Black-headed yellow caterpillar (Sawfly larvae )

by Amir
(New Port Richey, Florida, USA)

Saw a caravan of thousands of these crawling along the boardwalk handrails of a park next to Tarpon Lake north of Tampa, Florida, with no beginning or end in sight. Interesting wasp-like six big legs in front, nearly all had bent tails like in the picture, partly translucent yellow bodies revealing black masses within, and black heads.

Comments for Black-headed yellow caterpillar (Sawfly larvae )

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Sawfly larvae
by: Moni

Your photo is of a sawfly larva. As you suggested by saying the legs looked wasp-like...this insect is related to wasps.

Sawflies are in the Order Hymentoptera along with bees and wasps. The adults are similar in appearance to wasps, but do not have the narrow "wasp waist", and they do not sting. The female’s ovipositor is long and serrated. It is used to "saw" into leaves to deposit eggs.

These larvae look much like butterfly caterpillars except they have too many prolegs to be caterpillars. In the photograph, the true legs are clearly seen, 3 pairs of legs tell us it is an insect. If the underside of the tail area could be seen you would notice 6 pair of prolegs (prolegs are not segmented legs like the front, but stubby legs that help larva stabilize and move their long soft bodies). Butterfly and moth caterpillars have 2-4 pair of prolegs.

Most sawflies feed on specific plants, if we knew what these were feeding on we might know the species. They kind of look like willow oak sawfly larva...are there oaks nearby? If they were feeding on a small oak and ran out of food that might be why they are find more food.

Sawflies are found through out North America.

This insect does not sting or bite.

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