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caterpillar - Vanessa atalanta

caterpillar - Vanessa atalanta
Cedar Rapids/ICNC, Linn County, Iowa, USA
June 6, 2010
Size: 12mm
it was in a leaf that it had wrapped up, see next pic

Images of this individual: tag all
caterpillar - Vanessa atalanta caterpillar - Vanessa atalanta

Going with Red Admiral
I can't see the large spines on the head that are typical of Polygonia, and it doesn't fit well with any other Nettle-feeding species.
Moved from Butterflies (excluding skippers).

Moved from ID Request.

Do you have better photos showing the head?
A Question Mark has a pair of obvious branched spines on the head, and a Red Admiral does not. The coloring of this could be either, but admittedly looks more "typical" for a Question Mark. However, I can't see the spines on the head (lots of small ones, but not the two big ones). Another point, perhaps not relevant; where I've lived Question Marks only occasionally use Nettles and prefer trees, such as Elms, Hackberries, etc. However, Red Admirals apparently always use things in the Nettle Family.

To my eye, the plant looks like Laportea, but the other catterpilar from the same area is clearly on Nettle.

Feeding on Nettle?
Sounds like the Question Mark
in the guide here

question mark
I thought so too, but Wagner notes that the Question Mark larvae "feed without making a shelter, especially on foodplants like elm and hackberry with stiff leaves. On nettle and hops, a lower side shelter may be constructed." The ones I found seemed to have turned the leaves upward.

I can't see if the leaves are attached opposite (if so, would make it Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)) or alternate (if so, would make it Wood Nettle (Laportea canadensis)); both in Nettle family (Urticaceae).

Maybe you can
If you look on the lower left-hand corner of the other image, a stem is visible, with parts of numerous petioles. The view is almost straight-on, and some of it is hidden by leaves- but I don't see any petioles in pairs.

At any rate, the HOSTS Caterpillar Hostplant Database shows the Red Admiral,Vanessa atalanta, feeding on both, and also the Comma, Polygonia comma, but the Question Mark, Polygonia interrogationis has nettle, but doesn't have Laportea listed as a food plant. HOSTS isn't complete, though, so it may just be a lack of published records.

Thanks, Chuck, I was was leaning toward Laportea as the host plant ID based on the roundish leaf shape, but that is a "soft" character. Thanks for highlighting the leaf arrangement, it tips the ID to Laportea.

red admiral
Not an expert, but I'd go with red admiral, Vanessa atlanta. Check out the the guide pics: I find identical cats and shelters on nettle here in CA.

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