Skip to main content

Saddleback caterpillar

A Saddleback caterpillar, Sibine stimulea, in repose. This one was feeding on Sugar Maple, but these caterpillars are broadly polyphagous - they can eat seemingly anything. I've found them on a variety of woody plants including Witch-hazel and Redbud, and they've even been reported feeding on corn. Saddlebacks are not infrequent in gardens, occupying ornamental plants, and perhaps you have seen one.

This caterpillar is a thing of great beauty, and the swan in a reverse ugly duckling story. The caterpillar is fantastically ornamented with dense fascicles of stinging spines, and no matter how great the urge to stroke one of these, I would resist temptation. Some authorities say that Saddlebacks pack among the greatest punches of any North American caterpillar. Those stinging spines will leave a blistering rash that will smart for quite some time. So, admire the bristly little beast wearing the lime-green horse blanket from afar. The adult phase - the moth - probably wouldn't interest you nearly as much as this larva. It is a rather plain brown Jane.

Amanda Duren spotted this animal on a nocturnal foray in Ashtabula County, Ohio, last Wednesday night. Of course, we briefly detained the animal for a photo shoot before returning it to the maples. Neither caterpillar or photographers were harmed in the process.

Whoa! Seen up close and head on, the Saddleback takes on an entirely new look, and a scary one at that. It sort of resembles a manically evil clown. Caterpillars are never boring to shoot. From one angle, something might resemble little more than a tubular bag of goo; seen from another perspective the cat might look quite cool indeed.


Karen said…
Wow, beautiful creature if a little scary!

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…