Differences Between a Caterpillar — a Grub, Animals

Differences Between a Caterpillar & a Grub

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Warm weather brings out all manner of bugs, among them caterpillars and grubs. Both the caterpillar and the grub are insect larvae, but they come from different families. Grubs are the larvae of various types of beetles, while caterpillars grow up to become butterflies or moths. At first glance they may appear quite similar, but they do have clear differences when you know what to look for.

Grub and Caterpillar Basics

The main job of both caterpillars and grubs is to eat and grow, preparing themselves for the day when they will undergo metamorphosis and become adult members of their species. Some of them, like the gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) and tomato hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata) eat leaves, fruit and other parts of plants out in the open where they’re easily seen. Others, like any of the hundreds of species of white grubs, hide in the soil and may not get noticed until they’ve already done a lot of damage.

Important Terms

When checking out the differences between caterpillars and grubs, it’s helpful to be clear on a few important terms. The head is the front of the larva and contains its mouth and eyes. Immediately behind the head are three segments that make up the thorax, and behind that are between 8 and 10 segments that comprise the abdomen. Thoracic legs attach directly to the segments of the thorax. Fleshy legs are short sections extending down from the body that the larva uses to move around; fleshy legs do not have segments.

Look at the Legs

The legs of caterpillars and grubs are not the same, but it may take a close look to spot the differences. Caterpillars have relatively thick, fleshy legs arranged in pairs along the abdominal section of their bodies. Count the pairs; caterpillars will have five or fewer pairs of fleshy legs, though they may also have several pairs of thoracic legs. Grubs have very short thoracic legs and no abdominal legs; some types of grubs have no legs at all.

The Body Beautiful

Caterpillars often have bright colors and distinctive markings such as lines or other patterns along their bodies. The tomato hornworm, for example, is readily identified by the eight “V”-shaped marks running down its sides. Caterpillars may also be covered with hair or spines, like one of the easily-spotted wooly bears that belong to the family Arctiidae. Grubs are rather dull and don’t typically have much color. They are usually off-white or beige, though they may sometimes have a few brown markings on them.


The may beetle is a highly developed pest

The may-bug (cockchafer) – an insect belonging to the order Coleoptera, the genus of beetles, of the family of scarab. The genus is quite numerous, it includes about 40 species. One species, namely the Eastern may beetle, most often found on the territory of our country.

This is a major bug. Length / oval bodies 2-3. 5 cm It is covered with a chitinous carapace, employee protection. Color can be red-red (such individuals prefer open space) or black (these live in shaded areas).

The Body, head and pronotum of the beetle is covered with different in length hairlike scales. On the head are antennae, ending in a fanlike partition. The may beetle has three pairs of walking legs covered with hairs, and terminated by claws, by which he is able to keep hold of the leaves and the bark of trees. The front legs are much stronger than two other pairs, because they are the beetles have dug a pit before oviposition. Despite the fact that the beetle has elytra and flying wings, it flies with difficulty, slowly.

Oriented in space due to a well developed system of sense organs chafer. Khrushchev can survey all around due to the complex eyes consisting of thousands of simple eyes, located on both sides Of the head. Antennae beetle searches for food, in search of where you can fly almost a kilometer. May beetle eats plant food due to mouth parts are gnawing type. The choice of food meet the palps (mouth appendages). Them beetle touches the food and feeds it into the mouth.

May beetles — insects are dioecious. Males die after mating. Females burrow into the soil to a depth of 30 cm and lay a handful of eggs (20-30 in each). Eggs, females also die. Eggs six months out of the larvae. They are dirty-white in color, fleshy, with legs moving. Head with antennae, jaws, but without eyes.

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The Larvae develop in the ground 3-4 years, going through several molts. In the first year eat plant remains, and in 2-3 years — plant roots. Last summer the life in the soil, the larva transforms into a chrysalis. The insect at this stage is similar to the adult beetle. However, it does not increase in size and does not move, The wings of his short, color is white. At this time, when hormonal effects are formed eyes, limbs, grow wings. By early autumn the may Khrushchev already full, but the yield of the land is postponed until the spring.

