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Caterpillar - Speyeria cybele

Caterpillar - Speyeria cybele
Harvard, Worcester County, Massachusetts, USA
June 10, 2005

Moved to subspecies with the adults.
on the assumption that it is S. cybele.

Which is it?
Is it aphrodite or cybele? If there is not enough certainty it should be moved to genus level.

I don't know how to answer that with certainty,
It is fairly representative of the appearance of both species, and I don't know how much variation there is in either species. The amount of orange might not be as stable as the few books seem to indicate. I suspect that S. cybele caterpillars average larger, but probably not by much, so I don't know if there's any help there. Which species flies in that area might help too, but odds are that they both do. I'm not sure if it's possible to be 100% certain without rearing it to maturity (which would take only a few weeks at most when they are as grown as this one). There may be somebody looking in who can be more certain (???).

a tip
Sometimes this is easy to see on photos, soemtimes not. Subfamilies Limenitidinae and Heliconiinae (which includes Fritillaries) have larvae that have no middle row of spines on tip. Subfamily Nymphalinae (which includes Anartia) has larvae with a distinct middle row of spines on top.

That's a good tip
David, thanks for the info. So you agree this is the right?

likely Speyeria aphrodite
Thought it was correct at first, but am now thinking maybe not.

Based on published descriptions, this would be S. aphrodite, which is supposed to have reddish bases to the spines on the sides but most often with two or four rows on the back usually darker at the base. Photos I found look just like this one, and the back/top of the head is reddish on S. aphrodite (I got that one wrong before). S. cybele should have reddish bases to all the spines except the pair just back of the head.

There is a very similar photo of S. aphrodite in 'The Butterflies of West Virginia and their Caterpillars' by Thomas J. Allen. Another in 'Caterpillars in the Field and Garden' by Thomas J. Allen, Jim P. Brock, and Jeffrey Glassberg.

comment updated 12-4-08

Some kind of fritillary. Check the brief description of Diana and Great Spangled at Caterpillars of Eastern Forests.

Great Spangled
It would have to be Great Spangled, because Diana isn't anywhere near here. Thanks Bob.

Reminds us
of Alan's picture of White Peacock, Anartia but we didn't know they got that far north!

Can't be
a White Peacock, since they don't breed north of Florida. It was a large caterpillar, about 40mm. It does look close though.

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