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Entomology (Study of Bugs)/What kind of caterpillar is this?

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My 4 year old daughter found a cute brown caterpillar that is slightly hairy.  We live in North Alabama, if that helps with identifying him.

We found him attached to my daughter's blanket, and would like to figure out what he is supposed to be eating.

Based on some internet searches, he sort of looks like a Grammia arge Moth, but I could be completely wrong.

Please help!

Thanks,
Rob

Answer

Rob:

I can't tell from the images what this might be.  I would caution against handling hairy or spiny larvae, though.  Hairy ones sometimes cause an irritating skin rash, especially in children, or even allergic reactions that could be far worse.  Some spiny caterpillars are venomous, some of the worst stinging insects we have.

Usually if one finds a caterpillar off of its food plant, then it is done eating and looking for a place to pupate; or, it may have an internal parasite or a disease and be crawling off to die somewhere.  Note that diseases and parasites that affect insects are NOT the same ones that cause people problems.

Wish I could be more helpful.  You may want to put the caterpillar in a container with a layer of soil and some leaf litter, plus an upright twig or two.  I'll bet the caterpillar is going to pupate, which may or may not involve spinning a cocoon.  Put the container where it will experience the same cycle of light and darkness that the caterpillar/pupa would experience anyway.  Spritz the inside of the container with water every few days to keep humidity up, but not saturated (so mold doesn't grow).

Good luck!  Eventually, you should have the adult moth :-)

Eric

Entomology (Study of Bugs)

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Eric R. Eaton

Expertise

I answer insect and spider identification questions ONLY. Attach images if possible. No "what bit me?", "what do I feed this bug in captivity?", or science fair project questions please. NO TECHNICAL QUESTIONS ABOUT INSECT PHYSIOLOGY.

Experience

Principal author, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America. Professional entomologist employed previously at University of Massachusetts, Chase Studio, Inc., and Cincinnati Zoo; contract work for West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, Smithsonian Institution, and Portland (Oregon) State University.

Publications
Author, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Missouri Conservationist magazine, Ranger Rick, Birds & Blooms, Timeline (journal of the Ohio Historical Society). I have contributed to several books as well.

Education/Credentials
Oregon State University, undergraduate major in entomology, did not receive degree.

Awards and Honors
One of the top 50 experts in all categories for AllExperts.com, 2009.

Past/Present Clients
Principal author of the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Smithsonian Institution (contract), Cincinnati Zoo (employer), Portland State University (contract), Chase Studio, Inc (employer), Arkansas Museum of Discovery (guest speaker). Currently seeking speaking engagements, leadership roles at nature festivals, workshops, and ecotours.

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