Mass is in may, it coincides with the Bud burst of oak and birch leaves. The warm spring day, after looking carefully to the ground, can be seen crawling out from the soil after hibernation of beetles. And in the evening, standing near a flowering tree, you can hear them buzzing and see the flights. The may beetle damage flowers and young leaves of plants, causing great harm.

To Fight with the adults and their larvae. In small areas they can shake trees to collect manually, destroy or use for bait when catching fish. Larvae also need to destroy or collect the same purpose during the digging of the soil.


What does the beetle of the May beetle look for and what?

The second stage of development of the cockchafer (aka Khrushchev) after the egg is the larva. Sometimes it is called boroznyak or chorobak.

It is widely known among gardeners and farmers for its voracity, and is almost first pest vegetable, berry, tree and forest crops.

By its activity larvae of the May beetle can compete with the larvae and adults of the Colorado potato beetle, as well as with the bears.

Natural enemies of the larvae have always been ground beetles, hedgehogs, moles, starlings, blackbirds, rooks and even the bats. If the owners of agricultural plots need to deal with the grubs on their own, it is necessary to take into account the peculiarities and way of life of this insect.


What does the grub beetle look like? The larvae grow up to 4-7 cm in length, they have a massive light body elongated yellow-milk color (as seen in the photo below), covered with sparse hairs, with the tail part slightly enlarged and darker.

Larva of the May Beetle — photo:

If visually compare the larva and the adult beetle, the first one will be slightly exceed imago by size. A wrinkled body is crowned with a rounded head more often of red or yellowish color, equipped with two brown tendrils and small mandibles, which help not only to grind food, but also to dig the ground.

In front of the body there are 6 grasping legs. On the sides in one row can be considered small brown markslike eyes In a quiet supine state, the body of the larva becomes C-shaped.

How to distinguish from a bear?

How to distinguish the Maybot larva from the larva larva? The larva of the cockchafer can only be confused with bronze caterpillar and some other larvae. The second stage of development of the bear after the egg resembles reduced copy adult. Only the imago is much darker, and there are wings. Light insect in size does not exceed 3 cm and externally very much like a little medvedka (see photo below).

It is necessary to remember the external characteristics of the May-beetle caterpillar, so as not to confuse it with others, not dangerous larvae. For example, the bronze larva does not damage the rhizomes, but enriches the soil with waste products, and practically harmless. You can distinguish them by the color of the dots on the sides, the small head and the short light brown legs.

Maybot and Medvedka larva: what is the difference? Photo of larva bear:

What eats?

What do the grubs eat? If an individual imago has a relatively modest set of dishes, the larva of the May beetle famous for greater voracity. Thanks to strong jaws, the larvae eat solid vegetable food, sometimes crushing even the strongest roots of old trees.

At the beginning of its development, the boroznyak eats mostly small rhizomes of plants and trees (cherry, larch, birch, spruce, oak, cedar, etc.), as well as vegetable humus.

With the onset of cold weather, the larva seeks deeper under the ground (up to a meter) to wait out the cold, and by spring it rises again closer to the surface. There she will eat shrub roots (black currant) and other plants, including vegetable.

Reaching 2 years, the larva begins to eat woody roots, bulbs, potato tubers, turnips etc.

How to detect?

Where to find the Maybot larva? Habitat, as the Khrushchev, and the larvae spread along rivers and forests, in coastal valleys, meadows and agricultural areas. The most favorable environment for them — wet and warm soil, rich in nutrients (humus) and which is easy to loosen.

In summertime, the larvae just start to hatch from the eggs in the inter-row of potato plantations and corn. at shallow depth (less than 20 cm). If the season was hot, with rare rains, the larvae of the May beetle go under the ground for more than half a meter.

One more favorite habitat the larvae are considered to be overgrown with weeds and wild bushes, places under the roots of various trees, as well as rotten old stumps.

