Friday 5: Fall Leps

I’m getting Friday 5 up this week if it kills me!  My home computer is essentially non-functional for whatever reason and I am about to give up on it entirely.  That unfortunately means I don’t have easy access to the majority of my photos, I don’t have easy access to the internet on a real computer, and it all means that blogging has become really hard to do.  But, I’ve got enough photos on my camera’s memory card to make a post from another computer, so I give you this week’s Friday 5: fall leps (aka, butterflies and moths)!

Let’s start with this bad boy:

Sycamore tussock moth

Sycamore tussock moth

That’s a sycamore tussock moth caterpillar, Halysidota harrisii.  Guess what they eat as caterpillars?  And they do their sycamore munching boldly, right out on top of the leaves where they’re fairly easy to see.  It might look all cute and cuddly, but you’re going to want to resist the urge to snuggle up to that little guy.  He’s full of nasty urticating (=irritating, stinging) hairs that are likely to leave you itchy, in pain, or worse depending on your sensitivity.  Caterpillars like these little guys are why I don’t touch fuzzy caterpillars.  I’ve got super sensitive skin.  I’m not about pick up an unfamiliar fuzzy caterpillar…

Now this one, go right ahead and pick him up:

Banded woolly bear

Banded woolly bear

Banded woolly bear, Pyrrharctia isabella!  These things have been wandering across the road in droves recently.  Since moving to the southeast, I’ve been treated to lots of new old wives’ tales and the woolly bear one is a great one.  If you believe the story, you can tell how bad the winter will be by the width of the brown band in the center.  A wide band means a mild winter while a narrow band means a brutal winter.  That caterpillar up there suggests we’re going to have a mild winter.  However, considering these can be all brown, all black, blonde, or other colors, I think I’ll to stick to more sophisticated weather equipment.

The few remaining pipevine swallowtails, Battus philenor, have been out wandering, looking for a good place to pupate.  Most of the caterpillars at work have crawled down the pipevine, moved about 3 feet across the grass, climbed up the entrance shelter to the native plant garden, and pupated on the ceiling:

Pipevine swallowtail pupa

Pipevine swallowtail pupa

Apparently this is a good place to be if you’re a pipevine swallowtail pupa.  There are dozens up there!

I’ve also found several of these pupae lurking out in the areas around our milkweed patch:

Monarch chrysalis

Monarch chrysalis

Monarchs, Danaus plexippus!  We’ve just started to see caterpillars in any sort of numbers, so there’s a chance we might start to see some adults soon.  Unfortunately, it’s pretty late in the year for them to be emerging as adults…  I’m hoping the weather holds out a few more weeks so they at least have a chance at making it to Mexico before we get our first freeze.

And finally, I present this:

Fall Webworm

Fall webworm caterpillar

We just opened a nature play area at work and right now it’s full of fall webworm caterpillars, Hyphantria cunea!  They’re awfully cute, for voracious leaf eating caterpillars that most people consider pests.  This little guy and a friend of his looked rather like they were playing tag, racing up and down the railing to our amphitheater.  I suspect they’re looking for a way down so they can find a nice comfy place to pupate at the base of a tree, but, well… They’re not exactly the smartest animals on the planet, so around and around they went.

In spite of my general fear of touching furry or spiny caterpillars, I really enjoy this time of year.  It’s great to walk down the road and see a woolly bear making a break for the other side and my heart rates jumps a bit every time I duck under the sycamore tree just in time to avoid running face first into a sycamore tussock caterpillar.  The arrival of the caterpillars means there’s one last little burst of insect activity to enjoy before the cold weather sets in and the insects disappear until spring.  I intend to enjoy it thoroughly!


Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

4 thoughts on “Friday 5: Fall Leps

  1. I’m not sure I have ever heard the word urticating before. Now if I can just work it into a conversation 4-5 times in the next day or so it will likely be mine forever. Imagine adding a cool word like urticating to one’s vocabulary every day. (OK. Now I have used urticating 3 times some I’m almost there.)

    All kidding aside I ran across one of those Sycamore tussock moth caterpillars on my truck a few years back and took some pics of it. I always wondered exactly what it was. Thanks for the info.

    • Glad I could help you with your ID and give you a new word! I’ve always wondered if you could use it to describe an irritating person, as in “He had an urticating personality.” I doubt many people would get it though!

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