Skip to main content

Caterpillar Hunter

I feel fortunate not to be a caterpillar. Oh, I have nothing against the little crawling tubes of gooey protein; in fact, many transform into stunning albeit short-lived moths and butterflies. The trick is staying alive long enough to grow wings.

Lots of things like to eat caterpillars, you see. Much the way a young baseball fan relishes hot dogs at the ball field, many songbirds and all manner of other predators covet tasty caterpillars. Consequently, most caterillars are active primarily at night, bcecause that strategy at least shakes off most of the birds, or at least greatly reduces one's chances of being a snack for a Yellow-throated Vireo.

But other nasties come out at night, too. Some of these monsters can really put a crimp on a peaceful evening of leaf-munching.

Caterpillar Hunter beetle, Calosoma scrutator, a caterpillar's worst nightmare. I encountered this fine specimen the other night, and managed some shots of what has to be one of the speediest beetles around. It's big - over an inch long - and boy do they scuttle. Constantly on the move, Caterpillar Hunters avidly search out the prey for which they are named, and with good vision and other powers of detection at their disposal, woe to the worm that finds itself in the path of one of these things.

Caterpillar Hunters are no fools - they come out only at night, too, just like their prey. Highly arboreal, they often race around the trees, seeking out all of the nighttime caterpillars. This lifestyle must work OK - these beetles can live for as long as three years!

Astonishingly beautiful bugs, upon close inspection. The carapace gleams an iridescent dark green, and is prominently furrowed with many shallow grooves. Like some sort of battle helmet of ancient times, the thorax is plated with bluish armor that looks as if some blacksmith beat it into shape from a chunk of copper. The edges are gilded in coppery brown, and those big eyes don't seem to miss a thing. Big beetles like this are almost eery in how they seem to size us up when we move in too close.

Grab it, and you're likely to get a good pinch from those massive mandibles, and I understand it can be a bit on the painful side. Worse though, probably, is the vile-smelling musk that the beetle blasts onto predators foolish enough to snatch them. I didn't try.

It's a war zone out there at night, with creatures on the prowl that are far worse than your most unpleasant childhood nightmares. Good thing for us some of them, like the Caterpillar Hunter, aren't the size of cows.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …

Calliope Hummingbird in central Ohio!

A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.

Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…

Ballooning spiders

Fear not, ye arachnophobes. The subject of this entry is indeed about spiders, but the star of the show is about as cute as a spider can get. And you'll want to know what we're about to learn...

On my recent West Virginia foray, we were strolling down a seldom-used lane, when a bright yellow object caught our eye. It was a goldenrod crab spider, Misumena vatia, on top of a post! Not only that, she - it is a girl - was acting extraordinarily goofy. The spider would stilt up as high as she could go on her legs, weave back and forth, jig side to side, and otherwise engage in what appeared to be spider break-dancing.

Click the pic for expansion, and you can see two columns of silk issuing from her spinnerets. This is an important point, as we set about determining what this non-web-making spider is doing.


So fixated was our spider on her task that she even rejected what would seem to me to be a perfectly scrumptious meal. This little caterpillar climbed rapidly up the post and dire…