What appears to be a flower here is actually a group of caterpillars working their way down a sapling trunk.
They look like they could do a decent job sharpening a pencil, about the same width as this tree(?) trunk.
Despite the black background, this was taken a few hours before sunset. At the time there was probably a few feet of the trunk left. I marked the location and returned after dark. I found no trace of the trunk or the caterpillars. They apparently ate the whole tree.
I know there are defoliating caterpillars. I know there are wood boring caterpillars. I never imagined there are caterpillars that consume an entire tree though. That’s assuming they eat leaves, which I didn’t observe.
This cryptically colored little caterpillar reminds me of lichen moth larvae I’ve seen closer to home (Family Arctiidae, subfamily Lithosiinae). If so, it’s in the right place!
Whenever I see a moth shaped like this, I assume it’s a tortricid. Probably not a bad guess, considering Tortricidae is one of the largest familes of Lepidoptera.
Resting with its legs held together on the edge of a leaf, this spider quickly grew tired of me. After a few shots, it slipped to the underside of the leaf.
I think this is a crab spider in the family Thomisidae, perhaps a Tmarus species.
Besides the turtle ants, there was one other type of ant crawling around in the same area. They were quite aggressive, often taking a threatening stance with their gaster turned down and under their body. The one above seems to be saying, “Back! This scale is mine”. The scale above, by the way, differs from the ones I posted about earlier.
The ants above were fairly active. The one below, however, never moved from the spot I found it. While I assume it’s the same species, it has a slightly different body build. Note, for example, how much wider the head is. Maybe it’s a soldier?
This shield bug caught caught my eye mostly based on its relatively large size. What made the pursuit worthwhile though was accidentally catching it as it took flight. I enjoy getting to see some parts of the anatomy that are generally hidden.
I spotted these turtle ants (Cephalotes sp.) crawling around on vegetation, occasionally stopping to solicit honeydew from scale insects. I’ve been somewhat enamored with these ants ever since seeing some of Alex Wild’s photos, particular the specialized nest guarding soldiers. Sadly, despite watching the workers, I’ve yet to successfully find a nest for an opportunity to photograph one.
I’ll have to satisfy myself with the foragers for now.
Here’s another one taking honeydew from a scale insect.
I probably wouldn’t have noticed these scale insects were it not for the ants that would occasionally stop to feed from them.
Its difficult to see in the first photo, but each one has 20 or so waxy threads spiraling away from the body. It’s not clear to me where exactly they’re coming from. The threads are a bit easier to see in the next few photos.
I wonder if the spirals don’t help the ants to locate the scale.
The scales excrete honeydew from a small orange tube (to the left above, right below).
Here’s what might be an immature form of these scale insects. The tube where honeydew is excreted is easier to spot here.
And finally, here’s an ant soliciting honeydew from that same small scale.
I’ll separately post more photos of the ants.
This attractive male jumping spider has some interesting hooks on his chelicerae. Take a closer look at this crop from the image above.
He really has a lot going on colorwise as well. I imagine those banded front legs might be used in some sort of courtship ritual. One has to wonder if and when those hooks come into play though.