Seeing thistle caterpillars in soybean

June 21, 2017 9:47 AM
Blog Post

Today while scouting a commercial field north of Ames, I was looking for soybean aphid. I didn't see one aphid (sniff, sniff), but I did see a handful of thistle caterpillars. The caterpillars web together soybean leaves and feed inside the temporary home. They also produce copious amounts of dark brown frass pellets inside the webbed leaves. Thistle caterpillars are most commonly seen in the early vegetative stages but rarely build up to economic populations. Read more about thistle caterpillars in this ICM Article

thistle caterpillar
Younger thistle caterpillars have dark bodies, often with a yellow stripe on top of the body. Photo by Erin Hodgson. 
thistle caterpillar
Older thistle caterpillar. Note the multi-branched spines covering the body. Photo by Erin Hodgson.
thistle caterpillar frass
Typical frass pellets and webbing created by thistle caterpillar. Erin Hodgson.

People don't like to see defoliators in field crops, but do like to see butterflies. In this case, the thistle caterpillar will turn into the painted lady butterfly. 

painted lady butterfly
Painted lady butterfly. Photo by Whitney Cranshaw. 


Erin Hodgson Professor

Dr. Erin Hodgson started working in the Department of Entomology, now the Department of Plant Pathology, Entomology, and Microbiology, at Iowa State University in 2009. She is a professor with extension and research responsibilities in corn and soybeans. She has a general background in integrated...