A bit flashier than your average cutworm...

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A bit flashier than your average cutworm...

Post by rjlittlefield »


I found this critter gone walk-about on a sidewalk this evening.

It's perfectly ordinary behavior for noctuid moth larvae this time of year, but I can't recall ever seeing one colored like this before.

Sorry, but I don't know any more about this beast than what you see: 3 cm long, a green cutworm with red spots! :?


Technical: Canon 300D with Sigma 105mm macro, electronic flash and paper towel diffuser.

Walter Piorkowski
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Post by Walter Piorkowski »

Nice shot Rik.


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Post by beetleman »

Yes, very well done and a colorful little creature.
Take Nothing but Pictures--Leave Nothing but Footprints.
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Bruce Williams
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Post by Bruce Williams »

"Cutworm". Now that's a new word for me so of course I had to go look it up on Google. It appears that the name comes from the larva's habit of cutting through the stem of their chosen foodplant (seedling) and felling it (much like a beaver). Here's the link to the Wikipedia entry.

Nice pic conveying that soft, easily squished feel of a caterpillar in the hand :D .


Ken Ramos
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Post by Ken Ramos »

I suppose with the green body, the red spots are to note the upcoming holiday season (Arggggh!). Anyway a very nice shot there Rik. :D

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Post by rjlittlefield »

Thanks for the comments, guys.

Bruce, I'm happy to have contributed to your already extensive vocabulary! :wink: Your description and Wikipedia link are exactly correct.

In my area, all of the cutworms that I know of are noctuid moth larvae. They look much like the beast pictured here, except that they're usually tan, gray, or some combination of those.

Many critters that look like this do not actually have the cutworm feeding habit, or have it only for some food plants and not for others. I have to take special precautions, for example, to keep my garden grape vines from being de-budded early in the spring. An apron of aluminum foil at the base of the vine works wonders. Without it, almost all of the early buds will be completely devoured by caterpillars that climb the vine at night, feed, then climb down again before dawn.

The guys in the local university's agriculture department report that local commercial growers have similar problems. In their case, the current villain is actually a European immigrant that you are most likely familiar with: Noctua pronuba, the Large Yellow Underwing.

My problems have been with some other species, though, since we have had problems for years, but this year was the first that I have seen pronuba adults in my yard.

As to a better ID on the pictured caterpillar, Richard Worth of the Oregon Department of Agriculture offers that:
It looks to me like maybe a heliothine noctuid, like Heliothis or
Helicoverpa. They can be highly variable in color too. Probably
looking for a place to pupate or hibernate or whatever they do this
time of year.
Google searches on those names certainly do turn up many critters that look like this one, and also adults that look like moths I have seen.

I will try to get this thing through the winter alive. With luck we can find out next spring what it is. :?


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