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Mystery Caterpillars

This being caterpillar season, we put a mystery egg mass on a Swiss Chard leaf into a small container:

Mystery Caterpillar - eggs on Swiss Chard

Mystery Caterpillar – eggs on Swiss Chard

I think the darker egg was a dud, because two days later they all hatched and ate their egg cases, leaving that one behind:

Mystery Caterpillar - hatched

Mystery Caterpillar – hatched

Mary deported them to the trash, put two on a leaf in an aquarium on the kitchen table, and, eight days later:

Mystery Caterpillar - 8 days

Mystery Caterpillar – 8 days

They’ve been chowing down on spare garden greenery; unlike Monarchs, they eat what’s set before them.

One has dark “fur”:

Mystery Caterpillar - black morph

Mystery Caterpillar – black morph

The second is lighter:

Mystery Caterpillar - brown morph

Mystery Caterpillar – brown morph

A third caterpillar escaped the trash can apocalypse and also resides in the aquarium, albeit stunted by its ordeal:

Mystery Caterpillar - pale morph

Mystery Caterpillar – pale morph

They’re too bristly to be Wooly Bears. I’m sure they’ll turn into nondescript brown moths.

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  1. #1 by Keith Ward on 2017-08-20 - 12:39

    Ed, I looked through our personal library and spent an hour looking on Google (grrr) without much luck/help on these. Rather generic, but for some reason I think maybe more likely to be a moth than a butterfly but noting is for sure anymore. Gets frustrating fast using the internet since it is all clogged up with useless info that creeps into any search. Trying something more exacting using regular expressions barely helps. I would run it past your local extension office to see what they think, but unless it is considered a pest they may not know either. We don’t exactly hang out with or see or local butterfly/moth experts very often and haven’t been on an organized hike of any kind for a while now due to taking care of our own “sanctuary”, hah.

    • #2 by Ed on 2017-08-20 - 14:59

      Mary did some searching and came up dry, too. We hope they’ll be easier to ID after they pop out of their cocooons, but “generic brown moth” definitely describes plenty of critters!

  2. #3 by Daniel B. Martin on 2017-08-20 - 14:19

    ” … they eat what’s set before them.”
    It’s a survival skill.

    • #4 by Ed on 2017-08-20 - 15:05

      Aye!

      The little one didn’t bulk up nearly as much as the others. Perhaps getting off to a late start means doom later on, but it’s definitely not quitting.

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