While taking a call today, I wandered out of the office and over to the prairie. Multitasking - talking, listening, and looking for cool bugs. I'm seldom disappointed with even the briefest of forays into our new prairie, and today was no exception. While on the call, I spotted an exceptionally nice specimen of one of our coolest caterpillars, and once through with business grabbed some camera gear and snapped some shots.
What is so cool about the cam-loops ( as they will be known in the remainder of this post) is how they adorn their bodies with bits of plant parts scavenged from the plants that they feed upon. Old anthers, petals, phyllaries - somehow the cam-loops lift them into position and affix the debris firmly in position. The end result is a caterpillar ghillie suit, and it serves to hide the animals remarkably well. Indeed, many - or at least some - avid and experienced caterpillar hunters lament their lack of cam-loop sightings. I'd bet they walk by more of them than they realize.
While cam-loops may feast on other types of flora, I only know them from members of the sunflower family (Asteraceae). The cam-loop in the photo above is feeding on Gray-headed Coneflower.
I'm sure plenty of other caterpillar-hunting wasps, spiders, ambush bugs, assassin bugs, songbirds and more make regular meals of cam-loops. But one MUST give the cam-loops credit for trying, and an A for creativity.