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Concealed Pupa

23mm | January 20, 2011 | Armonia Nature Preserve, Limon Province, Costa Rica

I noticed a plant whose large leaves had been eaten right down to the leaf ribs. Curiously, portions near the tips had been folded over. I couldn’t resist opening one of those up.

The pupa shown above is what I found inside. The caterpillar’s last head capsule is still attached. The pupa is flipped in the photo above because I opened up the leaf. Normally it would be suspended inside by that thread.

For some reason, the head end of the pupa reminds me of a walrus’s head.

There were quite a few other folded-over leaves, but I was too late to find a caterpillar still fattening itself up. read more

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Prominent Caterpillar

22mm | January 20, 2011 | Armonia Nature Preserve, Limon Province, Costa Rica

This caterpillar looks enough like some of my local caterpillars that I can confidently say it’s a prominent moth larva. Its markings camouflage it well as it inserts itself into areas it has eaten.

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Small Moth

January 18, 2011 | Gandoca-Manzanillo NWR, Limon Province, Costa Rica

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.

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Possible Hecale Longwings

January 17, 2011

Cahuita NP, Limon Province, Costa Rica

These butterflies were attracted to these white flowers. These might be Heliconius hecale zuleika, but I suspect there are probably lots of species that are difficult to tell apart.

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Colorful Micromoth

11mm | January 17, 2011 | Cahuita National Park, Limon Province, Costa Rica

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. read more

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Identification Challenge #7 Reveal

All commenters correctly determined that this was a moth:

January 26, 2010 | Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

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: read more

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Mass Pupation

January 27, 2010 | Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

I found one other grouping of exuviae in the area where I found the one above. I’ve never seen anything like this locally. I believe these are from lepidopterans. There is a slight layer of silk on the bark. Up close, I saw some cast off head capsules. Look closely above, and you’ll notice a leg that must have broken off while struggling free.

I know some caterpillars are gregarious as early instars, but I thought they generally went their separate ways as final instars. I thought this was interesting evidence that in at least one species, they pupate and perhaps eclose together. read more

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Crypsis Challenge #7 Reveal

January 28, 2010 | Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Commenters had no trouble finding the cryptic critter circled above on a partially eaten leaf. No one figured out that it was a caterpillar though, and a rather bizarre one at that. Here’s a closer look.

It's a caterpillar

It does a pretty good job, I think, of blending in with the damaged areas of the other leaves. I suspect the brown leaf areas were damaged by an earlier instar that chews away at the surface of the leaf rather than eating the entire thing. It looks formidable and I didn’t risk touching it. Those black structures are unlike anything I’ve seen on a caterpillar. read more

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Dinner at the Cow Patty

January 31, 2010 | Tupaciguara, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Remember I said in the location profile for Tupaciguara that cattle are abundant? I was driving through one of the many cattle pastures at night when I noticed that some of the fresher cow patties were being visited by moths.

I suppose this shouldn’t be too surprising. I’ve seen plenty of butterflies taking nourishment from bird droppings and other animal scat. Well, at least something is benefiting from those cattle.

Some other random thoughts:

I wondered if anyone has ever done a study on how many and what types of species come to cow patties? That might be worthy of an Ig Noble prize. read more

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Attractive Caterpillar

January 28, 2010 | Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

This caterpillar seems fairly distinctive, but I haven’t been able to find anything similar. The white bands are odd. I can’t decide if they are normal or evidence of an injury.

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