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Sunday, August 27, 2017

Monarch Caterpillar

I cannot let the summer end without sharing at least one lovely monarch caterpillar, Danaus plexippus. Monarch caterpillars are not very hard to find; just slowly examine a few milkweed plants and you'll eventually find them. What's tricky is getting its entire long caterpillar body parallel to the face of a camera lens so all of it is in focus.                      Click to enlarge.

And here is a thought provoking quote from Chirag Tuisiani:

"I wonder if the caterpillar at the threshold of death ever knew that she would get metamorphosed into a butterfly that she could fly."

Sunday, August 20, 2017

More Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillars

I wrote about milkweed tussock moth caterpillars last week -- Euchaetes egle, remember? And I keep seeing them. Look at all these guys! This must be the tastiest leaf on the milkweed plant. Click to enlarge. As I was wondering what it is like down there in their world I recalled the words below...  
"She sat down in a weed patch, her elbows on her knees,
and kept her eyes on the small mysterious world of the ground.  
In the shade and sun of grass blade forests,
small living things had their metropolis."
                                                                                           Nancy Price

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillar

I was looking at milkweed tussock moth caterpillars, Euchaetes egle, last week as they were eating milkweed leaves. This is the other caterpillar commonly found on milkweeds, in addition to the monarch butterfly caterpillar. Click to enlarge.
There were a lot of them, some in groups, eating side by side and they had eaten most of the foliage from quite a few plants in the patch. As I watched, I reached out to turn over a leaf to get a better look at whatever was under there -- part of a caterpillar was sticking out. I got a big surprise when three or four of them jumped into the air simultaneously; they seemed to spread out all their tufts so they looked like big spiders as they fell into the grass (or so my mind filled in). Then they scrambled into the brush very quickly for caterpillars. I've handled more insects than many people and don't think of myself as squeamish but these guys really made me jump. Great evasive maneuver caterpillars! If I had been trying to catch you, you foiled me and lived to eat milkweed another day!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Thread-waisted Wasp

Here's a wasp that seems to give new meaning to the term thread-waisted. I saw this fine example of Eremnophila aureonatata while it was sipping nectar from a summersweet blossom (Clethra ainifolia) in a park in southern New Jersey. It's a solitary wasp, and a hunter at times. When it is time to reproduce, females of this species prepare a burrow for their eggs and then capture and sting a caterpillar, paralyzing it. You can sometimes see one dragging a fat caterpillar across the ground. The unfortunate caterpillar gets stuffed into the nest for the larvae to feed upon as they grow. Unlucky caterpillar. Beautiful wasp.
Click to enlarge.