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Help me identify this caterpillar looking insect

Help me identify this caterpillar looking insect


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Can someone please help me identify this caterpillar looking insect from the Caribbean?

Thanks.


They look like the caterpillars of Alope sphinx (Erinnyis alope) There is a webpage on a dedicated website here: https://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species/Erinnyis-alope

Among the pictures in the linked website you can find one with the green and brown morphs/stages of the caterpillars.


Identify a Butterfly, Moth, or Caterpillar

Do you have a photograph of a caterpillar? If so, please provide us with host plant information, or even consider raising it to the adult stage before submitting photographs. Surprisingly, most of the larval stages of butterflies and moths are simply unknown, and caterpillar photographs are very difficult to identify.

If you do NOT have a photograph or you do not want to create an account and submit your sighting, you can use our website to try to identify the species yourself. Start by browsing image thumbnails in the Image Gallery. Use the filters to narrow your search.

Cannot find your species using the Image Gallery? Try the Identification Tools, where you will find additional identification resources, including web and text resources for butterflies, moths, and caterpillars.

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The Hickory Horned Devil is a type of large horned caterpillar that turns to a big moth

The Hickory Horned Devil caterpillar (Citheronia regalis) has to top the list for the scariest-looking caterpillar. This green caterpillar has black-tipped orange prickly spikes at its head that look dangerous. However, despite its fierce horned appearance, this type of caterpillar is totally harmless.

Apart from being a scary caterpillar, the Hickory Horned Devil is also one of the largest caterpillars in the world. Fully grown, this horned caterpillar can grow up to 6” (15 cm). Its pale green body has small black spines sticking out of it and black markings at its head section. This enormous caterpillar is also identified by a red patch at the end of its body.

As their name suggests, this big green fat caterpillar feeds on hickory leaves as well as cotton, hazel leaves, and ash tree leaves.

The Hickory Horned Devil transforms into one of the biggest moths you can find.


A Visual Guide to Caterpillar Identification

Identifying caterpillars can be a real challenge, as most of them do not resemble adult butterflies. Here is a brief overview about some of the most common types of caterpillars and their characteristic features.

Identifying caterpillars can be a real challenge, as most of them do not resemble adult butterflies. Here is a brief overview about some of the most common types of caterpillars and their characteristic features.

Quick Snippet

  • Various types of caterpillars have setae and spines, but only a few species have stinging hair. Avoid direct contact with such caterpillars, if you cannot identify the venomous ones.
  • Caterpillars represent an important stage in the life cycle of butterflies and moths. The life cycle of these insects consists of four separate stages – eggs, caterpillars (larvae), pupae, and adults.

Caterpillars represent the larval stage of butterflies and moths. Various other insects have larval stages in their life cycles. Those insect larvae may also resemble caterpillars. Distinguishing such insect larvae from caterpillars, can be a tough task. Given the huge number of butterflies and moth species, identifying a specific type can also be difficult.

How to Identify a Caterpillar

  • In general, almost all caterpillars have some common physical features.
  • They have tubular bodies, which are segmented.
  • Most of them have three pairs of true legs on their thoracic segments.
  • The number and location of prolegs on the abdominal segments may differ from one type to another.
  • Some types of caterpillars have their bodies covered with hair.

Muscular Body

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Studies show that a caterpillar has around 4000 muscles in its body, and its movement is facilitated by contraction of muscles in the rear parts.

How Do Caterpillars Breathe

Butterfly larvae breathe through tiny pores, that are located along the sides of thoracic and abdominal segments. Some types of caterpillars have gills, so that they can lead an aquatic life.

Can Caterpillars See?

Caterpillars have a good eyesight, as they possess around six, small eyelets.

How Do Caterpillars Feed ?

They can sense vibrations and locate food using their antennae. Their mouths are also strong enough to chew food. While most of them feed on plant matter, some caterpillars eat insects.

Caterpillars, Worms, and Other Insect Larvae

  • Caterpillars and worms have soft bodies, but there is one noticeable difference between the two. It is the presence of legs in caterpillars (worms lack such appendages).
  • Other indentification is their prolegs. Most of the insect larvae, other than caterpillars have prolegs on each and every body segment.
  • Usually, five pairs of prolegs are found on the abdominal segments of caterpillars. Caterpillars have grasping hooks attached to their prolegs, and this feature is absent in other insect larvae.

Lepidopteran Larvae Identification Tips

Caterpillar identification is not that easy, as the order Lepidoptera (consists of butterflies and moths) has more than 150,000 species that fall under 126 families. It is almost impossible to develop awareness about caterpillars of each and every species. While some have dense hair on their bodies, others have warts, spikes, spots, lines, etc. Some species are exclusively found on certain plants and trees. Commonly found caterpillars are classified on the basis the families they belong to.

