Hollyhocks catapillar

Asked June 23, 2017, 1:20 AM EDT

I just want to know if the catapillar on my hollyhocks is a friend or a foe.

Hamilton County Iowa

1 Response

Good morning:

Thank you for your message with attached image and for contacting Iowa State University.

The caterpillar in the pictures is the larva of the painted lady butterfly, Vanessa cardui. This caterpillar reaches a fully-grown length of 1 3/4 inch. It looks like your caterpillar is about there!

The painted lady caterpillar feeds on a wide variety of plants including flowers, weeds and crops. Rarely are there enough to cause serious damage, though disfigurement of a single plant is possible (as you have seen!).

More about painted lady butterfly: http://bugguide.net/node/view/2649

"Friend or Foe" is a loaded question. :) The answer depends on which you like more: Hollyhock leaves or butterflies. The hollyhock will survive and be around long after the butterfly has lived it's short life. It's up to you, but I would prefer to see the butterfly.


Donald Lewis