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.
Being National Moth Week, I have every excuse to post about one of my favorite subjects. Admittedly, I get more excited about caterpillars, but I enjoy seeing the moths that most of them become.
Back at the end of April, I was distracted by something while going to check the mailbox. Actually, I’m often distracted any time I venture into my yard, but that’s kind of the point of having one for me. Anyway, some large hollies form a hedge along part of my driveway. I spotted a caterpillar dropping from from the holly to the ivy beneath it. I grabbed it for a closer look and started scanning the holly for others. I quickly found another one and brought them inside for rearing. Less than a month later, I was rewarded with a Black-Dotted Ruddy, Ilecta intractata.
The common name refers to the four black dots, one centrally located on each wing, which help identify it.
The plumose antennae identify this specimen as a male.
The caterpillars were plain green, which camouflages them well in holly foliage.
Because of their plain appearance, I figured they would be difficult to identify. As it turns out, if I’d just cross-referenced the food plant, I’d have identified them pretty easily. The caterpillars are in fact known as Holly Loopers.
They feed exclusively on holly, but don’t seem picky about which variety. I have a different type of holly in my backyard, and I found a dozen or so feeding on it as well. In fact, it was difficult to find a leaf that didn’t show evidence of their feeding behavior. As they feed, they notch out deep cuts.
It didn’t spin a cocoon, so it probably pupates in soil normally. That would explain why it was dropping from the holly when I first encountered it.
Here’s hoping that you’re distracted by a few moths this week. Just leave an outdoor light on for them, and you’re sure to be rewarded with something interesting.
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.
I saw quite a variety of cockroaches in my relatively short outing to Monte Alegre. The first one, above, was the largest and was not altogether unattractive. It blended in well with the leaf litter.
The second one was a bit smaller, and was spotted in some low foliage.
This last one was the smallest, but the most robust.
It was moving slowly about until it encountered something tasty (rodent dropping?).
These ants are tending to some treehopper nymphs. Most of the ants are busy collecting honeydew, but the one on the bottom has noticed me and is on alert. I accidentally bumped the branch after this shot and all of the ants started running around looking for something to attack. I held up a leaf for a background here so that the ants would stand out.
In this next shot, I’m assuming the white areas are either treehopper eggs or a protective covering for the eggs. One of the adult treehoppers is also visible here, a darker shade of red than the nymphs.
In this final shot, there are more eggs, another adult and some late instar nymphs.
These two flies are sharing a meal.
I can easily identify the larger one as a micropezid.
I’m not sure about the smaller one though.
This little salticid has captured a small fly of some sort.
White scales on the chelicerae almost look like a mustache.
Only one reader commented on the latest identification challenge. Bryan Reynolds found it easy to identify this as a thread-legged bug in the subfamily Emesinae (family Reduviidae). Be sure to check out Bryan’s new non-profit, The Butterflies of the World Foundation.
This thread-legged bug was spotted in some leaf litter, finishing off some sort of nondescript prey.
These planthoppers in the family Derbidae are feeding on the yellow stem.
You can clearly see the left one’s beak (rostrum) inserted in the stem. Next time I’ll have to try and get a good profile shot. They really are odd looking.
Also odd are those Velcro like hooks along the leading edge of the wing.