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.
The botanical garden is home to many of these colorful little strawberry poison dart frogs, Oophaga pumilio. Unfortunately, they seem to prefer hanging about in the plastic planters. Above, you can see some of the little fertilizer beads. Below, one was just inside the container.
Although they were easy to spot amongst the plantings, I would have preferred a more natural setting.
As you might expect, the bright coloration is a warning to not touch these little frogs.
Unlike the drab poison dart frog I posted recently, this one lives up to my expectations of having bright warning colors.
Do you notice anything strange about this frog’s back? Take a closer look.
All Costa Rican dendrobatids lay their eggs on the forest floor. Parenting behaviors beyond that vary by species. One or both of the parents care for the eggs, keeping them moist until they hatch (sometimes by the male urinating on them). After hatching the tadpoles are carried by one or both of the parents, sometimes singly, sometimes en masse, to suitable sites to complete their development.
In this species, Dendrobates auratus, it’s usually the male that ferries the tadpoles, one at a time. He will seek out a small pool of water, in a tree hole or a bromeliad perhaps, to deposit the tadpole.
This frog was difficult to photograph. It just wouldn’t stay still. This is the only other shot that I didn’t end up deleting.
I found this caterpillar last fall. It was munching away on the flowers of what I believe to be wingstem. The plant was growing beside a walking trail at a forest edge.
Here are a couple of other views.
I’m basing the identification on similar photos of Basilodes pepita on BugGuide and in Wagner.
I like the bold colors. Wagner states that the combination of colors, behavior and foodplant suggest it might be unpalatable.
I like finding velvet ants, but boy are they tough to photograph in the field. They don’t stand still unless they’re hidden. This crop is the best I could do for this one. I saw one other one like this.
I found a couple of these large caterpillars very near to each other. First the one above and then the one below. I believe they are a species of Automeris.
With those spines and colors, it’s pretty obvious they are to be avoided. Each one of those spines is like a little hypodermic needle bearing venom.
Here are some closeups.
And here’s a particularly intimidating display.
So what would mess with this spiny critter? I discovered while reviewing photos of the latter caterpillar that there was a small fly up to no good. Sorry for the photo quality. These are extreme crops.
I’m pretty sure that’s a biting midge in the family Ceratopogonidae. Some, like this one, will feed on the blood of other insects. I actually found a reference and image of one feeding on a related caterpillar.
I often encounter the easily recognized White-marked Tussock moth, Orgyia leucostigma. I found this one feeding on maple at the end of May in my front yard.
I grabbed it for some closeup shots and to attempt to rear it.
It must have been a final instar, because it pupated just five days later. It spun the cocoon at the top of a container, but I carefully removed it to take some photos.
A flightless female emerged ten days later.
Females cling to the cocoon until mated. That night, I carefully pinned the cocoon with her on it to a post on my deck. When I checked an hour later, mating was already in progress. The male that found her was rough looking, having lost many wing scales.
The next morning I checked on the cocoon. As expected, the female had laid an egg mass. I assume she fell to the ground as she was nowhere to be found.
The eggs overwinter, and I’m holding on to them. Hopeful I’ll get some photos of the early instars sometime next year.