Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Blue-footed... what?

Just when you thought you have seen it all, today we discovered an interesting feature on a caterpillar...
blue feet! What type of jumbo caterpillar has blue feet, and blue spines fitting for a punk rocker?

And look at his size. It was bigger around than my fingers and about 5-6 inches long. The luna green color, not uncommon for several of the giant silk moth caterpillars, and studded outer wear is the norm for this crowd. It was just a matter of matching up the specific colors and forms with the Wagner's Caterpillars of Eastern North America. If you have any interest in moths and butterflies this field guide is a "must have."

Cecropia Moth, Hyalopherra cecropia

Cecropias are one brooded in Ohio. Eggs hatch into larva in June, feed until August- and like this fat boy- they are now ready to construct a structure in which it will pass the winter. What is the difference between a butterfly's chrysalis and a moth's cocoon? A moth uses other materials to create the cocoon- whereas a chrysalis remains when a butterfly caterpillar sheds its last outer coat.

These larva deserve our respect, after all, very few make it this far. Most are eaten by birds, or chipmunks, squirrels, mice or any number of hungry creatures. This caterpillar would make a handsome meal once you got past the pointy parts.

Giants silk moths are, sadly, on the decline. They have suffered great losses to the parasitic tachinid fly, imported to kill Gypsy Moth. Unfortunately, the flies are not all that picky about their prey and 82% of the silk moths in one study were reported affected. Add to this the copious amounts of mosquito spray being used in suburban areas, and it is surprising we have any silk moths at all.

So three cheers for the blue-footed creatures; they are welcome to feed on my cherry trees!


  1. Wow! Beautiful! Thanks for the revelation, Cheryl; I had no idea that Cecropia caterpillars had blue feet. Great post!

  2. Thanks Kenn-
    I bet you just haven't seen them with their shoes off! ;)

  3. I was recently reminded that you can call the Health Department and ask them not to spray your yard for mosquitoes.(They might even not spray the whole neighborhood.) Every little bit helps.

  4. That is EXCELLENT news Jan. I will keep my mosquitos- gladly- in trade for healthy butterflies.

  5. Is it wrong that I want to give the caterpiller a hookah and teach him to say "WHooo Arrreee Youuu?"...? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QgbntWU7pG8

  6. This little guy DOMINATED 'A Bug's Life'. What rhymes with thugged out? This caterpillar. Nice of you to feed them, I love to eat too.