Family: Geometridae (Geometer Moths)

Members of this family are called geometer moths and their larvae are known as inchworms, spanworms, or loopers.
These names are derived from the nature of their movement. A moving inchworm looks as if it is measuring the surface.

Physical Characteristics

Unlike other caterpillars, loopers have their prolegs concentrated on both ends of their bodies. So, they form loops, while clasping a surface with their posterior and anterior parts. Most of the loopers have excellent camouflaging skills and are green, gray, or brown. Some of them stand erect like twigs, when threatened.

Family: Hesperiidae (Skippers/Darters)

Unlike loopers, the name skipper is derived from the darting habit of adult butterflies in this family. Caterpillars that belong to the Hesperiidae family have certain characteristic features. Most of the skipper larvae have large heads and constricted necks.
Usually, the body of a skipper larva is wider near the abdomen and tapers to the anal part.

Physical Characteristics

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Skipper/Darter caterpillar has an anal comb, that helps to expel excreta away from its shelter and feeding places. The ring-like segments on the body of this caterpillar are covered with minute hair. Skipper caterpillars are mostly nocturnal and create shelters by folding leaves. Most of them have a single body color.

Family: Sphingidae (Hawk Moths)

Caterpillars of hawk moths that belong to the Sphingidae family are called hornworms.
The name of this caterpillar is derived from the horn-like appendage on the posterior part of its abdomen, usually on the eighth abdominal segment. Each segment on its body has shallow creases.

Physical Characteristics

Hawk moths caterpillar has flat anal prolegs that form a triangle beneath the anal plate. Most of the hornworms are found to descend to the ground for pupation. They are among the largest and most common caterpillars in many regions.

Family: Saturniidae (Regal Moths, Silk Moths)

The family Saturniidae too has some of the largest caterpillars with long setae, horns, and knobs. The caterpillars of regal moths (Citheronia regalis) that belong to the subfamily Ceratocampinae, are called hickory horned devils.

Physical Characteristics

In general, a silk moth caterpillar has a large body, which can be around 3 to 4 inches in length most of these caterpillars have scoli (branched and thickened spines) along their back and sides. They live on trees and shrubs and descend to the ground during late summer and spin cocoons among the debris, which can be used to make silk fabric, thus, they are called silkworms. The quality of these cocoons are not as good as that of Bombyx Mori.

Family: Papilionidae (Swallowtails)

This family has some of the largest and colorful butterflies in the world.
The common name swallowtails is derived from their forked hind wings.
The caterpillars of these butterflies are mostly brightly colored with very fine hair on their bodies.

Physical Characteristics

Most of them have retractable tentacles with scent glands, which are used to scare away intruders. So, the main characteristic feature of the swallowtail caterpillars is the ‘osmeterium’, the forked and fleshy organ in the second segment of their bodies. The broadest part of the body of a swallowtail caterpillar is the thoracic-abdominal juncture.

Family: Lymantriidae (Tussock Moths)

The name tussock moth is derived from the dense tufts of hair found on its larvae. Most of the tussock moth larvae are attractive and distinct with hairy projections on their bodies. The body hair of these caterpillars comes off easily, and may trigger allergic reactions in some people, if they come into contact with their skin. This is considered as a defensive mechanism of these larvae. Even their cocoons have a good amount of body hair incorporated in them.

Family: Arctiidae (Tiger Moths, Lichen Moths, Wasp Moths)

Tiger moths are members of the family Arctiidae and their caterpillars are commonly referred to as woolly bears or woolly worms. The name is derived from the dense hair that cover their bodies. Larvae of some species feed on lichens and moss, and they are mostly hairless. Most of the tiger moth caterpillars have brightly colored bodies and are mainly found during fall, when they are in search of an ideal location for hibernation.

Physical Characteristics

These caterpillars are found to indulge in basking, so as to boost digestion.
If they feel threatened, most of the woolly bears roll their bodies like balls.
Caterpillars of lichen moths are dark-colored and have dark hair on their bodies. Some may have tufts of hair on their back.
Caterpillars of some species are called tussock moths, but the name is used to denote the larvae of the family Lymantriidae.

Family: Notodontidae (Prominents)

This is a family of large moths that are commonly known as prominents. The common name is derived from the projecting wing tufts in adults and the dorsal humps in larvae. Most of these caterpillars have colorful and hairless bodies, tubercules, and spines or humps. They are known for their bizarre shapes and the ability to attack intruders with acid ejected from a gland located on the lower side of the thoracic segment.

