Thursday, May 10, 2012

Pecan catocala

    Hidden in the bark of a native pecan tree, I found the largest caterpillar that feeds on pecan foliage (photo at right).   The catocala caterpillar can grow to 3 inches long but it is often difficult to find because its grey mottled appearance is the perfect camouflage for hiding in the bark of pecan trees.  The caterpillar remains hidden and motionless during the day and feeds on pecan foliage after dark. The nocturnal behavior and perfect camouflage helps catocala larvae from becoming a tasty meal for hungry birds.  Catocala caterpillars chew large angular sections out of pecan leaflets giving the foliage a tattered appearance.
    The pecan catocala is a member the Noctuidae family and is commonly known as an underwing moth. I always find one or two caterpillars per year in our pecan grove but populations never grow large enough to cause significant damage to our trees.
   (Remember, you can click on the photo to enlarge it. The caterpillar is in the lower center of the photo with its head pointing down.)