Caterpillars

Some recent sightings…

hornworm
Tobacco hornworm, the caterpillar of the Carolina sphinx moth (Manduca sexta)

Eldest offspring’s jalapeño plant was growing well and producing plenty of peppers until this big fellow showed up.  Hornworms feed on a wide variety of solanaceous plants, so I’m keeping a close eye on my Brugmansia and tomato plants.  On occasion, while prowling the garden at night with a headlamp, I have found adult moths visiting nocturnally fragrant Lilium formosanum and Crinum ‘Mrs. James Hendry’ flowers.

leaf roller
Greater canna leaf roller, the caterpillar of the Brazilian skipper butterfly (Calpodes ethlius)

About a week ago, I noticed that something was cutting flaps in the leaves of my canna plants and stitching them shut with silk.  Peeling the flaps open revealed the caterpillars of the Brazilian skipper.  In late summer, my cannas are often infested with lesser canna leaf rollers (caterpillars of a nondescript moth, Geshna cannalis), but this is the first time I have seen greater leaf rollers.  Brazilian skippers are tropical butterflies that sometimes stray to the NC piedmont,usually in late summer.

webworm1
Fall webworms (Hyphantria cunea) eating sweetgum leaves

webworm2

Unlike the greater canna leaf rollers, fall webworms are a familar late summer sight in my garden.  They feed on a wide variety of hardwoods.  This year, they’re on sweetgum and possumhaw.  In previous years, I have found them on sourwood, black cherry, and American persimmon.

9 thoughts on “Caterpillars

  1. Besides weird insects, you have very interesting tree specie; possumhaw, sourwood, black cherry and American persimmon. None of those are endemic here. I brought some persimmon seed back with me from Oklahoma. I can not believe that Okies are not impressed with them.

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      1. I would not expect that in North Carolina just because of the lack of environmental diversity, even if there happens to be plenty of different specie within the main region. For example, even if there are many different specie there, they would be no different from the many different specie elsewhere in the state. North Carolina lacks desert, chaparral and alpine climates.

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  2. Love the pics, and it’s true about more tree species in NC than Europe. The Appalachian Mixed Mesophytic forest is one of the most diverse temperate forests. Species survived the ice ages by moving north-south along the Aappalachians, but were blocked by Europe’s east to west mountains.

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    1. Fascinating. Makes sense. You can kind of see something similar in the way plants are distributed E-W in NC, with some northern species reaching the southern extent of their rainge in the mountains, and tropical/subtropical genera in the coastal plain.

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