Monday, September 8, 2008

Crazy Cats

Sorry about my lack of posts, lately. I have been having some trouble with Blogger and been busy with projects and meetings. Yesterday I had the post almost finished and the text disappeared. After screeching a few unlady-like words and throwing a few objects, I decided I would just visit it at a later time and hope the blog gremlins were no longer hungry!

Fall is a great time to find all kinds of crazy-looking caterpillars. My friend John Howard from Southern Ohio, takes awesome night time pics and sent a few to me. Here I would like to share a few with you.

Above is a Luna Moth, Actias luna, caterpillar and it will turn into one beautiful moth. This caterpillar may be late enough to overwinter in a coccoon and emerge in the spring. The adults never feed, in fact they do not have any mouthparts. Just fly around, breed, then die. Sort of sad, but nevertheless a gorgeous beast that I really enjoy viewing.
Here is a Luna that we witnessed hatch out from a cocoon last summer. One of our summer camp kids brought the giant green caterpillar in to share. Note how it blends right in with the tree leaves. The edging of the wing looks very similar to a branch with leaf buds. The moth is so well camouflaged that a passerby on the ground probably would not even notice it.

This creature is the White-marked Tussock Moth, Orgyia leucostigma. It is exhibiting a type of mimicry. Some species of wasps will parasitize caterpillars and lay their eggs on the caterpillar. When the wasp larvae emerge, they will dine on the caterpillars innards. Mmmmmm! Caterpillar guts! Anyway, this caterpillar has found a way to fool the wasps. The row of hair tufts on its back looks similar to wasp eggs. When a wasp notices that , it will probably go elsewhere and the caterpillar is safe. The adult females are flightless and will lay a foamy mass of eggs right on their cocoon.

This critter looks like it has been rolled in those weird candy sprinkles that adorn some cake donuts. This is a Tulip Tree Silk Moth, Callosamia angulifera. It will spend about 10-11 months as a pupa in a cocoon. The adult has intricate patterns on the wings with rich, varying tones of brown and red.

This one looks like a smaller version of those Maltese dogs that usually have a bow in its hair.
This is a Spotted Apatelodes, Apatelodes torrefacta. What a mouthful! It feeds on cherry, oak, maple and and becomes a moth with a unique shape.

And lastly, my personal favorite. A Saddleback, Acharia stimulea. Dark brown, wicked spines and a green saddle. It looks like a creature from some fantasy movie that maybe a troll or perhaps a goblin would ride. Unfortunately, this guy has a very painful, lingering sting. I believe John, the photographer, has personal experience with this. I pick up a lot of creatures most would not, but I would not touch this guy! You would think this caterpillar would turn into a amazing-looking moth. Nope. Just a little brown jobby. But the caterpillar makes up for it.

So go outside, look for leaves that have been eaten or are turned under and find some of these great caterpillars!



Anonymous said...

Sorry to burst your bubble, but I believe that the caterpillar that was labled as a luna caterpillar seems more like a polyphemus moth caterpillar. Note the diagonal lines along each segment rather than a single horizontal line

Eva Lyford said...

I found a saddelback caterpillar today and carried it across the yard in my bare hand without getting stung although my sons wouldn't touch it. So, I wonder if there are times that the caterpillar is dormant? This one was very sluggish. Thanks for the write up.

Janet Creamer said...

Not sure, Eva. I know one of my friends got zapped by one and she said it hurt horribly for hours. Not sure if some have more umph than others... interesting!