Good, Bad and Ugly

Categories: Lens Friends.


Caterpillar refers to the larval stage of a moth or butterfly or Lepidoptera.  The word is Latin in origin and means hairy cat.  During the year we see different caterpillars in the garden.

The good, the bad and the ugly!

Here is a Swallowtail caterpillar, Papilio polyxenes asterius. These like the leaves of carrots and parsley.  I think I grow the parsley just to entice the swallowtail butterfly to lay eggs so I can photograph the caterpillar.  These photos were taken late June.

caterpillars of the swallowtail butterfly at

Monarch caterpillar or Danaus plexippus is munching away on milkweed.  I always let the milkweed grow so the Monarch butterfly will be attracted to it.

monarch butterfly caterpillar at

The Milkweed Tussock Moth (sometimes called the milkweed tiger moth) is covered in many little tufts along its body. It grows about 2.5 cm. and feeds on milkweed plant. I had to get out my field guide to identify this one.

milkweed tuccosck caterpillars at

How dare these ugly bugs be on my tomato plants a few years ago.  They are best known as the tomato hornworm and are 7 to 11 cm. long.  They are probably the biggest caterpillar that is found in the garden.

The black ‘horn’ at the back is for protection. I  first noticed evidence of these ugly bugs when the odd tomato had little nibbles on it.  At first I was accusing the chipmunk as he has been know to swipe the odd tomato or two, but usually leaves his evidence on the deck or railing.  These tomatoes were still on the plant.  On closer examination I noticed some of the stems had also been nibbled and that is what clued me in.  So I started to scrutinize the plants and discovered these two ugly bugs.

the tomato hornworm at
I immediately snipped off the branch they were on and let it fall into a container whereby they were eliminated.  I wondered how did they get on my plants in the first place. A little research on Google and I found out the moth overwinters in the soil, lays eggs in the spring and hence the life cycle begins.  The tomato hornworm is the larvae stage of the five spotted hawk moth, which is a mottled gray brown colour with yellow spots on its sides.   Thank goodness I haven’t seen these caterpillars in the garden for a few years.

This pipeline swallowtail caterpillar is interesting colours.  The swallowtail butterfly that emerges has black wings with blue markings on it.

pipeline swallowtail caterpillars at

The wooly bear caterpillars have nothing to do with bears at all but caterpillars that will turn into an Isabella moth. It is called a wooly bear because its coloured bristles, or setea, look like the fur on a bear.  In the Fall they are searching for the perfect place to curl up for a long winter’s nap. They like to be under logs, rocks or bark. Their body temperature drops considerably so they can tolerate very cold temperatures.

Folklore has it that the black bands of colour determines how long and cold the winter will be. The longer they are the colder the winter will be. If the head is really dark the winter will start out very severe and if the tail is really dark the end of winter will drag on and on and be cold. The wooly bear has 13 segments to its body and they say it corresponds to the 13 weeks of winter. If they are moving south it could mean a colder winter and if they are moving north it won’t be quite as bad.

wooly bear caterpillars at

Here you can see the wooly bear stretching upwards. You can see some of the many feet and a glimpse of its head. The colour on the wooly bear changes as it matures. We found this one crawling across the driveway one sunny afternoon.  So when you look for some wooly bears, check the length of the bands, record it somewhere and then check to see if the predictions are right about winter.  These caterpillars turn inti the Isabella tiger moth.

The more you look the more you see.  Nature never fails to amaze me.

I’m sharing with Saturday’s Critters  and  Mosaic Monday .

the gardener side at


Take a peek at more lens friends from the garden.

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  1. You got great pics of all these caterpillars! I didn’t know that the name means “hairy cat”. Neat.

    I like the milkweed tussock and wooly bear ones the best, see them more frequently. And yeah, what is Mr or Ms Wooly Bear saying about THIS winter? 🙂

  2. Myrtle

    They say we learn something new every day. well I sure learned a lot about different caterpillars today. Loved all the shots of the caterpillar, the teacher is still showing Linda. lol.

  3. Wonderful post and photos , I have heard the folklore about the wooly bear but never really tested it . It has been chilly here in the mornings evenings and over nights already . I haven’t seen to many caterpillars either over the summer this summer but have seen more Monarchs then last year so that’s good . Thanks for sharing , Have a good weekend !
    Elaine recently posted..A Bit Of This & ThatMy Profile

  4. Eileen

    Hello, what a great post. I enjoy seeing all the cute caterpillars. I heard we may have a bad winter, I hope not. I have not seen the Wooly Bear caterpillar yet. Awesome photos. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend!

  5. Truly wonderful post! I learned a lot! I loved seeing all these different caterpillars. I thought the fuzzy ones stung you. I guess not. My neighbor has been getting horn worms off his tomato plants, and I have checked my plants and not found any. Now I know why…this isn’t his first year to grow tomatoes, but it is mine, and the soil must be free of eggs! I’m glad. Will have to be more mindful next year, for sure.
    Marie-OR recently posted..Sea Lions and Mystery BirdMy Profile

  6. I can see form the comments that this was a great post, if you’re someone who likes caterpillars! I’m afraid after seeing the first images I scrolled down very quickly, I am not a fan of any creepy crawlys and these guys made me shudder!
    Thanks for joining in with Mosaic Monday though. LOL.

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