Hymenocallis caterpillars

arnold140@verizon.net arnold140@verizon.net
Sat, 15 Jan 2011 19:21:15 PST

Send me a photo, I may have someone who can help.


Jan 15, 2011 09:00:36 PM, pbs@lists.ibiblio.org wrote:

Every few years we get a huge number of very large black caterpillars (up to 6 inches) with narrow white/yellow bands that eat the endemic hymenocallis in the dunes here.  Its the only pest I've seen eat these plants.  They've already eaten a couple of thousand to the ground just in the two hundred yards or so near us.  The smaller caterpillars eat the top leaf surface and leave the lower surface hanging down like floppy pieces of gauze while the larger ones eat the whole leaf.  I've noticed for the first time this year that the caterpillars are also eating the large seeds which are still lying on the surface of the sand and starting to sprout.  It looks like there won't be a new generation of hymenocallis this year.
I'm still trying to ID the caterpillars.  I have been told that they belong to what is locally called the money moth (Ascalapha odorata) which is a nocturnal black moth the size of a small bat.  The caterpillar looks quite different from the money moth photos I've found.
Has anyone else had experience with these critters or is there an entomologist on the list willing to take a look at a photo?
Taking a brief break in zone 11 (ostensibly) 
26.608 N, 77.016 W

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