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Crypsis Challenge #5 Reveal

At least a few people found the caterpillar outlined below, from the last crypsis challenge.

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

I like how effectively it blends in. The dorsal markings match up pretty well with the damaged areas on the leaf.

It has spun a sort of silken lair across the entire leaf as well.

Closer view

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A Caterpillar to Avoid

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

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.


Spiny cluster

And here’s a particularly intimidating display.

Back off!

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. read more

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Identification Challenge #2 Reveal

What was this?

September 5, 2010 | Twelvestones, Roswell, GA, USA

As revealed in the comments, it is the rear end of a saddleback caterpillar, Sibine stimulea.

I neglected to take a good dorsolateral shot, but here’s a couple more shots of this individual.

More complete view

Front view -- head is tucked underneath

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Ant tending Caterpillar

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

Here’s an ant in the Formica genus tending a caterpillar in the Lycaenidae family. The ant has just taken a drop of a sugary substance produced by a gland at the rear of the caterpillar. Here’s a shot from about 10 seconds earlier where you can see the drop sitting atop the gland and the ant fast approaching.

Sugary drop produced for tending ants

I’m not sure what flowers these caterpillars are eating, but they are pretty well camouflaged settled in among the flower buds. Once I spotted the first one, I started looking for them and found quite a few wherever I spotted these flowers. read more

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Crypsis Challenge #2 Reveal

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

I suspect most people didn’t have too much difficulty finding the caterpillar in the image above (upper right, in the middle of a fern leaflet). Here’s another shot.

Caterpillar Closeup

I like how the white bands help break up the body and coincide nicely with the gaps on the little fern leaves. Looking up from below, it just sort of disappears against the light filtering from above.

I first spotted this caterpillar the previous night by the light of a headlamp. It stood out under those lighting conditions, but I resolved to return the next day and try to take some photos under natural lighting. read more

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Resigned Parasitized Caterpillar

September 5, 2010 | Twelvestones, Roswell, GA, USA

This caterpillar from a nearby park with head held low seems resigned to its fate as a parasitoid host. OK, I know that’s a normal position — allow me to anthropomorphise a bit.

You can see some white eggs on its back. I assume a tachinid fly left those, placing them close enough to the head that they couldn’t be removed.

In this next image, you can see there are also some already hatched eggs, sealing this little guy’s doom.

Closeup showing hatched eggs

I know tachinid fly larvae have breathing tubes that pierce the host’s skin. Could those long fibers amongst the eggs be those breathing tubes? I wouldn’t think they would be so long. I’m more inclined to think those are just bits of debris that maybe got stuck to whatever holds the eggs in place. read more

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White-marked Tussock Moth

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.

May 31, 2010 | Twelvestones, Roswell, GA, USA | ~30mm

I grabbed it for some closeup shots and to attempt to rear it.



Defensive glands

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.

Cocoon | June 6, 2010 | ~40mm

A flightless female emerged ten days later.

It's a female! | June 16, 2010 | ~15mm


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. read more

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