INCREDIBLE WINTER SPECIES, PART II

February 11, 2016

 

Today we bring you some gorgeous photos of Xanthotype caterpillars. There are two species native to the Northeastern US, Crocus Geometer (Xanthotype sospeta) and False Crocus Geometer (Xanthotype urticaria). These species may be impossible to identify from one another as caterpillars. In fact, their species can only be determined for certain by dissecting their adult moths.

 

Each year, the final generation of Xanthotype caterpillars hunkers down to overwinter while they’re still larvae. How do they do it? Honestly, we’re not entirely sure. They may stay securely attached to their plants, like the last caterpillars we pictured, Porcelain Gray and Esther Moth. They may fall to the ground and land in or atop leaf litter. Perhaps they use a range of overwintering strategies.

 

Regardless, we know that Xanthotype caterpillars can be readily found into late fall. We’ve encountered them in November, still attached to their host plants, nakedly mimicking twigs long after many overwintering caterpillar species have taken shelter. In spring, we find them readily in the low, brushy habitat they prefer, munching away and putting on the majority of their weight before pupation.

 

We’re looking forward to searching for Xanthotype again in early spring. Until then, we hope they’re adequately prepared for the cold weather to come!

 

Check back tomorrow for more winter caterpillar stories and pictures!

 

- Liz Kautz
TCL Education Director

 

Each week (or at least SOME weeks!) The Caterpillar Lab features a "Caterpillar of the Week." Each featured caterpillar is a species we've raised at our lab in Keene, NH. We hope you enjoy meeting the caterpillars of New England!

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