is this purple caterpillar I found eating on my sunflowers?
ANSWER: The blue caterpillar-looking
"worms" are actually sawfly larvae. Their color is usually
greenish to pale white, not blue. The variation in color could
be a result of something the insects ate, typically foliage. The
3/4-inch long insect larvae are of the same order as ants, bees
and wasps. The order is Hymenoptera, the family is Cimbicidae,
the genus Cimbex and the species is americana. The identification
of this insect can be done by comparing the shape and counting
the legs. The sawfly larvae have a pair of legs on every segment
or about 11 pairs. Common caterpillars have eight legs or less.
Also, the sawfly larvae doesn't have crochets (little hooks) which
are used to hold onto plants. The larvae take six to eight weeks
to mature and then form a pupa or cocoon stage, and don't typically
reach the stage where they become sawflies, or wasp-like, until
spring. Although not very common, their range extends from Arizona
to New England.