Physical Characteristics

The defense mechanism is not seen in all species. Prominent caterpillars have secondary setae above the mid-abdominal prolegs. The anal prolegs are either too short, or too long and tail-like. Most of these caterpillars keep the posterior and anterior parts of their bodies raised, while resting. They can be easily identified by these characteristic features.

Family: Limacodidae (Slug Moths/Cup Moths)

This family of moths have some of the most weird-looking caterpillars. They are named slug moth caterpillars, because their larvae look like slugs. The name cup moth is derived from the shape of their cocoons. Most of the species have flat-bodied larvae with suckers in place of prolegs.

Physical Characteristics

Slug Moths/Cup Moths caterpillars are usually green and smooth and they move in wavy motions. However, the family has other species of bright-colored caterpillars with tubercles and urticating hair. Most of the slug moth caterpillars have their heads hidden or retracted into their thoracic folds.

Family: Lasiocampidae (Eggars/Snout Moths/Lappet Moths)

This family of moths has around 200 species. The name snout moths is derived from the pointed snouts in adults, who are also called eggars because of their egg-shaped cocoons. The hairy caterpillars of these species have skin flaps on their prolegs, and hence the name lappet moths. Hair is mainly concentrated on the sides of their bodies. In some species, caterpillars live together inside nests spun with silk. So, they are called tent caterpillars.

Family: Noctuidae (Owlet Moths)

This is the largest family in the order Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) and are called cutworms. There are around 35,000 known species, and their caterpillars are so diverse to be classified on the basis of similar features. In general, these caterpillars have stout bodies and inconspicuous setae. Some are hairy like tiger moth caterpillars.

This is only a brief overview about some of the commonly found caterpillars, classified on the basis of families. It is best to develop an awareness about the local species, especially pests and poisonous caterpillars. You may conduct a deep study about the commonly found caterpillars in your area, so that you can identify them easily.

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The caterpillar life cycle is explained in short in this article, along with some interesting facts about caterpillars.


Which caterpillars am I likely to see?

Many of these caterpillars are most obvious when they're fully grown and looking for a place to either pupate or settle down for the winter, though some are easily spotted on their favourite food plants. Here are some of the species we're most frequently asked to identify.

Drinker moth caterpillar ©Chris Lawrence

Drinker moth

When & where: August-June. A variety of habitats including gardens, but especially damp grassland, marshes and boggy areas.

Description: Up to 7 cm long. Dark and covered with brown hairs and golden speckles. A row of white hairs runs down each side of the body.

Fox moth caterpillar ©David Longshaw

Fox moth

When & where: June-April, most obvious in spring. Common habitats include heathland and coastal grassland.

Description: Up to 7 cm long. Hairy, with long dark hairs on the sides of the body and shorter orange hairs on top. Young caterpillars are dark with orange bands.

Garden tiger caterpillar ©Amy Lewis

Garden tiger

When & where: August-June. A wide range of habitats including gardens.

Description: Up to 6 cm long. An extremely hairy caterpillar, known as the "woolly bear". Mostly black and ginger, with longer white hairs.

Cinnabar moth caterpillar ©Andrew Hankinson

Cinnabar

When & where: July-September. Found on ragwort in most grassy habitats.

Description: The caterpillars of this moth are distinctive, with black and yellow stripes - warning predators that they taste terrible. They're easily spotted feeding on ragwort.

Elephant hawk-moth caterpillar ©Dawn Monrose

Elephant hawk-moth

When & where: June-September. A variety of habitats, including gardens. Often where rosebay willowherb is found.

Description: Up to 8.5 cm long. A chunky green or brown caterpillar, with several eyespots at the front end and a spiky 'tail' at the rear.

Privet hawk-moth caterpillar ©Roy Bedborough

Privet hawk-moth caterpillar

When & where: July to September. Widespread in southern England and Wales. Found in a variety of habitats, including gardens.

Description: Up to 8.5cm long. Green and chunky, with purple and white stripes on the body and a black and yellow horn on the rear.

Puss moth caterpillar ©Vaughn Matthews

Puss moth caterpillar

When & where: June to September. Widespread in a variety of habitats, including parks, gardens and wetlands.

Description: A plump, green caterpillar with a dark, white-edged 'saddle'. The head is surrounded by a pink patch, with false eyes making it look like a giant face. There are two thin tails.

Mullein moth caterpillar ©Chris Lawrence

Mullein moth

When & where: April-July. A range of open habitats, including gardens. Feeds on mulleins and buddleia.

