Monday, September 14, 2015

Caterpillar mania! Part III

OK, this is the last of the tubular crowd for a while. Check the previous two posts, HERE and HERE, for parts I and II. The first one explains where they all came from, and why and how we obtained the material.

This is certainly a crazy cat. It's a Showy Emerald moth caterpillar, Dichorda iridaria. They feed on various species of sumac (Rhus spp.) and allegedly Poison Ivy, Toxicodendron radicans. Just one of many reasons to appreciate the latter plant, which is a very valuable native species.

Looking like some sort of limbless alien sporting strange orange eyes, a larval Silver-spotted Skipper, Epargyreus clarus, glares at the camera. Well, it isn't really glaring - those are fake eyespots, possibly meant to frighten songbirds that peek into the caterpillars leafy lair. We found many of thse on False Indigo, Amorpha fruticosa. They eat other species in the pea family as well.

Meet the strange tanklike Skiff Moth caterpillar, Prolimacodes badia. From any distance, they look like plant galls and could easily be dismissed by the uninitiated. The disguise doesn't fool parasitoid tachinid flies. That little whitish spot is a fly egg case. The grub is no doubt inside the animal, consuming its tissues. A moth this caterpillar will never be. We found quite a few Skiffs, and nearly all had been parasitized.

An outstanding snake mimic, the over the top caterpillar of the Spicebush Swallowtail, Papilio troilus. During the day, the caterpillar fashions a bivouac by rolling into a leaf of its host plant, which is either Spicebush (duh!), Lindera benzoin, or Sassafras, Sassafra albidum. You can imagine that some small birds might be repelled by such an appearance, and this is a fairly large caterpillar. Not all of them are, though - I just saw a presentation by Doug Tallamy, and he had a great photo of a White-eyed Vireo feeding one of these to its nestlings.

A Spiny Oak Slug moth caterpillar, Euclea delphinii, which looks a fantastical creature from the coral reefs. Common, especially on oaks. This won't make it; notice the several tachinid egg cases stuck to its body.

The Spotted Apatelodes caterpillar, Apatelodes torrefacta, resembles an elongate Pomerian dog. Its feet are bright pink. The moth that it morphs into is a fantastic dead leaf mimic that becomes virtually invisible when it rests on leaf litter.

Oh yeah, one of the Holy Grails for caterpillar hunters, the Spun Glass Slug, Isochaetes beutenmuelleri. It was a great find, but I can't remember who found it. We found so much stuff in a compressed period of time that I've lost track of who found what, or I'd give them credit! Anyway, this caterpillar is nearly translucent, and a sight to see. They aren't particularly rare, just hard to find. Their fringed "arms" are fragile and detach easily. This cat has lost a few, as you can see.

This thing looks a bit like a court jester's hat, but it is a Stinging Rose Moth caterpillar, Parasa indetermina, peeking over the top of a leaf. This photo was taken at night, in the field, and Laura Hughes' bright blue shirt created an interesting albeit unnatural bokeh.

A perennial favorite, and sure to please even the most disinterested of people. An aggregation of Turbulent Phosphila moth caterpillars, Phosphila turbulenta, clusters on the underside of a greenbrier leaf. Probably not many people study catbriers and greenbriers (genus Smilax) very closely. If you do, it shouldn't be too long before you uncover some of these. This one also wins the Best Name Award.

A Walnut Sphinx moth caterpillar, Amorpha juglandis. It is rather elegant in its sleek coat of green outfitted with wine-red buttons. CLICK HERE for a description of its effective and bizarre defense strategy.

Speaking of bizarre defensive ploys, here's a doozy. This is a White-dotted Prominent Moth caterpillar, Nadata gibbosa, and I have threatened the animal by poking at it. That bit of agitation prompted it to coil up like a serpent, stick its head over the top of the coil, and bare its mandibles. The end result is snakelike indeed.

Well, that's enough caterpillars for now. I'll leave you with this, the tail end of the Tuliptree Silkmoth caterpillar, Callosamia angulifera. You can take its message however you see fit.

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1 comment:

MPerdicas said...

My oh my! I hope this is a full blown workshop next year because I really want to come!
-Marlo Perdicas