I found quite a few cocoons like the one shown above. They all had openings where the moths or parasitoids had emerged. I didn’t spot any hairy caterpillars that might be responsible for them. Here are a few more examples of the cocoons.
This is the largest bagworm I’ve ever seen. The twigs look like they’ve been cut up by a beaver. It was empty, so a moth must have already emerged. I know it’s a bagworm because later in the trip I found another one that still had a caterpillar in it. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me.
Did you find the hidden moth in the last crypsis challenge? If not, here’s where it was hidden.
In natural light it blended in quite well. With a flash though, it really pops out.
I thought the eyespot was interesting and I managed to get a closeup before the moth took off.
I expected this would be an easy challenge. All commenters correctly mentioned the moth. Good job, everyone!
Did you guess that the caterpillar above was the critter featured in Identification Challenge #13? Both commenters for this challenge were on the right track, guessing that it was a caterpillar. Here’s the photo again from the challenge.
Here’s an even closer look at the proleg so I can point out a few interesting things.
All those little claws on the proleg are called crochets. This particular species, Apatelodes torrefacta, is one of just a handful of species in my area that belong to the family Bobycidae. The most famous member of that family is the domesticated silkworm moth. One feature of caterpillars in this family is that they have crochets of two different lengths, as shown above.
An identifying characteristic of Apatelodes torrefacta is its vivid red legs. They contrast with the overall color, which varies from white to yellow. Here’s some more interesting compositions of those distinctive feet from the individual featured in this challenge.
In the next shot, note how the middle pair of prolegs appear to be missing crochets. In fact, this shot was taken as the caterpillar was moving forward. The crochets are hidden behind the prolegs, not retracted but bent backwards out of view. The front top proleg is just starting to lift.
Here’s all the midabdominal prolegs.
Compare the prolegs above with the true legs shown below. It’s easy to see how the prolegs would have significantly more grasping power with all those extra claws.
If you’re familiar with this species, you might have noticed that it’s missing one of its front lashes (the longer sets of hairs). This individual was readily losing hairs as I photographed it. Based on size and time of year, this individual was almost certainly prepupal. At that stage, they easily shed their hairs and are apt to lose their lashes as well. If you look carefully, you can just see the red prolegs grasping the twig.
Here’s a few notes on the photos. The two images showing the full caterpillar were taken in front of some attractive foliage in my yard. The rest were taken through glass, allowing me to capture the underside. I wasn’t sure the caterpillar would be able to grip the glass if I flipped it over. To my surprise, it held fast once I did. It immediately started laying down silk on the glass though. I thought at first it might be spinning a cocoon, but in fact it was just laying down a silk track to walk on. At the end of the photo session, there was a small trail of silk on the glass where it had slowly made its way forward. You can see some of those silk strands on the glass in the photo above showing all the midabdominal prolegs as well as the one after that showing the true legs.
Here’s a a smaller white caterpillar I found in my yard a few years ago. I photographed this one against sun-dappled pine straw. This one has all its lashes.
The red prolegs must develop in later instars, because this one still has white prolegs.
I’ve certainly seen adults of this species, but I couldn’t find an image of one among my photos. If you’re curious, there’s plenty on BugGuide.
Did you find the moth in the image above? If not, don’t feel bad. I might not have seen it either, except I originally spotted the moth in a more conspicuous location. After a few shots (below), I deliberately spooked it in hopes that it would land in a location suitable for a crypsis challenge. Here’s an outline if you still need a little help finding it.
Here’s where I originally spotted it. Not blending in so well, is it?
This moth’s shape suggests it might be in the family Tortricidae. It’s small, only about 15mm measured lengthwise in the photo below.
It really is quite attractive up close, with orange bordered wings. The labial palps have orange scales at their base as well.
This pretty little moth was sitting on a leaf, imitating a bird dropping perhaps. A tortricid?
I have no idea what kind of moth this is, but I like its attempt to look very unlike a moth.
I’ve been struggling to find time to prepare some longer posts. Here’s a quick post in the meantime. I like the way this little moth is holding its hind legs up flush with its abdomen.
This was the first subject I found after starting along the coastal trail in Cahuita National Park. There were dozens of these little moths on some sort of plant that was prevalent along the coastal trail. When I spotted the first one, I thought perhaps it was a leafhopper. It was only after seeing one up close that I realized it was a moth, and a spectacularly colored one at that.
I’m amazed at how well the forewing and hindwing patterns line up. While clearly two wings toward the tail end, you can barely make out the division between them elsewhere. As for what purpose this pattern serves, I’m stumped. They stand out well on the foliage, so it’s hard to imagine it provides camouflage. Perhaps these are warning colors, but why then the intricate pattern towards the rear? It might be a false eye sort of thing to distract attention away from the important end. And the two red bands do look kind of like legs, if the thing were facing the opposite direction.
As I wrote that last paragraph, I recalled photographing a leafhopper with a similar pattern later in the trip. It also had bands of black and yellow. Maybe there’s some sort of mimicry situation going on here.
This was also my first opportunity to field test a new flash diffuser I put together before traveling. I used it extensively throughout the trip, and it worked out well. It’s kind of a flash battery killer though. I generally had to replace my flash batteries halfway through the day.
All commenters correctly determined that this was a moth:
At the time I took the picture, I assumed this was a butterfly. It acted like a butterfly, being active during the day and the way it held its wings (not folded over the back like many moths).
It was only when reviewing the photo later that I noticed it looked a bit odd for a butterfly. Like many commenters, I noted the lack of clubbed antennae. I didn’t try to identify it, but I remembered it when I read an interesting short article in a recent issue of Natural History magazine. The article was all about day flying moths in the subfamily Dioptinae (family Notodontidae). I emailed the author, James S. Miller, asking if he thought this might be one. Here’s his response:
That moth is either a Geometrid in the subfamily Sterrhinae, or a Noctuid
in the subfamily Agaristinae. I wouldn’t be able to tell without looking
at its wing venations and tympanum. Sadly, not a dioptine. It looks
exactly like several species in the dioptine genus Erbessa however, so you
were not far off. Mimicry in these taxa is phenomenal.
Thanks to Mr. Miller for responding.