Description: Distinctive whitish caterpillars, with horizontal yellow splodges across the body and large black spots.

Yellow-tail moth caterpillar ©Chris Lawrence

Yellow-tail

When & where: August-June. Scrubby habitats including hedgerows, woodland and gardens.

Description: Black with long, greyish-white hairs. On top it has a pair of red lines, with a row of white blotches either side of them. A red line runs along each side. The hairs can be an irritant.

Brown-tail moth caterpillar ©Chris Lawrence

Brown-tail

When & where: August-May. Scrubby habitats, including coastal scrub.

Description: Black with long brown hairs, red spots on top and a line of white marks along each side. Found in conspicuous communal webs on food plants. The hairs cause skin irritation. (Younger caterpillar pictured)

Peacock caterpillars ©Vaughn Matthews

Peacock

When & where: May-July. Common in a range of habitats where common nettle is present.

Description: Up to 4.5 cm. Black with black spines and small white dots. Found in communal webs on common nettles.

Vapourer moth caterpillar ©Tom Hibbert

Vapourer

When & where: May-September. Commonly found in a variety of habitats including woodland, parks and gardens.

Description: A funky-looking grey and black caterpillar, with large tufts of hair, including a mohawk of yellow tufts on the back. Large caterpillars can often be spotted in late summer on a range of shrubs and trees.

Pale tussock caterpillar ©Lizzie Wilberforce

Pale Tussock

When & where: June-October. Found on a wide variety of deciduous trees and other plants, including bramble.

Description: A striking bright green caterpillar, with black bands between its body segments, yellow/whitish hairs, a row of yellow tufts on top and a red tuft at the rear.


Insect identifier App by Photo, Camera 2020

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Insect identification make up the great biodiversity of the earth. There are several million insect species, and entomologists have divided them into a reasonable number of units called "orders." The members of each insect order come from a common ancestor, have similar structural features, and have certain biological characteristics.

All insect orders are not the same number of species Some orders have only a few hundred species, others more than 100,000. The range of structural features and biological characteristics tends to be wider among the higher-ranking species.

Insect identifier give Predictions on the biology, behavior and ecology of an insect can be made as soon as you know your order. But how do you know which order an insect belongs to? Insects can be identified in several ways. Comparing a specimen to a book of images of identified insects is one possibility. Using a printed key is another way. This Lucid-based key combines the benefits of these methods and adds a new dimension of simplicity and performance to the identification process.

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Salt Marsh Caterpillar (Estigmene acrea)

Size: 5.5 cm

Hosts: a variety of vegetable and field crops, as well as weeds. Preferred vegetables and field crops include bean, cabbage, corn, tomato, alfalfa, cotton, soybean, tobacco, and others

Range: throughout the USA, with some specimens in Central America and Canada

Identifying Features:

  • short–medium bristles
  • dark coloration, anywhere from deep rust to charcoal gray
  • tiny black spots between each segment&aposs bristles

This caterpillar looks a lot like the yellow woolly bear, but you can tell them apart because these caterpillars have black spots all along the sides of their bodies, and they&aposre usually a darker orange-red than yellow woolly bears.

Note: Some people are sensitive to the fur of these caterpillars. If you handle them a lot, you may get an itchy rash. It&aposs never serious, though, so don&apost worry too much.

Raising a Salt Marsh Caterpillar

These caterpillars are really easy to raise to adults. They eat a lot of different leaves (but be sure you always give them leaves from the same plant you found them on!). If you give them the right leaves, they&aposll eat for a while and spin an orange cocoon. The adult moth that hatches out is really beautiful, with pale orange and white wings.

Buck Moth Caterpillar

Buck moth caterpillar showing toxic spines

By Judy Gallagher - https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/28390496835/, CC BY 2.0, https://comm


Insect Identification

Question: What is this insect and what can I do about it? They are all over our crape myrtles.
Answer: This is the larva of the multicolored Asian lady beetle. They feed on aphids and should not be controlled.

Question: Please tell me whether or not these are bed bugs.
Answer: Unfortunately, these are bed bugs. Don’t try to treat these on your own! Call a professional pest control company.

Question: Can you tell me which species of whitefly this is? We have these in a greenhouse with 30,000 poinsettias.
Answer: Unfortunately, these are silverleaf whiteflies. Phone to discuss control options.

Question: I have never seen anything like this before! What is it?
Answer: This is a hickory horned devil caterpillar. They look fierce, but are harmless. Adults are known as regal moths.

