Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Spotted Apatelodes Moth

This grandfatherly-looking caterpillar is the offspring of a Spotted-Apatelodes Moth(Apatelodes torrefacta). The caterpillars can vary in color from gray (pictured), to yellow or even white. There are tufts of black hairs and black spots along their side, which aren't readily visible because of the fluffy nature of this caterpillar. There are many fuzzy caterpillars crawling around outside and most of them are the larvae of Tiger Moths and we call them Wooly-Bears. So how do we tell the difference? This species has hair that lays flat along its body, rather than sticking up wily-nily all over its body like other caterpillars, this one also features those long black tufts of hair.I read one report that claimed they have bright orange feet; how I wish I would have flipped this one over to see that!

As adults; the puzzle grows even more, whereas the young favor tiger moth caterpillars, the adults favor sphinx moths. When I first spotted this moth on the grass in our front yard I thought it was a Sphinx moth, although I had no idea which one. I sent this image into Bugguide and within minutes it was identified as the Spotted-Apatelodes Moth. They are in the family Bombycidae, which are silkworm moths. These differ from the  Giant Silk Moths like Luna Moths and Cecropia Moths in several ways......

For one thing they are much smaller(wingpan up to 2 3/4 inches), but also one member of this family are the producers of the silk we humans have come to favor.
(Bombyx mori) are native to northern China and have been used extensively in the production of silk for over 4,500 years. These caterpillars are no longer found in the wild and are bred entirely in captivity. They are fed a diet of Mulberry leaves.China continues to be one of the top manufacturers of silk. 

The Spotted-Apatelodes is closely related to the Silkworm Moth that is used in silk production.

The spotted-apatelodes caterpillars feed on Cherry, Ash, Maple and Oak. There is also documentation that they feed on other fruit trees as well.  The adults are not reported to feed, nor could I find any information of their lifecycle beyond one report that stated mating takes place in the summer and the caterpillars will overwinter in the pupal stage. In their Southern most region they may produce up to 3 or more generations per year. In their Northern most range they will only have one generation. They can be found in deciduous forests and nearby areas, presumably where the host plants would be found.

While doing my research on this species, I visited the www.butterfliesandmoths.org (BAMONA) website and discovered that there were no reported sightings for this moth in Missouri. I contacted our regional representative for BAMONA and told him about my finding this particular species in NW Missouri and sent him this picture. He thanked me and assured me it would be added to the data base.

18 comments:

  1. It would be nice to be able to find one now, it isn't too bad out without the wind here today.Thinking of a warm beach vacation, this is the first Christmas I have stayed in town for a number of years.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I know what you mean, winter is so long and drawn out, especially when you want to be outside photographing insects and flowers and all things alive and green. I guess winter is a time to get organized and maybe catch up on some writing and reading. Our weather was nice up until this past weekend, then winter hit with a vengeance. Cold NW winds blowing 45 MPH, and snow. UGH! I am dreaming of warmer places too....Mexico!!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I don't think I'd ever heard of BAMONA before. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I use BAMONA a lot in my research on butterflies and moths. It is also a great way to determine if the moths and butterflies are records for your area. They provide a list of contacts for each state to be able to report sightings.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I live in Grand Rapids, Michigan and I have never seen one of these before into Sunday Morning, I found it crawling on my table, So I used my cell phone and picked it up and placed it back on a tree. I loved the yellow and black colors it had. I wished I checked out his feet but didn't.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My son found one today in the park. Beautiful caterpillar! No orange feet though, its feet are black. Kirkwood, Missouri.

      Delete
  6. i have found 2 of them. and I live in Nebraska.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I found one in WV, Hampshire County, Capon Bridge. Orange feet, fluffy white with black antennas at head and end with black spots on sides and black broken line on back. Never seen one before.
    Kelly

    ReplyDelete
  8. In Ct, I have a bright yellow one with orange feet

    ReplyDelete
  9. I am pretty sure I found one of these caterpillars today. I kept him to watch his cocoon with my daughter. I thought it would be neat for her to watch!

    ReplyDelete
  10. My daughter found one and it is now in her butterfly enclosure. We can not find what to feed it except maple leaves. If we are luckey enough to see it become a moth what do we feed it after?
    Any help would be great.

    ReplyDelete
  11. My daughter found one of these caterpillars a few days ago. She put it into a container with maple leaves and a piece of maple bark. A couple days after she found it I asked her to let it go. To her surprise it had started to turn into a pupa under the cover of the bark. We live in North East Ontario Canada.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I found one of the moth's today, very neat. Looks like a tiny dragon!!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I have one on my porch. .
    I have never seen one before..

    ReplyDelete
  14. My daughter spotted a white one on the trunk of a maple tree with about 6 long black tufts. She placed him in an observatory with a few maple leaves, that had several holes in it already. We are wondering if they will form their cocoon in this bug observatory we have it in or if it will not survive captivity? Please let us know, as we want to do what's best.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If the caterpillar you found was that large it was (or is) about ready to make a cocoon. Some caterpillars need to overwinter in the cocoon before emerging in the spring as adults. I am unsure about this species in captivity, but my best guess would be it needs to do so. You might try providing it some substrate like potting soil and see if it will bury itself and overwinter.

      Delete
    2. I found one in Florida in June. It was roaming, so I assumed it was about to pupate. It eventually did about a week later. I figured this would not be the overwintering generation since it was so early in the year, but it is now September and has still not eclosed. Appears to still be alive however.

      Delete
  15. I have one here with me now, it scared me at first, but it is kind of cute too....I thought it was a bat/moth/worm/spider...lol

    ReplyDelete