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Saddleback Caterpillars Preparing to Pupate

10-6-14 saddleback moth 006There is a group of moths (family Limacodidae) which are known as “slug caterpillar moths” due to the manner in which they travel during their larval stage, secreting a semi-fluid silk from their ventral pores as they move. These caterpillars come in all sizes and shapes. Among them is the Saddleback Caterpillar, which is much more colorful than the brown adult moth it eventually turns into. Saddleback Caterpillars are best known for their stinging (urticating) spines. Reputedly far worse than that of a bee, the sting of the Saddleback Caterpillar may be the most potent of any North American caterpillar. The larva’s bright colors serve to warn predators of its toxicity. Soon these caterpillars will be spinning cocoons (which can contain spines, as well) in which they will pupate until emerging as moths next spring. (Thanks to Rick Palumbo for photo op.)

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8 responses

  1. Marilyn

    Another reason to be content living in northern New England! Barring significant global warming, perhaps I’ll never see one of these critters. 🙂

    October 6, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    • Marilyn

      Or more specifically, encounter one!

      October 6, 2014 at 12:13 pm

  2. Cecilia Marchetti

    Where do they spin their cocoons!

    October 6, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    • I assume on the ground in the leaf litter, but I really don’t know!

      October 6, 2014 at 6:27 pm

  3. I saw a cousin to one of these for the first time this fall while visiting my sister in VT. It was a hag moth caterpillar on her pear tree (there were several). Using the trusty internet, I figured out what it was. Rather nasty looking creature, but fascinating all the same!

    October 6, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    • I’m jealous — I’ve never seen a hag moth caterpillar…and had to go to absurd lengths to photograph this southern N.E. saddleback!

      October 6, 2014 at 6:28 pm

  4. I am new to your blog , and really enjoy the photos along with the brief ( thank you )factual information . I had to respond to this post as I was stung by a saddle back this summer … I didn’t know what stung me until I found the stinker on my sidewalk …. I got out my Pentax papilio binoculars and got a good long look at this weird creature,definitely from another planet !

    October 6, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    • I would love to hear what it felt like to be stuck by one of those spines. Worse than a bee sting?

      October 7, 2014 at 12:08 am

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