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Caterpillars of Eastern North America

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Caterpillars of Eastern North America
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The Bottom Line

Most insect field guides focus on adults, as they should. But David L. Wagner realized there are a lot of caterpillar lovers out there. This field guide is for them. Caterpillars of Eastern North America is the best resource I've found for identifying the larvae of butterflies and moths.
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Pros

  • Full-page descriptions of each caterpillar's field marks, habitat, host plants, and life cycle
  • Large color photographs of caterpillars; photos of almost 400 adults
  • Index by host plants for quick identification of feeding caterpillars
  • Introduction to caterpillar morphology, lifecycles, and rearing
  • Color-coded pages, grouped by families or subfamilies

Cons

  • Some species descriptions for caterpillars of some larger groups (daggers, loopers) limited

Description

  • Field guide to the larvae of butterflies and moths east of the Mississippi
  • Includes descriptions of almost 700 caterpillars
  • 1,200 full color photographs
  • 512 pages with complete indexes by insect and by host plant
  • Written by David L. Wagner
  • Published by Princeton University Press

Guide Review - Caterpillars of Eastern North America

A new caterpillar find is always a cause for celebration in my world. I spend summer days lifting leaves, looking for larvae. If I find one I don't immediately recognize, I drop it in a critter keeper and bring it inside to my desk. Then I pull out my copy of Caterpillars of Eastern North America, and start searching for its identity.

If the caterpillar in question was feeding (or the plant shows evidence that it has been feeding), I turn immediately to the host plant index in the back. This cross-reference helps you narrow down the possibilities quickly, and is one of the reasons I find this field guide so useful. If you know a little bit about caterpillars already, you can usually skip right to the appropriate family or subfamily. For example, a caterpillar with a middorsal horn is most likely a hornworm of some kind, so flip right to the section on hornworms.

David L. Wagner provides a thorough description of nearly every species in the book. Each caterpillar is given a full-page profile, with a large color photo that makes it easy to see key morphological features. Wagner includes identifying features and common variations (in color, for example), as well as details about each caterpillar's habitat and range. He notes the time of year when the caterpillar occurs, and lists common foodplants. Finally, he offers additional remarks, warning you if a caterpillar stings or sharing his observations of defensive behaviors.

Teachers, naturalists, and butterfly gardeners will appreciate the first section of the book, which covers the natural history of caterpillars. It's well worth taking the time to read this introduction, as you'll gain useful knowledge about caterpillar morphology and how to find and rear them.

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