars were raised from eggs laid by a few females I captured in Boerne, Texas. I am uncertain whether they are Acronicta vinnula (common throughout the eastern US) or Acronicta lepetita (native to southern Texas, and so closely resembles A. vinnula that I am unsure how to tell them apart). As far as I can tell, the caterpillars are identical to the A. vinnula I have raised in the past.

It appears that no-one has raised A. lepetita before. Someone please correct me if I am wrong.

lepetita_2

I like to imagine this is the caterpillar’s “lion roar”.

The most information I can find is that “the larvae feed on various plants”. Thanks Wikipedia, that’s quite helpful.

What might be more helpful is a look at the adult. Here is one of the mothers.

lepetita_motherI’ll throw this one out to you again. What do you think?

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Waiting patiently

My caterpillar season is starting to gain momentum. Caterpillars are hatching, eating, growing, pooping. Getting eggs in the mail from collaborators. Running around campus to collect plants. And some of the caterpillars from my Texas trip are approaching pupation.

I was somewhat in denial of this fact until I saw the size of this guy.

afflicta_1

Acronicta sp. (afflicta?)

That is a FAT caterpillar! I’d never seen an Acronicta caterpillar look quite so much like it’s going to pop. It also wasn’t in a terribly good mood.

afflicta_2

This body language is fairly clear.

Today I found out why. I checked on Mr. Angry Sausage Caterpillar and it looked a bit… different.

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Have we met?

The bright reddish orange coloration and jet-black head were an impressive change. I have only seen this sort of change in one other species, Acronicta lobeliae, which also gains a black head and darker coloration before digging a pupal chamber.

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I’m waiting!

I realized this caterpillar had stopped feeding and was ready to pupate. Poor thing was waiting for the right substrate!

I put a piece of soft, spongy wood into the container, since most Acronicta pupate in wood. It found the wood within minutes, and within an hour had chewed a tunnel into the wood. It’s currently sealed up, where it will remain for a couple months until it is ready to emerge as an adult.

I’m still not entirely sure which species this is. It was collected in Fort Davis, Texas. My guesses are either A. afflicta or A. brumosa. What do you think?

Ryerson Lab

Functional Morphology, Sensory Biology, Behavior, Biomechanics

I spell it nature

Trying to make sense of the world through science and language.