Saddleback Caterpillar Find

Caterpillars are around all summer. Like spiders they are more noticeable in the late summer. The visiting saddleback caterpillar is one of those.

This is one of the caterpillars the Butterflies and Moths guidebook lists in the back section because of its unusual coloring. That made it one I’d seen and wondered if I would ever see a living one.

saddleback caterpillar side view
The green blanket looks like it was dropped on like a saddle blanket is put on a horse. The vivid color is what gets the saddleback caterpillar noticed.

The saddleback caterpillar is more common east of the Ozarks. St. Louis had a thriving population at one time. Even though it eats a wide variety of plants, city life didn’t agree with it.

The caterpillar becomes a drab moth called the saddleback caterpillar moth. Since moths come out at night, a dark colored one isn’t one we’d see. The caterpillar is another story.

saddleback caterpillar lined with tufts
The tufts of spines make it almost impossible to touch the saddleback caterpillar without touching the spines. The green blanket appears to stop at the bottom row of tufts.

This one has been enjoying Oriental persimmon leaves. We have two or three tub grown trees along with a dozen fig trees in pots. This can’t be its normal diet, but it seems content.

Summer is becoming autumn. The persimmon tree will be dropping its leaves soon. The caterpillar is welcome to eat a few.

In spite of the picture book touting a hungry caterpillar, these larvae don’t individually eat a huge amount of vegetation. I did come across a caterpillar army once that was working its way over a tree sapling. Those individual amounts added up to every leaf on the poor tree.

saddleback carterpillar
I think this is the head end. It seems to go first when the saddleback caterpillar moves. The tufts and red fuzz give warning to look, but don’t touch.

There is only one caterpillar on the persimmon tree, so it is not in any danger of being eaten to the ground.

Another guidebook to caterpillars remarked that the spines on the saddleback caterpillar had a toxic substance on them. No one touched it to find out more.

Having found one new caterpillar, I will have to pay more attention to the vegetation just in case another interesting caterpillar is hiding among the leaves.

The Ozarks is a fascinating place with many plants and animals. Meet more of them in “Exploring the Ozark Hills.”