Caterpillars- are these guys good or evil?

lynne3450February 10, 2012

Hi, suddenly this morning my husband and I discovered 8 three inch caterpillars climbing up the stucco of the Western exposure on our house. We're fairly new gardeners and we haven't seen caterpillars before. They're black and brownish red. I'm going to try to attach pictures because I'd appreciate your help identifying if these are good witch caterpillars or bad witch caterpillars (Wizard of Oz reference there).

We're in Los Angeles, zone 10b, if that tells you anything.

Thank you!


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How annoying-- I'm not sure if you'll be able to see my photobucket photos- click on "view all" button.

Here's also a wikipedia link to the Nymphalis antiopa that I just found searching online:

Does that seem like the right match?

We DO have a big Chinese Elm out front, which it seems to like to feed on.

Do you know if we'll have any problems with these little buggers eating our other plants?

Thank you!

    Bookmark   February 10, 2012 at 2:05PM
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These butterflies (mourning cloak) are very common in southern California. I don't think they'll be a problem. They're not listed as a pest in the references I read.

Here is a link that might be useful: UCCE Integrated Pest Management

    Bookmark   February 10, 2012 at 8:32PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

They are my favorite butterflies. Congratulations- I have not been able to establish them here. They don't eat much- a few leaves of your willow tree. They do not eat garden shrubs or flowers, just tree leaves.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2012 at 10:17PM
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Wow, thank you both! Lgteacher, great link, I bookmarked it.

Hosenemesis, how cool! I'm glad that we've attracted a friendly critter to our property! :)

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 11:27AM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

I didn't notice that you said they were on your elm. That's good news- my neighbors have Chinese elms!

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 3:57PM
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Raising Butterflies (mourning cloak)
Suitable Host Plants:
Almost any elm, hackberry, willow, or cottonwood,
Birch, or Aspen .... Larval plants include mostly riparian plants like willows, cottonwoods, elm, hackberry and others
It never fails to arouse admiration on account of its brilliant coloration and boldness of pattern." Comstock

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 2:55AM
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Lynne, if you are new to gardening and like butterflies, you might want to look into planting a few milkweed plants too (Asclepias californica), the primary food plant for monarch butterflies. Those caterpillars are quite distinctive and the monarchs need all the help they can get in keeping their population numbers up.

Here is a link that might be useful: Xerces - monarch conservation

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 1:58PM
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