ID Challenge #14

I’ll be leaving soon for another trip to Argentina.  While the process of traveling to the Land of Gauchos (and back) is exhausting, I adore Argentina and look forward to my visits there with great anticipation.  In celebration of my pending return, I’m starting off a new BitB Challenge Session (#5) with a traditional ID challenge—for 2 pts each can you identify the order (a gimme), family, genus, and species of the critter in the photo below?  Say something about the situation for the possibility of bonus points.  Standard challenge rules apply, including moderated comments during the challenge period (you don’t have to be first to score points), early-bird points to those who do arrive at the correct answer before others, etc.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011

About Ted C. MacRae

Ted C. MacRae is a research entomologist by vocation and beetle taxonomist by avocation. Areas of expertise in the latter include worldwide jewel beetles (Buprestidae) and North American longhorned beetles (Cerambycidae). More recent work has focused on North American tiger beetles (Cicindelidae) and their distribution, ecology, and conservation.
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38 Responses to ID Challenge #14

  1. Lepidoptera, I believe it’s a geometrid moth caterpillar. The lack of prolegs in the middle and the arching fashion of movement is the clue to what it is (I think!)

  2. Marlin says:

    Lepidoptera

    Noctuidae

    Pseudoplusia includens

    late-stage larva of soybean looper

    Thoughts: Larvae are pests of soybeans, this one appears to be on the bottom side of soybean leaflet. Thoracic legs are typically black, but a recent study suggests that this may be influenced by population density. Monsanto is possibly developing a Bt-traited soybean to combat the insect.

  3. Marlin says:

    Oh, the systematics apparently have transferred this to a “new” genus, so the species should be Chrysodeixis includens.

  4. Emily Gooch says:

    Creepy but amazing shot of an ugly caterpillar. Sorry… but that’s all I know to call this thing. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about entomology. Bon Voyage.🙂

  5. At first I though this was some sort of Geometrid moth caterpillar, but all the photos I found showed only two pairs of prolegs. I did some more searching, and finally came across the soybean looper, a caterpillar that not only has the right number of prolegs, but looks like your caterpillar too. So I’ll say Order–Lepidoptera, Family–Noctuidae, Genus–Pseudoplusia, Species–includens.

  6. FlaPack says:

    At 3:00 in the morning with an awfully sparse LaTeX document in front of me I don’t have much entertaining backstory in me unfortunately. I will however venture a guess that this critter is a looper moth of some kind, maybe Lepidoptera Noctuidae Chrysodeixis includens.

  7. Dennis Haines says:

    Lepidoptera, Noctuidae, Autographa californica (Alfalfa Looper). The presence of prolegs on segments five and six place it in the loopers, and the lack of small nipples (vestigial legs) on segments three and four point to this common pest species. Its hard to be certain, but it appears to be perched on a squash leaf (or some other Cucurbitae). Note the typical “looping” method of getting around.

  8. tim eisele says:

    OK, order is obviously Lepidoptera.
    Since it is looping, I was originally thinking the family was Geometridae, but it looks like it has too many prolegs – the geometrid caterpillars I’m seeing only have two pairs of prolegs, and this one has three pairs.

    So, I’ll go with one of the looping Owlet Moth caterpillars (family Noctuidae). Specifically the subfamily Plusiinae. Unfortunately, I’m not having much luck beyond that – I’m not seeing any on BugGuide with that mottled brown head and those black true legs. Of course, the prominent mention of your upcoming trip to Argentina pretty strongly suggests that this is an Argentinian caterpillar, in which case BugGuide isn’t going to be much help anyway, is it?

    Ah, what the heck, I’ll go with the closest thing I’ve seen personally[1]: the cabbage looper, Trichoplusia ni. Maybe it has that much color variation by the time it gets to Argentina.

    —–
    [1] Although, the (probable) cabbage looper I’ve seen personally wasn’t at its best: It was infested by about a thousand parasitic wasps.

  9. tim eisele says:

    Wait, wait, strike that last guess, I found a better candidate[1]! It looks like a Soybean looper[2], Pseudoplusia includens (although I see that BugGuide says the name has been changed to Chrysodeixis includens). The Wikipedia picture, at least, has the black legs, bristles, white stripes, black dots, and the right number of legs.

    ——
    [1] It came up when I was searching for images that combined “Trichoplusia” and “Argentina”.

    [2] Which, if nothing else, goes better with your known proclivities for soybeans.

  10. tim eisele says:

    I also found a page (written in spanish) where a very agitated person had similar caterpillars that were eating their marijuana plants (a commenter said they were “Plusia”), but I don’t think that those are it.

  11. I just descovered the wonderful world of blogs, so I don’t have an account here yet (I’m homopteran on tumblr if that counts) – but my gut (based on no key features) says this is a Pinion of some sort? so:

    order:Lepidoptera, subfamily:Hadeninae, tribe:Xylenini common name:pinion??

    don’t even know where to start on species. ..

    (I just realized I can sign in from facebook – hope that counts for something, I just want to comment while I’m thinking about it!)

  12. My guess:
    Arthropoda-Insecta-Lepidoptera-Geometriidae🙂

  13. Mike Baker says:

    I’ll say soybean looper (Lepidoptera:Noctuidae:Pseudoplusia includens). Looks like it is feeding on soybean leaf.

  14. George Sims says:

    I’ll take whatever I can get. Lepidoptera.

    Visited Argentina in ’79, but wasn’t interested in bugs then. Would love to go back to Patagonia, but don’t know if the statute of limitations has expired yet.

  15. Roxane Magnus says:

    Chrysodeixis includens

    • Hi Roxanne – as a newbie you probably aren’t aware that I only give half points for “implied” taxa. Since your guess of C. includens is in the correct order (Lepidoptera) and family (Nocutidae), you get half-credit for the 4 pts available there. Sorry, but them’s the rules!😉

      You do get 2 early-bird bonus points. Total = 4 pts.

  16. Roy says:

    This appears to be a soybean looper living up to its name. If I’m not mistaken, that is a soybean leaf.

    Order: Lepidoptera
    Family: Noctuidae
    Genus: Pseudoplusia
    Species: includens

  17. David Winter says:

    Having missed the last round, I better get in early on this one.

    I’ll take the gimme for order Lepidoptera and I’ll presume that pose is a geometrid fling it’s forelimbs forward (the lack of prolegs on all but the last sections being a marker of this group, but also, I think, a few noctuids?)

    And then I give up, there are too many thousands of species for me come up with one from either Missouri or Argentina!

  18. Crap. Hope there are second tries allowed – actually looking at this it’s most definitely not a pinion (not enough prolegs)!

    My second guess is:
    Order: Lepidoptera Family:Noctuidae subfamily:plusiinae

    species. . .psuedoplusia includens?

  19. George Sims says:

    Addendum to my earlier response, and hope for “pity points”:

    It’s a sad day when I visit this site and find that it’s become “Butterflies and/or Moths in the Bush”, especially after I spent $250 on both volumes of Arnett.

    • You’ll note that the first 7 months of this blog’s existence didn’t see a single beetle photograph. Since then I’ve regularly featured a diversity of insect groups. The title of my blog may be quite specific, but my interests are anything but🙂

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