Question: Is this one of those new, non-native insect pests I have been hearing about?
Answer: Yes, this is a kudzu bug. They were first detected in Mississippi in 2012. Where did you find this one?

Question: These things are destroying my tomatoes. How do I control them?
Answer: These are leaffooted bugs, common pests in summer vegetable gardens. See attached information on control.

Question: Are these termites? We found them on the kitchen counter.
Answer: Good news, these are not termites they are confused flour beetles. Check your cereal products for infestations.

Question: Is this a brown recluse spider? We found it in the baby’s bed room.
Answer: Answer: No, this is a spitting spider. They live indoors, but are not seriously venomous.

These are just a few examples of the kinds of questions that the MSU Extension Entomology Insect Identification Lab can help answer for concerned home owners and commercial producers. The primary goal of this service is to provide Mississippi citizens with identification and management recommendations for insect pests that affect their homes, their gardens, or the crops they are trying to produce. The lab also works closely with the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and observant Mississippi citizens to help facilitate early detection of new invasive insect pests that appear in the state.

  • Identification of insect specimens mailed to the lab
  • Identification of digitally submitted insect images
  • Insect pest management recommendations provided when appropriate

No charge for individual samples submitted by Mississippi citizens.

Send Physical Samples to:

Extension Insect ID Lab
103 Clay Lyle Entomology Building
Mississippi State, MS 39762-9775
(662) 325 2085
(662) 325 8837 (Fax)

E-mail digital images to:

Sample Submission Form--please complete and send with sample:


Moth Identification Help: Large Moths Pictures

Moth identification becomes a bit easier when it comes to the largest of the native moths.

Additionally, everyone enjoys a largest moth story, and this section provides some good stories. It starts with the fact that Atlas moths, native species in Indonesia rank as the world’s largest moths with a sing span approaching ten inches in length.

That’s a pretty impressive number and provides a comparative baseline for a discussion of large moths in the United states. Local large moth conversations usually start with species from the Saturniidae family of giant silkworm and royal moths. Here’s four examples.

Starting with Cecropia silkmoths (Hyalophora cecropia), foten billed as North America’s largest native moths. They live in many areas that have some trees and green spaces. Those characteristics, plus the availability of artificial lights makes urban areas an attractive home.


Green wings and long tails might make it easy to confuse Luna Moths (Actias Luna) with Swallowtail butterflies. The feathery antenna definitively identifies them as moths.

They can grow to have a wingspan of up to four inches, placing them squarely in the large moth category. Luna moths are mostly active during the evening hours and can be common sights in deciduous wooded areas east of the Rocky Mountains.


Polyphemus moths are probably the most common of all the large moths found in the United States. Their caterpillars have a very flexible diet and feed on most deciduous trees. Adult wing span can reach up to six inches.


The Polymethus moth caterpillar.


The pink and yellow or cream colors of the Rosy Maple moth make it another of the very beautiful royal moths.

The wing span reaches two inches, making it smaller than the others presented here. They are quite common in the eastern areas of the United States with maples and other deciduous trees.



Wait! There’s more to the story of the largest moth in the United States. With a wing span that often reaches seven inches, the Black Witch Moth (Ascalapha odorata) ranks as the largest moth found in the United States.

The difference is it is not a native moth. Native to the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and the northern part of South America, the Black Witch Moth makes an annual journey to many parts of the United States during the summer months. It does so to avoid the rainy season in its home territory.

They are more commonly found in the South than the North, although their ability to make the long flight north to the Alaskan or Canadian border has been documented in local news stories. Hawaii also has an introduced population.

The two pictures show a male and female respectively. The color variation in the pictures is an artifact of the lighting. The white band through the center of the female’s wings is the key field identification clue.


The Tiger Moth family is probably best known for its woolly bear caterpillars.

Less known is the fact that the largest of the Tiger Moths is the Giant Leopard moth. The wing span can exceed three inches in length and the body grows over two inches.

They are common throughout the eastern United States because the caterpillars are not picky eaters.

Moth identification becomes easy seeing a striking white winged moth covered in circles. The colorful abdomen shows shades of blue and orange.


After reading about the really large moths, hearing about a moth that has close to a five inch wing span brings some perspective.

The Modest Sphinx Moth is common in most areas of the United States where their larvae food (poplar, aspen, cottonwood and willow trees) grows. The purple line across the underwing and large size are good field identification clues.


The Underwing moths normally do not get classified with the larger moths.

They are moth collector favorites in many areas because of the colorful underwings. They do grow to be medium sized to larger sized moths.

The picture shows a Red Underwing moth.

Yellow Underwing moth.


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