How many lives?

Standardly, the full life cycle of the furrow is 4 years, as a result, the average May beetle will live for about 5 years. In the last year of life, the larva goes into pupal stage, so that after a couple of months to turn into Khrushchev.

What harm does it do?

Many forest and agricultural crops suffer from the vital activity of the mature larvae of the May Beetle. Young individuals do not bring much harm — At first, only herbal roots are included in their diet.

Gnawing the roots and underground tubers, the fallow land can not only slow down the development and growth of useful plants, but also allow many diseases and parasites penetrate damaged parts.

From garden trees from the jaws of the larvae of Khrushchev suffer apples, apricots, pears, etc. Even berries like strawberries and strawberries are under threat, if under the ground on the beds brute larvae are bred.

Larva of the May beetle in the pupal stage — photo:

What are the consequences?

In addition to the lost harvest of potatoes, corn and other vegetables, orchards with fruit trees and berry bushes can suffer significant losses. Due to the larvae of the root system of the plant swiftly wither, then die.

Only due to the natural and human regulation of populations, the larvae of the May beetle do not destroy whole forests and huge farm plantations. From the diet of young individuals, the fur-grass can lose the strength of lawn grass, and the diet of older relatives is very dangerous for many coniferous and deciduous trees.

Maybot larvae have long established themselves as main threat to forest and garden plants. Over their long life span, the fallow lands are not so much able to devour a large amount of plant foods like potato tubers, but to significantly damage the root system of berry plantations and fruit trees.

They spend most of their lives deep underground looking for food and during wintering periods. The structure of the body allows them to freely dig underground passages to the appetizing roots, which they gnaw through with their mandibles.

This is what a potato eaten by a May beetle larva looks like:

Effectively deal with fleshy whitish pests can only mechanically assembled by hand. For this purpose, a sufficient number of productive chemical and biological preparations. As methods of struggle, in order to save the crop, special traps are set, manure is carefully observed before fertilizer.

Khrushchev larvae can bring considerable benefit nature and man. They occupy a valuable place in many food chains, contribute to the ventilation of the soil.


Differences of the larva of the May beetle (Khrushchev) from the bear, photo

One of the fascinating aspects of tiger beetle study is their often high degree of fidelity for specific habitats. Some species prefer wet habitats, while others frequent the drier uplands. Some like sand while others need clay. Differences in salinity, vegetational cover, and even slope dictate what species might be expected to occur in a given habitat, thus, the diversity of tiger beetle species one encounters is directly proportional to the diversity of habitats explored. Unfortunately, tiger beetles can be rather ephemeral in their occurrence as adults. Despite a life cycle that requires at least one year (and may take 2-3 years or even more), adults are often present for only for a few short weeks. Even during the time that adults are present, they often hide if conditions aren’t right (too cold, too hot, too wet, too early, too late, etc., etc. Add to that their marvelous evasive capabilities, and it’s a wonder I ever see or catch any at all!). The study of tiger beetles is not, however, entirely dependent upon the adults. The presence of larval burrows in an area is also useful information, and through understanding of the species that might occur in an area and their habitat preferences, it is possible to identify – at least tentatively – the species that might be living in them.

Cicindela lengi? (sandy tiger beetle) — Sioux Co., Nebraska

To the uninitiated, tiger beetle burrows might seem nothing more than a simple hole in the ground – anything could have made it. However, with experience one becomes able to distinguish tiger beetle larval burrows almost instantly from burrows made by other ground-burrowing organisms. The most common type of burrow is recognized by a combination of characters – almost perfectly circular except for a slight flattening on one side that gives the burrow a faint D-shape, and with the edge smoothly beveled. This is your classic tiger beetle burrow and, for most U.S. species of Cicindela and related genera, averages

