Posts Tagged ‘caterpillars’

Two Tawny Emperors

 The more studying I do, the more confused I get.


 Tawny emperor butterflies lay their eggs in hackberry trees.


The butterflies sip nectar from flowers and will also feed on rotting fruit.


Hackberry butterflies will land on me for the sweat.


Both are “sap-flow” butterflies too, meaning they also feed on rotting fruit.

Both the tawny emperors and hackberry butterflies lay their eggs on leaves in the hackberry trees.

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Now for my problem. When I found this caterpillar on the side of the house, I thought for sure it was a tawny emperor caterpillar. Then I started researching it.

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Seems they’re hard to distinguish them from that of the hackberry butterfly.

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  Their pattern changes as they grow.  Two stripes along the body turn yellow. So, since they’re hard to distinguish one from the other, I’ll just enjoy each encounter.

Tawny emperor butterflies visit flowers.


Hackberry butterflies go more for the rotting fruit, and other things like, ugh, animal droppings. I smash rotten bananas on the cistern where I can watch the activity from the picture window by my computer. The large tree in the picture is a hackberry tree.

Extreme Shortage

The catalpa tree has been a quiet place this summer.


This leaf had fallen from the tree, and these are eggs of the catalpa sphinx moth. These were the only ones I found. Usually they’re quite numerous.


This leaf had fallen from the tree too. The caterpillars probably won’t survive since they’re too small to get back up in the tree.


The caterpillar didn’t like my presence and started making rapid movements that were meant to deter me.


The movements got more dramatic.


The caterpillar went from leaf to leaf on its way to the south.


I left after this dramatic display. I didn’t want to stress it any more.

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The catalpa tree has all its leaves … so I wonder what the caterpillar numbers will be like next year?


I don’t feel right not posting a blog about the butterflyweed  (Asclepias tuberosa) in my garden, even if it is past bloom.


These pictures were taken between June 19 and July 6.

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Butterfly numbers have been much lower this summer.



The butterflyweed would normally be a hub of activity.


A large milkweed bug or two stayed among the flowers.

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The caterpillar numbers remained low too.


Predators were present too.

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The hornet apparently found plenty of small insects to feed on.


The butterflyweed was reduced to this by July 6.

A Chrysalis

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I found this chrysalis on the side of our garbage container on August 10th. Its shape and design would make such a nice pendant for a necklace. I admired it every time I passed. Then, it was an empty shell on the 16th.

Its identity remained a mystery … until this afternoon. I just found out it’s the chrysalis of a hackberry emperor butterfly.


We have several hackberry trees in our yard.

Hackberry butterflies lay their eggs in hackberry trees, and the caterpillars feed on the leaves. The adult butterflies prefer feeding on rotting fruit. They also visit moist places, fermenting fruit, tree sap, and animal droppings.

Great Spangled Fritillary

Great spangled fritillary … sounds like royalty, doesn’t it?


It’s a common butterfly here in southern Illinois … except for this year after a harsh winter.


They’re a large butterfly, measuring from 2.6 to 3.5 inches. They also go by the scientific name Speyeria cybele cybele.


The silver spots on the underside of their hindwings are quite distinctive.

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There’s a single generation of them a year, and the adults fly from mid-May to early October.

Now here’s the interesting thing … the caterpillars feed only on violets. The adult lays an egg near a violet plant. The egg hatches, and the teeny caterpillar burrows into the ground. It stays there all winter without eating. The caterpillar comes out of hibernation in the spring, and then it starts eating on the young violets.


The variegated fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)  is much less common in southern Illinois. They start migrating north in April. They also feed on violets, pansies, passion-flower and maypops.

Tobacco Budworm

These caterpillars are feeding on flowering tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris)

There’s an obvious reason why these moth caterpillars are called tobacco budworms!

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Each one feeds with it head in a hole that it made in a bud.

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The caterpillars vary in size and

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and in color.

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Their feeding method keeps me chuckling every time I’m among them.

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Obviously, nature has a sense of humor too.

Silver-spotted Skipper

A high percentage of skippers are similar and difficult to identify.


Not the silver-spotted skipper (Epargyreus clarus clarus), with the distinctive white spot on the underside of its hindwing.


They seldom land and show their upperside.

Their caterpillars feed on false indigo, wisteria, wild senna, and honey locust. The adults fly from April to mid-October.