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Sunday - May 11, 2014

From: Georgetown, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Butterfly Gardens
Title: Caterpillars feeding on Phacelia congesta
Answered by: Nan Hampton


Can you tell me which caterpillars can be found on Phacelia congesta in Bell County?


Mr. Smarty Plants consulted a couple of entomologist to try to determine which caterpillars might be found on Phacelia congesta (Blue curls) in Bell County.

On entomologist's Mike Quinn's Caterpillar Food Plants for Central Texas he lists Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) caterpillars as feeding on Phacelia congesta (Blue curls).  The Painted Lady appears on the list of Butterflies and Moths of Bell County, Texas, United States from the Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA) website.

Another caterpillar identified as Ethmia sp. by Mike Quinn on BugGuide is said to be common on Phacelia congesta (Blue curls).  However, there are no species of Ethmia on the Bell County list and only one species (Antaeotricha osseella) in the same family (Family Elachistidae) as Ethmia.  Mike did say that the BAMONA site lists for county records were certainly not complete.  He also said that the Family Elachistidae is a family of "micro" moths and he doubts that caterpillars of any of these would be a problem for your bluecurls.  He believes the caterpillars in question are those of the Painted Lady.

Valerie Bugh, on the other hand, said that she had never seen a painted lady caterpillar on blue-curls. As far as she knew, that species prefers thistle, bluebonnet and cheese mallow in this area. The only caterpillars that she has seen frequently on blue curls in any number are Ethmia sp.  Since there are several species in that genus in our area (and nobody that she knows of has raised any of the caterpillars) she doesn't know the species. Other caterpillars that might show up on blue curl flowers are generalists that like blossoms of any kind, like the tobacco budworm, saltmarsh caterpillar, and Eupithecia miserulata. She has also seen a gray hairstreak feeding on the blossoms.

Mr. Smarty Plants hopes you can find your caterpillar among these suggestions.


From the Image Gallery

Blue curls
Phacelia congesta

Blue curls
Phacelia congesta

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