Purple-Lined Sun Moth Caterpillar on Columbine

2022 April 10

Sam and Rosie found this caterpillar on June 30, 2021 in the flower garden that Sandy planted at the east end of the house. The distinctive five-lobed seed pod that it is on is a variety of Common Columbine, Aquilegia_vulgaris. The next picture shows a better view of one of the columbine blossoms along with the caterpillar.

It was a rather showy caterpillar, so I got pictures even though I had a nagging suspicion that I had seen this species before.

And going back through my past postings, I see that it had in fact been posted way back in July of 2014. Our neighbor had found one eating her hydrangeas. It is a Purple-lined Sun Moth caterpillar, Pyrrhia exprimens.

My previous posting had much more extensive close-up pictures, so this will do for now. Back in 2014, BugGuide only listed a couple of foodplants (Sweetfern and Knotweed). But, in the intervening 7+ years, they have expanded the list to include “forbs and woody plants including legumes, chicory, columbine, dogbane, monkshood, pea, penstemon, poplar, rose, strawberry”. And, I see that columbine is on this list, so it was most likely actually eating Sandy’s flowers, not just crawling on them to find a place to pupate.

Next time I see one of these, I really need to raise it up so I can get pictures of the moth.

One Response
  1. April 25, 2022


    I like to watch this animal feeder cam from Alabama: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5qNAHxA2Uw

    When the animals eat their fill, I imagine they go back to their dens to sleep it off. Arthropods must do the same. It would be an interesting experiment to see how much of their day is spent staring off into space because all of their needs have been met.

    I used to keep tropical fish, mostly tetras. I wondered how their behaviors would be different if they were in an enclosure so large they didn’t know it was an enclosure. I finally got to see that at the Chicago aquarium and also at the Sea World manatee exhibit.

    The answer: absolutely nothing. They sit around, flitting their fins, station keeping. What a bunch of duds! We humans are far more interesting, getting into all kinds of trouble when we’re idle. I think baboons are the same way. When they don’t have any life support tasks to do, they hassle each other like the jerks they are.

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