Calling All Caterpillar Chasers

American lady caterpillar in its nest on Gnaphalium in U.U. meadow in Galloway 5-22-12

Caterpillar chasers, unite! Anyone interested in studying the earlier life stages of butterflies can have some fun right now checking out the host plants of the three species involved in the big flight of late April/early May. Eggs and caterpillars of at least two of the species — question mark on hackberry and American lady on everlasting (Gnaphalium, sp) — seem relatively easy to find.

In the meadow of the UU congregation property in Galloway, where Jesse Connor saw American ladies ovipositing during several of the big flight days, nearly every specimen of everlasting (probably G. obtusifolium) seems to have at least one larval nest of an American lady cat. Look for plants that seem to have malformed flower heads. The caterpillars weave their nests out of the plant hairs. Peel them open and you will see the caterpillars inside.

Some larvae look like they only recently broke from their eggs, 5-19-12.

Others are a little older.

Some look like they are almost ready to pupate. (Photo from 5-22-12).

Larval nest in background, 5-19-12.

Here’s one with the unopened flower blossoms just visible extending beyond larval nest, 5-22-12.

Anyone with hackberries in the backyard or nearby should also have good luck looking for question mark cats, some of them now nearly large enough to pupate.

Question mark cat on hackberry (above nipple gall), Jesse Connor’s garden, 5-18-12.

Has anyone had any luck looking for red admiral eggs or larvae? If so, please post your finds on our log and send in some photos if you are willing to share.

Keep at it, everyone!


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