A few days ago, while photographing asters in my wildflower garden, I was focused in tightly on an aster bud when I noticed a nearby aster plant branch moving. I took a minute to look over the area and found a new, “life” caterpillar on the aster plant. After a few days of working at identifying the critter, I found that it is an Asteroid Moth (Cucullia asteroides). The interesting thing I observed was that he was busy chewing up one of the aster flowers! This was the first time I’ve ever seen this behavior from either a butterfly or moth caterpillar; typically, you will find them chewing on either the plant’s stem or leaves.
Here are a few of my favorite images of this new find:
I had a rather difficult time getting a really good shot of his head … he constantly had his head down, inside the flower, chomping up the “goodies”. Another interesting behavior was that I could move the tripod about and shoot, with no negative effects on the little guy … I don’t think he even knew I was there. But the instant I touched a plant branch, he sensed the movement and would immediately freeze and hold completely still for a couple of minutes. Then he would resume his feasting on the asters!
I also found that the western edge of this moth’s range is roughly along where I live, so that is probably why I hadn’t seen one of these guys before. I also found that the host plants for this moth are asters and goldenrod wildflowers :o)
Photographic Equipment Used:
- Canon 5D Mark 3 body
- Canon EF 180 macro lens + Canon 1.4x TC
- Vanguard Alta Pro 283CT carbon fiber tripod, with 3 Pod H-3 ballhead
- ISO 400 to ISO 1250
- Aperture f/6.3 to f/16
- Shutter 1/40 sec. to 1/250 sec.