Identification Challenge #14

March 24th, 2012 - 3:57 PM | Filed under Identification Challenges | 1 Comment

March 24, 2012 | Twelvestones, Roswell, GA, USA

Today I found my first moth in the overwintering container I keep outside. Can you identify it from this wing fragment? I’ll keep the comments hidden for awhile, but this should be an easy one.

Identification Challenge #13 Reveal: Spotted Apatelodes Proleg

October 16th, 2011 - 5:15 PM | Filed under Identification Challenges | 4 Comments

Spotted Apatelodes Caterpillar | October 2, 2011 | Twelvestones, Roswell, GA, USA

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.

Proleg closeup

Here’s an even closer look at the proleg so I can point out a few interesting things.

Proleg showing crochets in two different sizes

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.

Pair of prolegs

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.

Prolegs, showing crochet action

Here’s all the midabdominal prolegs.

All the midabominal prolegs (anal claspers not shown)

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.

Head and legs

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.

Side view showing missing lash

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.

September 18, 2008 | Twelvestones, Roswell, GA, USA

White individual with all three lashes

The red prolegs must develop in later instars, because this one still has white prolegs.

White prolegs in this earlier instar

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.

Reference:

Caterpillars of Eastern North America
by David L. Wagner

Identification Challenge #13

October 9th, 2011 - 5:33 PM | Filed under Identification Challenges | 4 Comments

October 2, 2011 | Twelvestones, Roswell, GA, USA

Despite appearances, I promise this is not an underwater shot of some strange anemone. I brought this critter home from a recent walk in the park.

This could be a difficult challenge. Nonetheless, I bet someone will be able to identify the species shown here. To give you some sense of scale, I had my 65mm macro lens maxed out at 5x for this shot.

Lacewing Eggs Comparison

October 5th, 2011 - 9:48 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | 1 Comment

9mm high | July 5, 2011 | Victorio Siqueroli Park, Uberlandia, Minas Gerais, Brazil

I assume these are hatched lacewing eggs, though I think there are other critters that lay stalked eggs as well. What I found interesting was how long the stalks are relative to the eggs. The lacewing eggs I usually find have relatively shorter stalks. Compare the hatched ones above with some unhatched ones below that I found in a park close to home.

5mm high | August 27, 2011 | Twelvestones, Roswell, GA, USA

Searching around the internet I see two common explanations for why eggs are laid on stalks. First, the stalks make it more difficult for predators such as ants to reach the eggs. The stalks are sometimes even coated with a repellent substance. Second, lacewing larvae are cannibalistic and the stalks serve to keep keep newly hatched larvae away from each other.

Identification Challenge #6 Reveal

December 11th, 2010 - 2:17 PM | Filed under Identification Challenges | No comments

As I suspected, this challenge was easily met by all commenters.

October 8, 2009 | Twelvestones, Roswell, GA, USA

It is of course Arilus cristatus, commonly known as the wheel bug for the very structure shown above. I didn’t get a full body shot of this specimen, but here’s a wider view.

Facing opposite direction from the previous image

Among the largest assassin bugs in North America, they can deliver a painful stab with that beak. I foolishly held one when I was a kid, and I’ll not be making that mistake twice.

For more info, see the species info page at BugGuide.

Identification Challenge #6

December 7th, 2010 - 5:50 PM | Filed under Identification Challenges | 3 Comments

Now that Alex Wild has posted about my identification challenges (among others), I feel obligated to do another one.

October 8, 2009 | Twelvestones, Roswell, GA, USA

Here’s a closeup of a rather distinctive part of an easily recognized critter. Can you name it?

Identification Challenge #4 Reveal

November 18th, 2010 - 5:19 PM | Filed under Identification Challenges | 1 Comment

As Ted C. MacRae correctly guessed, the chrysalis in the latest identification challenge yielded a specimen of Papilio glaucus, an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

April 25, 2010 | Twelvestones, Roswell, GA, USA

The blue on the upperside of the hindwings indicates this is a female. Here’s the underside of the wings:

Underside of wings

If I’d had some daylight, I’d have tried to get something other than a black background. I saw she had emerged after arriving home one evening though, so I took these shots in my home office before releasing her.

Being a fresh specimen, I thought I’d try for some closeups of the wing scales.

Identification Challenge #4

November 13th, 2010 - 10:23 AM | Filed under Identification Challenges | 2 Comments

October 8, 2009

Twelvestones, Roswell, GA, USA

I spotted this chrysalis on a tree trunk (looks like some sort of cherry). You can see in the first photo that it blends in pretty well. I took it home to see what would emerge. Something did, late the following April. Any ideas what it was?

This probably won’t help, but I couldn’t resist posting a closeup.

Closeup of spiracles

Gold Moth Caterpillar on Wingstem

November 12th, 2010 - 7:22 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | No comments

October 8, 2009 | Twelvestones, Roswell, GA, USA

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.

Head

Dorsal View

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.

Reference:

Caterpillars of Eastern North America
by David L. Wagner

Identification Challenge #3 Reveal

November 5th, 2010 - 1:11 PM | Filed under Identification Challenges | No comments

Chris Grinter agrees with me that this photo is of a sawfly in the genus Dimorphopteryx.

June 6, 2010 | Twelvestones, Roswell, GA, USA

I first saw some photos of similar sawflies in this book:

Insects:
Their Natural History and Diversity

by Stephen A. Marshall

I then found some images on BugGuide.

It really is an odd looking critter. If I’d instead shown this view, it would have been more obvious, I think, that it’s a sawfly.

Side view

Here you can see the horns just behind the head.

Closeup of head

Marshall reports that the “tubercle behind the head is eversible, and sticks out like a snake’s tongue when the insect is disturbed.” Cool. I wish I’d known that when I encountered it. I would have tried to coax it into displaying that behavior.

I’ll certainly be on the lookout for these in the future. Since this is the first one I’ve ever seen, I don’t anticipate finding another one anytime soon.