Saltmarsh caterpillar

Estigmene acrea

Larvae are defoliators. Young larvae feed gregariously and skeletonize foliage. Older larvae are solitary and eat large holes in leaf tissue. Older larvae may disperse long distances in search of food, sometimes moving in large numbers. Commonly this is associated with maturation of cotton or weeds in the autumn. Thus, these caterpillars tend to be damaging to fall-planted crops. Foliage consumption at least doubles with each succeeding instar, and mature larvae can consume over 13 sq cm of thick-leaved foliage, such as sugarbeet.

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