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Salt Marsh Moth (Caterpillar)

Estigmene acrea

Description:

AKA Salt Marsh Tiger and Acrea Moth. The larvae length can be up to 55 mm. The adult wingspan 45-68 mm. The adult forewing is white with about 20 small black spots scattered across the disk, and 5 larger black spots spaced along the costa. Males have dark yellow hindwings, those of females are mostly white (with 3 or 4 black blotches in both sexes). The larva (caterpillar) are highly variable, blond to brown to black, with long bristly hairs standing upright in dense tufts from orange or black tubercles; hairs longer at both ends of body, especially toward the rear end. Spiracles are white and moves very rapidly. The face is mainly black with yellow down the center. One generation per year in the far north, 2 in southern Quebec and Ontario, 3 or 4 generations in the south. Overwinters as a pupa in a spacious cocoon; adults emerge in early spring. Females lay 400-1200 eggs in clusters on leaves of host; eggs hatch in 4-5 days, and larvae pass through 5 instars over a period of 20-45 days; larvae are active dispersers, and are often found wandering over the soil in search of suitable food. When disturbed the adults often drop to the ground, raise their wings, and emit an acrid odor from the prothoratic glands. Males (yellow hindwing) have inflatible appendages called coremata that will extend from the abdomen when gently squeezed.

Habitat:

Their range is all of North America except Alaska and Yukon. They are found in open wooded areas, meadows, farm fields, weedy waste places, prairie grasslands, and marshes - including salt marshes; adults are nocturnal and come to light. Adults fly from May to September although year round in Texas. Larvae feed on a wide variety of mainly weedy plants including pigweed (Amaranthus spp.), anglepod (Gonolobus spp.), Sicklepod (Cassia tora), Dog Fennel (Eupatorium capillifolium), ground cherry (Physalis spp.), and mallow (Anoda spp.), plus crops such as alfalfa, asparagus, bean, beet, cabbage, carrot, celery, clover, corn, cotton, lettuce, onion, pea, potato, soybean, sugarbeet, tobacco, tomato, and turnip. On rare occasions, they also feed on leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs: alder, apple, cherry, elderberry, pear, poplar, and serviceberry, according to Handfield.

Notes:

Found 3 of these today and since they are so diverse I am posting all three. This one was on the ground munching the Horse Herb. I didn't want to step on it so I placed it on the Fire Bush with the other two. ")

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2 Comments

nexttogone
nexttogone 9 years ago

Hey Fyn.K, thanks. I'm pretty sure it is eating Horse Herb. It's a native ground cover and is all over our back yard. Our dogs love to munch on certain parts of it too but I haven't figured out which part they are eating. Most likely the young flower buds.

Fyn  Kynd
Fyn Kynd 9 years ago

Great spot! What was it eating?

nexttogone
Spotted by
nexttogone

Bandera, Texas, USA

Spotted on Nov 2, 2012
Submitted on Nov 3, 2012

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