Looking At Caterpillars

This seems a summer destined to keep me from doing much walking due to an injured foot. Nature is all around me and I found myself looking at caterpillars. Lush vegetation invites these herbivores to gorge.

The cabbage worms and loopers on my cabbage along with cutworms made good meals for my pullets. They have begun clucking.

Most caterpillars are on wild plants. They can take careful searching to find. Usually I don’t search for them, but suddenly find myself looking at caterpillars right in front of me.

looking at caterpillars can find surprises
The Abbot’s Sphinx Moth caterpillar looks like someone was working on a mosaic with its light green tiles in a dark brown background.

That happened the other day. I was moving mulch hay from the barn to the garden. Since it was only a couple of armloads, I carried it. A strange looking object was lying on the ground.

Around here anything that doesn’t sound or look right bears investigation. I stopped to take a closer look. It turned out to be a very strange looking caterpillar.

Shape wise the caterpillar looked like a tomato horn worm without a tail. It had the same soft, bulbous body and a big shield on the rear end with an eye spot instead of a tail.

back end of the Abbot's Sphinx Moth caterpillar
Spinx moth caterpillars have this round thickened area on their rear end. It looks a little like an eye. On horn worms the tail spike sticks out of the center. On the Abbot’s Spinx Moth caterpillar only the eye is there.

The resemblance stopped there.

This caterpillar had a dull brown body covered with light green shields. It looked like it was tiled. These tiles covered the entire body.

I do have a Peterson Guide for caterpillars. It’s identification selection is limited. I don’t use it often finding looking at caterpillars is diverting only. This one was worth looking up.

Surprisingly the caterpillar was in the guide. It is the larva of the Abbot’s Sphinx Moth. There are two color forms of caterpillars for this moth. I’ve seen the brown form before, but didn’t look it up.

looking at caterpillars from the side
Pulling the Abbot’s Sphinx Moth caterpillar onto its side exposes the green patches there. this must be done carefully to avoid hurting the caterpillar.

This particular caterpillar will spend the summer eating and growing. It’s favorite foods include Virginia Creeper and Wild Grapes. Both grow abundantly around here and it is welcome to feast on them.

In the fall the caterpillar will burrow into soft dirt to form a brown pupa. Next spring the Abbot’s Sphinx Moth will crawl out of the pupa case, spread it’s wings and fly away.