Cecropia Moth

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A stunning caterpillar, but not one that we encounter very often, this being only the second in nine years. This one was feeding on a domestic blueberry plant in mid-August 2015.

Chickweed Geometer

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Observed early October 2015 near the main vegetable field.

As the name implies, the caterpillars can feed on chickweed. Hooray for anything that eats chickweed!

Hermit Sphinx

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I found this on wild bergamot (Mondarda sp.) while moving fences for a goat paddock in late September 2015; the black spot made it look like an empty hollowed-out shell of organic matter, and only with a second look did I realize it was a caterpillar.

I brought it inside to raise the caterpillar in a jar, but it turns out that it had been visited by a parasitoid wasp, possibly Cotesia congregata.

Luna Moth

Luna Moths are large, showy moths that we see infrequently, maybe one every year or two on average. (Sightings sometimes involve only a wing of a bird-eaten moth, not a live specimen.) So when Eric returned to the house from morning chores on July 13, 2013 with a report of a mating pair, we grabbed the camera and went back for photos. These were on a Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum) near a woodland edge, not far from the main vegetable field.

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Spotted Apatelodes Moth

I saw this moth resting on a sage plant one morning in early June and grabbed the camera; it is not one that we see routinely:bio_moth_Apatelodes_torrefacta

The Butterflies and Moths of North America website has more information on this species. This sighting is recorded in their database.

Wavy-Lined Emerald

This moth was resting on the house one morning in September 2013:bio_Synchlora_aerata

The Butterflies and Moths of North America website has more information on this species.

Beautiful Wood-Nymph (aka Bird Dropping Moth)

I photographed this one day while picking okra. I had grabbed the camera to photograph a Spring Peeper that was hanging out on an okra leaf, and so I was on the lookout for other interesting critters, as well. When I saw this, my first impression was, “Hey, it is a bird dropping.” But it seemed too symmetrical, so I took a closer look, wondering if it was one of the caterpillars that mimics bird droppings, and to my surprise, it flew. After it settled down, I snapped this photo.

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Gold Moth

We’ve often found Gold Moth caterpillars in late summer/early fall on Crownbeard plants in front of the house. bio_gold_moth_on_crown-beard

Cross-Striped Cabbage Worm

bio_cross-striped_cabbage_wormThe Cross-Striped Cabbage Worm is a pest of brassicas, especially cabbage, broccoli, and brussels sprouts. We do see season-to-season and year-to-year variations in the total population size, as well as the population ratio between these and other cabbage worms (such as the Imported Cabbageworm). More often than not, the Cross-Striped Cabbage Worms are the most prolific here.

These caterpillars can quickly defoliate brassica plants, such as the Brussels Sprout plant shown below.

We use several strategies to try to keep damage within acceptable levels. We’ve had some success using shade cloth on hoops over fall cabbage beds to exclude adult moths and prevent them from laying eggs on the plants. Trap crops of collard plants, which are a favored food, can sometimes help, if we keep on top of controlling the populations on the collards plants. bio_cross-striped_damage_br_sproutsWhen preventative methods fail, we’ll resort to “digital control”, that is, using our fingers (digits) to squish the caterpillars. Repeated periodically with attention to life cycle timing, this can be a relatively effective method (though one that is unpopular among workers).

Though it is allowed for organic production, we have never resorted to spraying Bt (a bacterium that kills cabbage worms). We are even less likely to do so since discovering in 2013 that we also have a parasitoid wasp of the genus Cotesia that eats out the innards of some of the cabbage worm species. As usual, any pesticide, no matter how benign and targeted, has unintended ecosystem consequences, and we prefer methods that keep the beneficials (such as parasitoid wasps) working for us.