Thursday, July 30, 2015

Caterpillar: Morning-glory Prominent / False Unicorn (Schizura ipomoeae)

June 26th. I was looking at our ornamental witch hazel (Hamamelis sp.) when I noticed what looked like the dead edge of a leaf. When I looked closer, I found this…

beautiful leaf-mimic caterpillar. 

This caterpillar was approximately 1.5 inches long. The first thoracic segment was brown as were the abdominal segments; the 2nd and 3rd thoracic segments were green. Intricate markings on both the green and brown segments enhance its beauty. It had fine setae (hairs) on the thoracic and abdominal segments; I didn’t see these until I processed the image.

This caterpillar had two prominent red pegs on the 1st abdominal segment and smaller pegs on the 4th, 5th, and 8th abdominal segments. 

I identified this caterpillar as the larva of the Morning-glory Prominent Moth (Schizura ipomoeae). This caterpillar is also known as the False Unicorn caterpillar.

The genus Schizura has nine species; five of these have green/brown coloration. Two species – S. unicornis (the larva of the Unicorn Caterpillar Moth) and S. ipomoeae – have similar color patterns. S. unicornis has head stripes and a humped A5 (fifth abdominal segment) as well as a white V-shape over A6 and A7 which distinguish it from S. impomoeae.

This caterpillar may be found from May to October throughout the United States and southern Canada. It feeds on the leaves of various woody plants, including beech (Fagus sp.), birch (Betula sp.), elm (Ulnus sp.), maple (Acer sp.), morning-glories (Ipomoea sp.), oak (Quercus sp.), and roses (Rosa sp.).  Interestingly, witch hazels (Hamamelis sp.) are not on this list. Add this genus to the list.


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