5-6mm in diameter for 3rd instar larvae (tiger beetle burrows are most often observed at 3rd instar, since it is this final instar in which the larva spends the majority of its time and the burrow becomes most noticable). The above burrow is one such burrow, found at Monroe Canyon in northwestern Nebraska last September. While a number of species are known from the area, there are only a few that make their burrows in deep dry sands such as those that occur at this site. We can eliminate Cicindela formosa (big sand tiger beetle) for reasons discussed below, and we can also dismiss Cicindela limbata (sand blow tiger beetle) because the habitat is not the barren, wind-shaped sand blow habitat that the species prefers. This leaves two possibilities – Cicindela scutellaris (festive tiger beetle), a common and widespread inhabitant of sand habitats throughout the Great Plains, and Cicindela lengi (sandy tiger beetle), a much more localized resident of sand habitats with more western distribution. The burrow likely represents the latter, since adults of this species have been found with greater frequency than C. scutellaris on the very fine-grained sands that occur in this part of Nebraska. My confidence in this ID is bolstered by the fact that a larva I collected in the area from just such a burrow successfully finished its development and emerged a few months later as an adult C. lengi.

Cicindela pulchra pulchra (beautiful tiger beetle) — Fall River Co., South Dakota

Sometimes size alone is enough to indicate the species responsible for a burrow. The above burrow was encountered last September in southwestern South Dakota on a clay/shale embankment in sage/shortgrass prairie. A number of tiger beetle species fond of clay were observed at the site, including the two generalist species Cicindela tranquebarica (oblique-lined tiger beetle) and Cicindela purpurea audubonii (Audubon’s tiger beetle). However, at

8 mm in diameter the burrow is too large to have been made by either of these species. The only tiger beetle in the area capable of making a burrow this size is Cicindela pulchra (beautiful tiger beetle), and in fact this burrow was found at one of several sites recently discovered by Matt Brust for this species in South Dakota. Note again the classic shape – slightly flattened along the bottom side (the flattening accommodates the mandibles of the larval head – tiger beetle larvae always orient themselves in one position when sitting at the burrow entrance).

Cylindera celeripes (swift tiger beetle) — Woodward Co., Oklahoma

Just as large size was diagnostic for the previous burrow, the small size of the above burrow was also diagnostic. This burrow, found at Alabaster Caverns in northwestern Oklahoma in October, 2009, measured only 3-4mm in diameter and can only have been made by Cylindera celeripes (swift tiger beetle). This provisional ID was suggested by the fact that adults of the species had been observed abundantly in the lichen-encrusted clay exposures of this shortgrass prairie the previous June. This photo, in fact, represents the first-ever discovery of the larval burrow of this species, and the identity of the species was confirmed when the larva collected from this and neighboring burrows and placed in rearing containers in the lab later emerged as adults. I have found very similar-sized burrows in bottomland forest habitats in southeastern Missouri where the closely related species Cylindera cursitans has been seen. The burrows are identical in size and shape, but the drastic difference in habitat is enough to distinguish the species that made them.

Cicindela formosa formosa (big sand tiger beetle) — Sioux Co., Nebraska

Not all tiger beetles utilize the simple hole-in-the-ground style of burrow, but rather incorporate some rather unique engineering features that make specific identification much easier. This burrow can only be made by Cicindela formosa (big sand tiger beetle), a common resident of a variety of dry sand habitats throughout the Great Plains and eastern U.S. The burrow entrance is on the large size for U.S. Cicindela (

6mm in diameter), and rather than opening flush on the ground it is directed horizontally and opens into a pit that is excavated to one side and underneath the burrow entrance. No other U.S. tiger beetle makes a burrow quite like this (although I have noted Cicindela limbalis (common claybank tiger beetle) burrows on steep clay banks with a similar but much less distinct excavation on their lower side). The pit apparently functions as a trap for potential prey, and since I have most often encountered burrows of this species in areas with some slope, I suspect the pit may help the larva capture its prey by preventing the prey from tumbling down the slope at the first sign of trouble.

