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Green caterpillar with red dots - Actias luna

Green caterpillar with red dots - Actias luna
Near Chapel Hill, Orange County, North Carolina, USA
August 26, 2006
Size: approx. 2 1/2 inches long
This guy was climbing up a cedar post in our yard. The image captures it's true colors - a very bright yellow/green with bright red dots and a black head. We live in rural Orange County in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. Most of our yard is wooded but we also have a meadow. We see lots of butterflies and caterpillars, most of which I'm able to identify (I use "What's that Bug" often - but I think they're overloaded right now and haven't been able to get to this image.) I'd love to find out what kind of caterpillar this is.



Probably a Luna Moth Caterpillar...
After surfing the web a bit, I found several pictures of younger instar Luna Moth caterpillars (Actias luna) that had the red dots. This specimen obviously has been parasitized, shown by the darkening of the 3rd body segment.

this site shows a fifth instar Luna with this appearance, also parasitized. Something has to be going on to make these red dots so large - this is what a fifth instar Luna usually looks like:

I wonder if a parasitized polyphemus would also take on this appearance - that species also has red dots which are usually tiny, on a lime green body:

However, yours shows a yellow subspiracular stripe, so I think Luna is a better ID.

I'm afraid I can't help with the identification at this time, but I can offer some other info. It's my finding that when caterpillars are off their host plant and out walking around, they're going off to pupate. I've learned over the years that if you want photos of them as plump caterpillars, you'd better get them soon after finding them. I've contained some overnight in preparation for photos the next day and then all I'm left with is a cocoon or chrysalis!

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