Caterpillars on Sunflower and Coneflower
The Gorgone Checkerspots have been hanging around the garden this spring, so the caterpillars on the sunflower and coneflower may be from these visitors. They totally strip the surface of the leaves, leaving behind what looks like a burnt shriveled "leaf" skeleton. I've had them once before about 5 years ago. There are hundreds and hundreds of these larvae. They are small, dark, bristly, and work in groups. The larvae of the
Checkerspots are similar. So there will be an abundance of one of these butterflies soon. Will have to watch to see if the birds go after the larvae. I'll bring in a few of the caterpillars to raise them to document and ID them.
It's becoming quite the caterpillar year. Found lots of eggs on the Spicebush, and will bring in some of the cats to raise. My Buckeye caterpillar is now a chrysalis--he really purged before he pupated. And the Monarch cats are almost grown. This is the last of 3 batches totaling about 50 this year. Black Swallowtails discovered the fennel and dill recently, and there are lots of eggs and small cats. Raised and released Am Ladies and Pipevines. Watched two female PVs laying more eggs today and continue to find Am Lady nests. These will stay outside. There are Variegated Fritillaries all over the garden. Raised one batch, but will leave them to fend for themselves. The first Goatweed Leafwing is pupating. There had to be hundreds of eggs laid on the croton which came up in abundance in the garden this spring. Brought a few in to raise. Dearly love these little caterpillars. One Giant Swallowtail has been released, and one is still pupating. And the Senna is covered with Orange Sulphurs and Sleepy Orange eggs. The Genista Broom Moth larvae are back, but I'm getting rid of them. They literally killed several of my Baptisias, and the ones that survived did not bloom--so beware. For a year that started slow, it's getting crazy here!