Can you identify this

Asked July 9, 2019, 12:12 AM EDT

These caterpillars are on milkweed. In Southern California

Ventura County California insect identification milkweed noctuid

3 Responses

Hi--a number of other caterpillars dine on milkweed. This one looks like an armyworm to me--it's the caterpillar of a Noctuid moth. The common name is yellow striped armyworm (Spodoptera ornithogalli). It can have a variable appearance, and there are a lot of noctuid moth caterpillars out there, but this is the closest match I can find. Their color is usually duller than that shown in the photo here: https://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species/Spodoptera-ornithogalli

I thought that also but it does not have the orange head. There are abiut 30 on a milkweed plant in the garden of my preschool. Will they harm fruit trees?

Insects in general and these caterpillars in particular are quite variable in appearance: https://bugguide.net/node/view/12522 I do think it's the caterpillar of a noctuid moth. It's been known to feed on milkweed. They won't harm the children. Milkweed plants, on the other hand, are toxic to humans. Take steps to prevent accidental ingestion, such as instructing children that the plant is poisonous and to avoid any contact with their eyes after touching the plant.

That being said, I would get rid of the caterpillars as they are pests on a lot of desirable plants and vegetables. WEAR GLOVE and pick them off the plants and put them in a tub of soapy water and dispose of them.