Friday, September 6, 2013

Saddleback caterpillar

A Saddleback caterpillar, Sibine stimulea, in repose. This one was feeding on Sugar Maple, but these caterpillars are broadly polyphagous - they can eat seemingly anything. I've found them on a variety of woody plants including Witch-hazel and Redbud, and they've even been reported feeding on corn. Saddlebacks are not infrequent in gardens, occupying ornamental plants, and perhaps you have seen one.

This caterpillar is a thing of great beauty, and the swan in a reverse ugly duckling story. The caterpillar is fantastically ornamented with dense fascicles of stinging spines, and no matter how great the urge to stroke one of these, I would resist temptation. Some authorities say that Saddlebacks pack among the greatest punches of any North American caterpillar. Those stinging spines will leave a blistering rash that will smart for quite some time. So, admire the bristly little beast wearing the lime-green horse blanket from afar. The adult phase - the moth - probably wouldn't interest you nearly as much as this larva. It is a rather plain brown Jane.

Amanda Duren spotted this animal on a nocturnal foray in Ashtabula County, Ohio, last Wednesday night. Of course, we briefly detained the animal for a photo shoot before returning it to the maples. Neither caterpillar or photographers were harmed in the process.

Whoa! Seen up close and head on, the Saddleback takes on an entirely new look, and a scary one at that. It sort of resembles a manically evil clown. Caterpillars are never boring to shoot. From one angle, something might resemble little more than a tubular bag of goo; seen from another perspective the cat might look quite cool indeed.

1 comment:

Karen said...

Wow, beautiful creature if a little scary!