Cicindela formosa 3rd instar larvae — Sioux Co., Nebraska

This is a different burrow by the same species, also at Monroe Canyon last September, that shows a 3rd instar larva sitting at the burrow entrance. The sickle-shaped mandibles are resting against the slightly flattened lower edge of the burrow entrance, while the round pronotum fills the rest of the entrance profile. The upper pair of eyes can be seen above the mandibles, but the lower pair (between the upper pair and the mandibles) are not visible in this photo due to the downward-facing angle of the burrow entrance. I waited for quite some time with camera in position in hopes that I could photograph the larva, and when it did return to the burrow entrance I had time enough to fire off just a couple of shots before it retreated once again to safety in the depths of its burrow.

Cicindela fulgida fulgida (crimson salt flat tiger beetle) — Sioux Co., Nebraska

This unusual-looking burrow was found in a dry clay saline creek bed in the Badlands of northwestern Nebraska last September. The turret structure is unique, but the nearly perfectly round and smoothly beveled burrow entrance identify it, nevertheless, as that of a tiger beetle larva. These burrows can only be made by Cicindela fulgida (crimson salt flat tiger beetle). There are several other saline-tolerant tiger beetles species in Nebraska, but most such as Ellipsoptera nevadica knausii (Knaus’ tiger beetle), Eunota togata (cloaked tiger beetle), and Habroscelimorpha circumpicta johnsonii (Johnson’s tiger beetle) require much more moisture than was found in this bone-dry creek bad. I’ve found two other much more widely distributed clay-associated species – Cicindela tranquebarica and Cicindela purpurea audubonii – at this and other sites where I’ve seen C. fulgida; however, the larvae of those species do not utilize this unique turret-shaped structure for their burrows. The turret is thought to have a cooling function for the larva during the heat of summer by raising it above the hottest layer of air against the white salt-encrusted ground and by aiding in the dissipation of heat from the larval burrow. I wanted to photograph the larva sitting at the burrow entrance and spent quite a bit of time stalking out this and nearby burrows for a chance to do so. Alas, however, on this day the larvae had greater patience than I!

Cicindela tranquebarica kirbyi (Kirby’s tiger beetle) adult & larval burrows — Sioux Co., Nebraska

The above burrow entrances were photographed in September 2008 at the same dry saline creek bed in Sioux Co., Nebraska. I mentioned above that Cicindela tranquebarica kirbyi and Cicindela purpurea audubonii both occurred commonly at this site along with Cicindela fulgida; however, these burrows likely represent the former. That species seems to be found more consistently in high saline environments than the latter, which in this case probably have their larval burrows in the more normal clay soil further away from the creek bed. During that 2008 trip, I did collect larvae from burrows like these in several similar, high saline habitats in Nebraska, South Dakota, and Oklahoma, and in each case adults of C. tranquebarica kirbyi were what emerged. I have also reared this species from larvae collected on clay banks and wet sand habitats – in all cases, the burrows are a tad larger than those I have seen for other species in the genus that I have reared, such as Cicindela limbalis and Cicindela repanda (common shore tiger beetle) – logical since adults of C. tranquebarica tend to be a little more robust than these other species (but smaller than Cicindela pulchra and Cicindela obsoleta vulturina (prairie tiger beetle)). In the above photo, I believe the the upper-right burrow is that of a larva, while the the lower-left one is that of an emerged adult – note the not-perfectly-circular opening and more ragged edge to the burrow. In fact, the latter burrow looks very much like the adult emergence burrow that I saw at this very location last September, in which the still unemerged adult was seen sitting! Granular chunks of soil can be seen scattered about the latter burrow, but I believe these were actually tossed by the larva rather than the adult as a result of burrow excavation – the amount of soil an adult would need to remove to re-open its burrow for emergence would probably be far less than what can be seen in this photo. I did not search the surrounding grasslands for larval burrows, but if I had done so, it is likely that I would have found similar burrows that belonged to the larvae of Cicindela purpurea audubonii – the only other tiger beetle that we have seen in this inhospitable place!

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011


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