Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Caterpillar attacked and killed by predatory fungus

Here's a bizarre and terrible fate. A caterpillar is encased in Metarhizium fungus, which ultimately will kill its host. This cat was still mobile but is not long for this world. The fungus will soon overwhelm it, leaving a hollowed-out husk. This caterpillar was on the abundant native Horseweed (Conyza canadensis), and I was searching it for a beautiful caterpillar known as Speyer's Cucullia, which I've never seen. This cuculiid feeds primarily, if not exclusively, on this plant. The fungal-infected cat is about the right size and shape for Speyer's Cucullia, but the field marks are obliterated by the fungus. The fungus even turns the head capsule and feet a sickly shade of tan. Pickaway County, September 9, 2022.
 

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