The extreme variations between individual larvae can befuddle many caterpillar enthusiasts.
The gray moth for this species is plain compared to its larvae. The adult has a reniform spot on each forewing, and each lower, outer edge has a dark patch. Some individual moths are paler than others, and some have more pronounced reniform spots. All produce a wildly inconsistent caterpillar.
Individual caterpillars may look so different from each other, one could think they were different species. Some are bright green with yellow and white stripe on the side of the body and a green head. A bold, diagonal black and white stripe on each 'cheek' is common with this version. Two small orange humps on the upper 'back' complement two small orange humps by the rear. Another variation is pale green and laden with pairs of deep red bumps along the 'back' along with a hair sticking out of them. The white head has dark dots and dashes on it. Some are green with only a handful of paired red bumps. The green head has a diagonal red line on each side, and dark red stripe stretches halfway down the 'back'. The disparity between the caterpillars can make it difficult to identify it. One thing they all have in common is the ability to spray an acidic compound. Touching or disturbing this caterpillar is not advised as the acid can cause blisters and irritation.
Adults are active from mid-spring through autumn, but caterpillars are most often seen later in mid-summer. Though the Variable Oakleaf Caterpillar feeds on oak leaves, it also eats from beech, chestnut, birch, elm, and walnut trees. They are commonly found in deciduous forests.
Scientific Name: Lochmaeus manteo
Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 20mm to 27mm (0.78in to 1.05in)
Colors: brown; gray
Descriptors: plain; tan; flying; red spots on caterpillar; blister; irritation
Note: An insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.
Butterfly and Moth Anatomy
Antennae: Butterflies and Moths have a pair of antennae on the head used as sensors.
Head: The head is home to the insect's eyes, antennae, and proboscis.
Thorax: Home to the three pairs of legs as well as vital internal organs.
Abdomen: Contains vital internal organs such as the heart(s) and reproduction facilities.
Forewing: The upper, forward wing pair used for flying.
Hindwing: The lower, rearward wing pair used for flying.
NOTE: Butterflies and Moths are part of the Lepidopteran order as they share many similarities.