Last spring we were fairy negligent about weeding our paths. Up popped all sorts of interesting but less desired native and non-native plants, including what I think was Pennsylvania cudweed, Gamochaeta pensylvanica. I knew they hosted American lady caterpillars but I had never seen any on the plants around our yard before so I left them to see what would happen. We had adults flitting about the Texas ragwort that grows in the front yard during March-late April and I knew there was a good chance we would see the caterpillars if I gave them time. And they arrived!
The caterpillars make little leaf nests like other species such as red admirals and goatweed leafwings do with their host plants, so it took some time to be able to see the caterpillars out feasting beyond their cozy enclaves. I never did find any chrysalises, though I searched around our porch to see if I could find any that might have crawled up there to pupate. I consistently find pipevine swallowtails all over the porch in weird nooks and crannies but the American ladies must have wandered somewhere less conspicuous.
Keep an eye out this spring for these caterpillars! Pennsylvania cudweed isn’t native but there are a handful of other native species within the same genus and within Tribe Gnaphalieae that are native that would be worthwhile cultivating or at least encouraging for this species. I’m not even totally sure this plant is Pennsylvania cudweed because I don’t have a great photo of it by itself. It’s very similar to purple cudweed, Gameochaeta purpurea, which is native and so I’m going to have to study them closer when they start coming up here in a few weeks.