Last week, a reader sent us the photo posted above and asked us some questions about the creature in it. She wants to know what kind of worm it is, what its life cycle is, what it eats, what kind of damage it does, and lastly how to get rid of it. The creature is white, tan, brown, and black with a camouflaged patterning. One end is pointed, while the other end is more rounded. The final clue we have about it is that it is on a purple flower.
Although our reader referred to this creature as a “worm”, we are quite positive that it is actually a caterpillar. Caterpillars are technically larvae, and eventually mature into moths and butterflies. There are over 20,000 species of known caterpillars, but scientists suspect that the actual number is much higher. Caterpillars are herbivores, which mean they eat foliage. Some caterpillars are believed to be pests because they can cause significant damage to crops and tree leaves. However, most caterpillars don’t cause enough damage to permanently harm the plants they munch on.
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The life cycle of a caterpillar includes 4 different stages, and the caterpillar itself is one of those stages. The cycle begins with an egg. These eggs are often laid on plant leaves, and they are visible to the human eye. The egg eventually hatches, and a caterpillar emerges. This larval stage doesn’t last very long, and the primary goal of the caterpillar is to eat as much as possible. Caterpillars eat the type of leaf their mother laid her eggs on and they hatched on. Next comes the pupa stage. Once caterpillars have fully satiated themselves and grown significantly, they form themselves into a pupa or chrysalis. It is within the chrysalis that the caterpillar undergoes a transformation referred to as metamorphosis. Once the transformation is complete, the fourth stage begins, and a butterfly or moth will emerge from the pupa. Adult moths and butterflies reproduce and look for places to lay their eggs, and then the cycle begins again.
While we are confident that this creature is a caterpillar, we are not sure which species it is. There are many species that have similar markings to this one, and the picture doesn’t clearly capture the creature or display its patterning. If we knew where this picture was taken, or what plants the reader has in her yard, we might have a better shot at determining the exact species.
In conclusion, a reader asked us about the “worm” she photographed on a purple flower. This “worm” is actually a caterpillar. We aren’t sure which type of caterpillar it is, but if our reader spots it again and is able to capture a better photo, we encourage her to send it in!
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