It has since cocooned I think but it was a weird circumstance. I kept adding leaves for it to eat, and it decided it was done, and cocooned under a wilted leaf. I'm wondering if anyone can ID the species, and the following: I think it is a real cocoon, as there is no dead or rot smell.

But the cocoon was under the wilted leaf, and is now quite firmly attached. In the pics below, I've turned the leaf and cocoon over. Does the cocoon know "up"? And does it know it before or after making the cocoon? If it was stuck on its "up and out" direction, can turing it over be harmful? I.e. I turned it over so now it's trying to emerge towards the ground, can it figure out how to find 'up'?

Locale: Southwestern United States Found in: found it in a moist garden bed (tomatoes, radishes, peppermint, basil) eating radish leaves Description: About 2 inches long, 1/2 inch long hairy, black/grey hairs, body is black/grey with yellow striped markings

Cocooning position: wilted leaf / \, stick |, cocoon (), ...


Summary: It made the cocoon with the leaf on top of it, and it would never make it out in that case, so I turned it over. Is that okay? Can we still see the winged form come out? Like I said, it doesn't smell dead... in fact smells better than when the caterpillar was pooping everywhere.

Aside, this is the only tag I could find that might fit. Please feel free to edit tags to get this answered. TY

Caterpillar the caterpillar

Cocoon after being turned over, you can see it's kind of wrapped in the leaf enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ Till you put your pics, can we keep this question on hold? Because your textual information is also insufficient. Describe the caterpillar: colour, size texture etc. Describe your geographic location and local landscape. $\endgroup$
    Sep 16, 2015 at 12:10
  • $\begingroup$ @WYSIWYG added images and more description $\endgroup$
    – CDspace
    Sep 16, 2015 at 14:31
  • $\begingroup$ From an unrelated answer, I think it might be a saltmarsh caterpillar. Can anyone confirm this? $\endgroup$
    – CDspace
    Sep 16, 2015 at 23:00
  • $\begingroup$ This question is still open probably because the quality of the image is not good. Why don't you take it outside the jar for making picture? Like this it could be anything. $\endgroup$
    – рüффп
    Dec 26, 2016 at 21:54
  • $\begingroup$ @ruffp because it's been over a year since I had the caterpillar, and I confirmed a few days after posting that it was, indeed, dead. I should probably just delete the question $\endgroup$
    – CDspace
    Dec 27, 2016 at 1:43

1 Answer 1


Although a definitive ID will likely never be possible with such low quality photos, you probably have a Western Tent Caterpillar (Malacosoma californicum).



According to the USDA Forest Service, mature larvae are about 2 inches (4.5-5.1 cm) long and are highly variable in color and markings.

  • This insect is the most variable of the North American species of Malacosoma, in which six subspecies and several unclassified forms have been recognized.

Although this species eats primarilly trees and shrubs (e.g., see here and here), the Minnesota DNR suggests that garden plants can also be targeted.

Cocoons are of white silk dusted with a white to yellow powder. Your image appears to show that.

The Western Caterpillar is found throughout western North America:

western tent caterpillar range

[Source: USDA Forest Service]


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