Signs of a Saddleback

I was inspecting my three hibiscus plants when I spotted some signs of a visitor on the red one.

First, I noticed some eaten leaves.

Then some frass/poop scattered on the lower leaves. I even found a shed skin that the muncher left behind after molting.

I knew from the spikes on the skin that my favorite caterpillar was on the underside of a leaf.

I had to search carefully. Its sting is painful.

Saddleback Caterpillar/ Sibine stimulea

Here it is. The Saddleback caterpillar/ Sibine stimulea. Still snacking.

Its rear end looks like it has eyes, but the poop is evidence that this is not its face.

I love these spiky, mean, green things!


What’s Eating You?

I grow tomatillos every summer for the chipmunks. They climb up the plants and shake the fruit down. I love watching this trick. My usual supplier did not have any, so I had to grow them from seed.

Growing these plants has taken months of babying, watering and staking. I finally put most of the potted plants in the ground last weekend.

They started disappearing on Monday. It happened so fast I thought the deer had eaten them. The twigs and fruit were left, but the leaves were gone.

Evidence was examined.

The culprits had the nerve to continue eating right there in front of me.

There were numerous Tobacco Hornworms on each plant. They hang upside down to eat.

Grasping the petiole with their back legs and gripping the leaf blade with their front little legs.

They munch away with their tiny mouths.

Okay, so I planted these Tomatillos for the chipmunks and now they are being eaten by caterpillars.

I am hoping for a lovely crop of Carolina Sphinx moths this fall. I have planted a patch of Four-o’clocks just for them.


On Golden Pear

I spend a lot of time outside every day. I am usually too wet and dirty to go inside for a snack, so I grab a hand full of Yellow Pear tomatoes.

I call them Golden Pear because it is so much more poetic. These tomatoes are the perfect size to pop in your mouth. They are not too acidic to eat alone.

This morning I started to pick a snack and noticed signs of another snacker. Missing leaves and frass(poop) means caterpillars.

The expected suspect was the Tomato Hornworm/ Manduca quinquemaculata. I searched and search for the expected intruder, only to discover many other visitors on Golden Pear.

I first found a brown caterpillar.

Then an exoskeleton shed by a cicada.

I almost picked this pear with a tiny frog on it.

No jewel could be more gorgeous than this tiny amphibian.

I finally located the suspected munchers.

There were three. They were smaller than I expected.

I even clipped one off the plant and had to put it back.

Hornworm caterpillar on eaten Yellow Pear tomato leaf

These caterpillars make lovely moths. I do not mind sharing my Yellow Pear tomato leaves.

Who knew there was all this life on Golden Pear?


Hastily Clipping a Caterpillar

I did not mean to disturb my big, green friend. I was trying to prevent Mr. Flower from getting a head injury while mowing under the Vitex Agnus-Castus/Chaste tree. This tree is also called a butterfly tree. It has lovely purple blooms.

I rushed under the tree with my clippers. Mr. Flower complains if my plants interfere with mowers and air conditioning units. I have to be ever vigilant in my trimming.

I did not notice the big, green caterpillar until I was placing branches on the burn pile. It looked similar to the “tomato horn worms” I find every year, only it was larger, had fewer markings and was more of a wintergreen than a bright green.

Copper Underwing Moth Caterpillar/ Amphipyra pyramidea

I had to do some research to identify my new friend. It is a Copper Underwing Moth Caterpillar. I have never seen one before. I hoped I had not wiped out a rare insect with my hasty clipping.

I tried to remedy my wrong by placing the chopped branch back in the tree. Hours later the foundling was still stubbornly clinging to its dying branch. I was fearful that it would wither up and die with its perch.

After almost twenty-four hours of worry, I finally noticed it had moved onto a higher branch in the tree. What a relief!

Now I will watch and see if it is there to munch or go through metamorphosis.


Through Purple to Orange

I love this combination. It is colorful chaos and breaks rules.

Maybe that’s why I love it.

The tall Verbena bonariensis should be in the back, but it moved to the front.

Verbena bonariensis

At least Asclepias tuberosa has stayed in it’s place.

Asclepias tuberosa / Butterfly weed

I noticed some tiny brown grenades (frass) on its leaves.

Follow the poop to the pupa.

I am happy to see these.

They will by Monarch butterflies in a bit.

I consider butterflies airborne flowers.

Through the purple to the orange you will find someone wearing yellow with black stripes.

That will someday change to an orange and black ensemble and fly away.

My garden amazes me.


I Will Not Kill It

I know that everyone pulls these off their tomato plants and kills them.


I know they munch on the tomato leaves and poop on the plant.

That’s how I find them.


There is something that might make you pause before you murder one.

These big Tobacco Hornworm caterpillars (Manduca quinquemaculata)


turn into large Carolina Sphinx moths.

These moths come at sunset to my Four-o’clock flowers.

They are spectacular and magical. They are worth every leaf they eat.

Sometimes eggs of a parasitic wasp are laid on them. Ouch!


So be a good host to these giant, green munchers,

later you will be rewarded by flyers that look a lot like fairies.


If you plant it, they will come.

I have treasures I do not own.

I have waited for years for Monarchs to come to my Butterfly weed.


Finally, they came and laid eggs on the Asclepias tuberosa.

Now there are caterpillars eating the Asclepias leaves as they should.


I hope they pupate where I can watch over them.


(I do not interfere with wildlife unless necessary.)

I am thrilled they are here. They are treasured guests.

I hope the cycle continues for years to come.

More Monarchs…More caterpillars…


Thanks to some seeds that I saved from another garden.


My dreams are small. My treasures are alive.

Life is precious.




Following Caterpillars

This is so much easier than chasing butterflies.

My three Saddlebacks, Acharia stimulea, have stayed on the coffee tree for weeks now.


They are slowly getting bigger as they nibble leaves away from end to stem.


I caught a photo of one just as it molted.


One paused on top of a bean for hours.


I have been stung several times trying to find them. I pester pests.


They have a face on their backside to trick predators.


I will miss them when they pupate.

It’s been one of my daily tasks to check on them.

Beautiful but toxic.


Not everything cute should be petted.



My Favorite Caterpillar

I feel fortunate that I found these little Saddleback Caterpillars.

They were not in their usual place, the underside of leaves on the banana trees.

This year they are on my coffee tree.

I only found them because I was removing scale from the underside of the coffee leaves.

There are three. All are small.


This one is not much bigger than those nasty scale.( brown dot on the left)


They hide under the leaves and crawl along the stem to another leaf.

Saddleback Caterpillar, Sabine stimulea

The spines of  the Sabine stimulea sting,  so I know not to touch them.


Look but don’t touch!

Flower and Friends