Thursday, September 25, 2008

Major League Sluggers

My friend John is great at finding caterpillars and taking awesome photos of them. Recently, he sent me a few photos of slug caterpillars. Slug caterpillars are unique, crazy-looking caterpillars with spines, hair, weird colors and they can have a painful sting. These can all be found in Indiana and many can be found at night, munching away on plants. An easy way to discover them is to use a UV flashlight. These special flashlights will cause the caterpillar to luminesce or light up in neon colors of green and yellow.

Here is an interesting one. This is a Flannel Moth Caterpillar, Megalopyge crispata. Looks fuzzy, soft and inviting. Maybe it would like a hug or to be petted like a Persian kitty. Nope, hairs on this are "highly irritating". So, no petting Mr. Flannel Moth.

Next at bat, this crazy looking caterpillar that looks like someone took brown pipecleaners and twisted them together. It doesn't look at all like a caterpillar, to me. This one is called a Monkey Slug, Phobetron pithecium. The moth it becomes is equally bizarre. This one has a nasty sting.

A side note on caterpillar stings. Stinging caterpillars do not sting like bees, yellowjackets, hornets, and wasps (Order Hymenoptera). In the bee-wasp group, females (only females sting) are equipped with venom glands and stingers that penetrate skin and release venom. Caterpillars. on the other hand, possess specialized setae or spines. These structures are hollow and contain toxins from poison-gland cells to which they are joined. These help defend the caterpillars from predators and other enemies. If you are stung by one of these caterpillars, it is not from a deliberate attack, but the result of brushing against the setae or spines. When brushed against, these structures break away, releasing toxins. In some cases, broken setae may penetrate the skin; in others, toxins spill out to spread on the surface of the skin. OUCH!!!

Probably my favorite because it is so beautiful. This one is a Stinging Rose, Parasa indetermina . No doubt what this one can do. Should have DO NOT TOUCH tattoed on its side. It looks almost like a tropical lionfish, which also have a nasty sting. This one turns into a pretty little green and brown moth.

John has many more pictures of these fascinating caterpillars that I plan to share with you later. Enjoy the wonderful weather and see what captivating critters are outdoors on your trees and shrubs!


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