Time to stop and smell the roses – I mean STOP AND LOOK FOR CATERPILLARS!
I found a HUGE and beautiful green caterpillar yesterday, just walking across the moss in my back gardens. Today I found my azaleas LOADED with caterpillars that look like Christmas tree ornaments!
Yes, these azalea caterpillars are God’s creatures, but so are my azaleas. So… Well, you know the rest of the story.
Polyphemus moth caterpillar found in my gardens, enjoying the feel of the moss against her feet as she crawled along, right out in the open. This caterpillar eats the leaves of willow, dogwood, maple, and other trees. Not much of a threat to ornamental shrubs.
Polyphemus moth caterpillar photo from the internet. Not a very pretty face, but such a lovely color. You will notice a brown ‘ v ‘ on the rear end, if you should find one.
Polyphemus moth, after the caterpillar spending up to two years underground in the pupa stage. Wingspan can reach 5.5″. Notice the blue eyespots.
Azalea moth caterpillar – a real leaf-eating machine! Their double row of feet allow them to really hang on to the branches underneath the leaves. I have harvested about 30 already this morning, using a stick to pry them loose from the branches, letting them fall into a disposable container I hold underneath them.
Azalea moth caterpillar in curled, supposed predator-deterring posture. Notice some feet still hanging on to the branch, with ends of body curling up to look ‘scary’ to predators!
Lovely and ornamental azalea moth caterpillar. BUT, they will defoliate your azaleas. I will go out to the gardens several times today to see if I can find more. My azaleas are beginning to fill in with lush foliage, and I would like to keep them looking good.
Azalea moth. If you see these, you know you lost some azalea foliage while the moth was in the caterpillar stage!
Even though some of these caterpillars are harmful to the plants, I have enjoyed sharing them with my neighbor, Micah, who is 5 years old. He has enjoyed becoming the proud, temporary owner of a Stag Beetle and a Pumpkin Spider, also. He views them for a little while and then re-releases them into the wild. The azalea caterpillars will not be re-released. ‘Nuff said!