Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Happy, Happy Host Plants

Milkweed may be the most popular and well-known host plant (for Monarchs, of course) in our gardens, but many hundreds of different plants are "host" to the other 12,000 species of Lepidoptera. While I haven't seen any Monarch or Swallowtail caterpillars this year*, we do have a few other species hanging out in our yard, and they happen to be quite beautiful too!

Brown Hooded Owlet Moth, on Woodland Goldenrod (Solidago caesia)

White Marked Tussock Moth, on Pin Oak

Camouflaged Looper, on Salvia "May Night" (aka Wavy Lined Emerald Moth)

  Camouflaged Looper, dead center in the picture, about 1:00 in relation to the honey bee. In case you're unfamiliar with these guys, they affix pieces of whatever plant they are on to their bodies so they blend in. Totally the coolest!

Host plants aren't just for butterflies and moths, other insects have developed special relationships with particular plants too. What would you name a red beetle that lives exclusively on milkweed? How about Red Milkweed Beetle! How boring is that? Sorry for the blurry picture, I was leaning uncomfortably close over poison ivy to get this shot, with Jeff holding onto my pants!

*Well, we have seen a couple, but they didn't last long. Despite both Jeff and I watching a Monarch lay eggs, only one hatched that I could find, and that one disappeared after a couple of days. We also had one Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar, but it too disappeared before maturing fully.  :-(


  1. Regarding the Camouflaged Looper, can I just say: "Wow!"

    I've stared at both photos and I'm still not sure I see that caterpillar.

    That's some incredible camouflage. And really impressive that you could spot it and shoot (photograph) it!

  2. I've always loved the Tussock moth caterpillars, but WOW! the Brown Hooded Owlet Moth is sure a stand out! Sorry you're missing some of the 'puggers you had previously spotted--evidently your wildlife garden is hyper-effective!

  3. Very cool insects! I have not seen the Owlet moth caterpillar yet, I'm going to check my goldenrod right now.

  4. Aaron, I started noticing Camo Loopers last year, and once my eyes got used to spotting them, I started "seeing" them more often. Sometimes they sway back and forth slightly, like a praying mantis. They don't seem to have a plant preference, I've seen them on just about everything. I bet you have some in your yard!

    R K Young, Those two moth caterpillars are definitely beauties, but the funny thing is how drab and dull the actual moths are!

    Heather, As soon as I saw the Owlet moth caterpillars on my goldenrod, I said to myself, "Hey! I know what that is, I saw it on Heather's blog last summer!" Thanks!