Sunday, July 10, 2011

Unknown Lappet Moth Caterpillar

Posted by Kirk
While teaching this week we discovered this gray caterpillar with red spots at lunch time. I did some internet sluthing to try to figure out what it is. We have a good collection of moth ID books at work but they are woefully inadequate when it comes to caterpillars.

Here's the suspect.

You can see the feature that stands out right away are the two red areas between the segments nearest the head. They show up even clearer in this next shot.
You can also see there are quite a lot of hairs but it is not covered in hairs like a wooly-bear and they aren't crazy hairs like a tussock moth caterpillar. Here's a few more shots.

I did not get a good shot of the underside but it was mostly black with some small yellow specks on it. After doing my online research I am for sure comfortable calling this to the genus level as a Phyllodesma sp. There are photos out there for Phyllodesma americana, the American Lappet Moth but this seems slightly different. Best I can gather there is some disagreement over various sub-species or full species of Phyllodesma moths. If the experts don't agree then I'm staying out of it. Lappet Moth caterpillar is good enough for me.

The best resource online for identifying these is the online community You can post up photos and naturalists from around the world will help you with your ID. Here are some photos of similar or even seemingly identical Phyllodesma caterpillars I was able to find online.



marcie oconnor said...

What a great caterpillar! Are you planning to rear it to see what the moth looks like? I have a site that has links to many life cycles of insects, but not that one. We only have one lappet moth: Pyllodesma americana. If you raise this one, I'd love to include a link to the life cycle on my site! And if you have other caterpillars to look up, you could try looking there - we do have links to lots of life cycles.

Marcie O'Connor

Kirk said...

Thanks Marcie. I let it go. Maybe next time. I didn't realize when I took the photos that it was going to be such an interesting ID.