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My Wild Backyard and Vivariums

Butterflies and Moths
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Bellow, the caterpillar fits the butterfly or moth. These guys are like a catch-22, the end result is beautiful, but nobody really wants to deal with the caterpillar end. I don't mind caterpillars in my garden at all. It's kind of like the snails, slugs and others, as long as they don't get out of hand and eat too much of what I'm trying to grow, we're cool. In some cases, I'm growing things they like, because I am hoping they'll come eat it. In my opinion, attracting butterflies with flowers, should come with baby sitting some of the caterpillars with a spare potato plant or two. Some have much more specific diets and will only eat certain things. You'd be amazed at what can come out of an ugly caterpillar when you don't know what your looking at.

I'll show an example from at least some families and try to keep in Texas as much as possible.

Asp
Megalopyge Opercularis

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These are well known around here as asps. All those fine hairs hide hollow spines within that inject a toxin. It could make more serious reactions very ill. An asp sting is easy to tell because it feels as bad as getting caught by a jelly fish followed by lesions and cysts. It looks kind of like a welt with a large reddened area around it, followed by a dotting or rash of red lesions. Many times the area of injection will have the outline of the asp. Gently press adhesive tape to the lesion, and lift it off the skin as soon as possible after the sting occurs and this will relieve some of the pain that can last for several hours with discomfort for several more days. If that doesn't work, try fresh ginger root and potato, blend until it's a fine chopped poultice and apply it to the area, holding it in place with a gauze.

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Bagworm Moths
Psychidae

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These are always interesting because the little caterpillar attaches different sticks and clutter around itself with silk and travels along hiding in this little bag like a snail. Depending on where it's been hanging out, it blends right in.

Nigrita Bagmoth

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Brushfoots
Nymphalidae

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Closely related enough to satyrs and wood nymphs that they pretty much like the same things. The caterpillars also eat grasses and grass relatives.

American Monarch Butterfly

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Cutworms and Dagger Moths
Noctuidae

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The caterpillar eats a wide variety of things, including vegetables like the ever classic, discovering a green worm in your lettuce after you bring it home from the grocery store. More often than not, it's a cut worm. The most significant tell-tales is their smooth bodies curling up to protect themselves, as well as gardens that have chewed leaves and as their name suggests, plants cut or sawed off from the base of their stem at the soil level. If they are just epidemic in your garden you may want to invest in getting a stock of Trichogramma or beneficial nematodes. You can also promote the birds with a feeder/bath. The caterpillars can also be found just beneath the soil around target plants and picked out.

Speckled Cutworm Moth

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Emperor, Royal and
Giant Silkworm Moths

Saturniidae

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Despite the name of silkworm, the giant silkworm moths are unrelated to the silkworms of Asia (Bombycid family) that produce comercial silk. This Saturniidae family of moths are a particularly impressive bunch and very large. Luna moths are very impressive Silkwood and I'm rather fond of Emperors. In some countries the Emperor caterpillar is an edible staple to the diet.

Actias Luna

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Footman and Tiger Moths
Arctiidae

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I don't see these caterpillars or the moth like I used to. All Arctiidae caterpillars tend to be hairy but the leopard moth in particular is spiny. They eat a wide variety of broad leaves from dandelions, violets to oak. The Wasp Moth is also in the Arctiidae family.
Giant Leopard Moth

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Grass Skipper
Hesperiidae

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These are a pretty common sight, especially out in the country with a rather distinct sort of cricket look. They aren't a moth but a butterfly, some people consider them neither. Caterpillars of the skippers typically roll themselves into a leaf or grass sheath sealed with silk when they are ready to cocoon. They eat a variety of grasses including turfgrass and bermudagrass.
Fiery Skipper

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Grass, Snout and Stemborer Moths
Pyralidae

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You really don't want to find this guy in your house, because the chances are it can mean the caterpillars are, or are about to make a home out of your cereal and other dry foods, including your raisins, flour, wheat, oatmeal and cat/dog food. Even bird seed, dried flowers and potpourri and you don't want to end up eating after this guy. Course when I see them I think, feeders! Though, for my own foods sake, I wouldn't try to raise them.

Phycitinae, Indian Meal Moth

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Gossamer Winged Butterflies
Lycaenidae

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Many of these types of caterpillars eat buds, flowers, seeds and hosts on plants in the pea family. Particularly the blue gossamer. Hair streaks eat flowers of mistletoe among other types of leaves. Coppers on buckwheat family plants and Harvesters eat aphids and scale insects.

Gray Hairstreak

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Inchworms
Geometridae

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I see this particular inchworm allot, and the moth which is a pretty fair size. Depending on the type of inchworm caterpillar, it eats types of tree leaves including conifers, shrubs and herbaceous plants or annual, biennial and perennial types of plants.
Spanner Moth

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Lappet Moths
Lasiocampidae

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Lappets in general are particularly furry looking while the Phyllodesma of them look exactly like leaves or a piece of bark.

Tolype Velleda

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Prominent Moths
Notodontidae

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Most of these caterpillar eat foliage of a variety of deciduous trees, including birch, cherry, chestnut, maple and oak.

Lesser Swallow Moth

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Saddleback and Slug
Limacodidae

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This is a very pretty moth I see often, but I never notice the caterpillar which is a very strange little critter as it doesn't have any legs. It uses what used to be caterpillar legs for locomotion. I've no idea what they eat.

Slug Moth

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Satyrs and Wood Nymphs
Satyridae

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These caterpillars usually eat grasses and grass like plants. Wood nymphs and satyrs in particular can normally be found around marshes, swamp, meadows and woodland.

Little Wood Satyr

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Sphinx, Hawkmoths and Hornworms
Sphingidae

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This is another particular favorite of mine, sphinx and hawk moths.

White-lined Sphinx Hummingbird Moth

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Swallowtail Butterflies
Papilionidae

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Several species of swallowtail caterpillars eat things in the carrot family including dill and Queen Ann's lace.

Eastern Tiger Swallow

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Tent Worms
Lasiocampidae

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Tent worms make a large web filled with furry caterpillars mostly up in trees where they munch on the leaves within, protected from predators. I've always known them as Kitabi Worms and we used to take them fishing.

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Tussock Moths
Lymantriidae

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Some eat leaves and plants poisonous to other animals. Another species hosts only on milkweed and other types like the pale tussock moth feed on specific trees like oak, hickory and willow.

Spotted Tussock

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Butterflies and Moths of North America

What do Caterpillars Eat?

Safe Control of Caterpillars