We're pretty familiar with our butterfly caterpillars in My Florida Backyard. We know what plants to expect them on, and what the more common ones look like. If we come across one about which we're unsure, we can always look it up in our favorite caterpillar ID book: Florida Butterfly Caterpillars and Their Host Plants. This book not only has great pictures of caterpillars, but it lists host plants and the butterfly caterpillars who use them.
Moth caterpillars, on the other hand, pose more of a problem. Many moths host on a variety of plants, so it can be difficult to narrow down based on the plant where you find them. There are a huge variety of moths, and most are only active at night, so it's rare to actually see them ovipositing, which is another easy way to ID them. So, these caterpillars are a mystery to us right now:
We discovered these caterpillars eating some pink Swamp Milkweed (Aesclepias incarnata 'Cinderella') we've been trying to start from seed. We've been picking off all the monarch cats and transferring them to tropical milkweed (Aesclepias curassavica) to give the incarnata a chance to get started. That's when we found these fellows.
A little while later, we found some eating some bean leaves too. What the heck kind of caterpillar eats beans and milkweed? We have no idea, but one of the easiest ways to find out can be to raise them in captivity and see what they turn into. So that's what we're doing. We've brought a few in and are raising them in a rearing tank, to see what might happen. They're really interesting little creatures. They feel soft and almost velvety and in bright light, you can see a red and white stripe down the side of their reddish-brown bodies.
So, if you happen to know what these little guys are, please let us know. Otherwise, we'll just keep feeding them and see where their life cycle takes them!