Sunday, August 29, 2010

(Note to self: check camera battery before heading out of the house next time.)

Earlier today, we were checking the caterpillars we collected yesterday.  Wow.  One of the Yellow-shouldered Oak Slug caterpillars had obviously been parasitized. 

Yellow-shouldered Slug Moth Caterpillar - Lithacodes fasciola

Here is it yesterday (above) ... and here it is today (below).  It is nearly identical to the one from Nason's Slug Moth caterpillar.  A close look at the skin left shows that its a different wasp pupa this time - same species wasp, though.  When these wasps emerge, we'll post a photo.  There is one wasp in each little wasp cocoon. 

So here I head out the door to walk Michael and Caden to Charlotte's house, still in my church clothes (skirt), a paper bag and camera in hand. After a short visit with Charlotte, I walk the long way home.

Datana caterpillars on Deerberry

First to catch my eye are these Danata caterpillars on Deerberry.  I left my book in the office so I'll have to come back to this page to identify and label them later.

A few steps beyond this tree, an oak tree had odd 'growth' on the tip of a couple of tiny stems.  A closer examination reveals that the 'growth' is a cluster of caterpillars that are preparing to molt.

Caterpillars preparing to molt, grouped together on a tiny branch of an oak tree

Yellow-shouldered Slug Moth Caterpillar - Lithacodes fasciola

Another Yellow-shouldered Slug Moth caterpillar was under an oak leaf.   This one seems very healthy, busy eating the leaf. We find these nearly every time we walk this year.  I had never seen one before this year, in spite of the many walks I've taken, looking under oak leaves.

Dying Bay Tree
Laurel Wilt Disease is transferred from tree to tree by
Ambrosia beetles
Bay trees are dying in our area from Laurel Wilt Disease, transferred by Ambrosia beetles.  We're finding more dead trees when we walk or drive around.  These trees are used by both Palamedes Swallowtail and Spicebush Swallowtail butterflies as a host plant.

Duskywing butterfly caterpillar in it's nest

Another Duskywing butterfly caterpillar was hiding.  They cut the leaf and fold the cut part over the leaf, creating a little shelter. They rest upside down inside the shelter when they're not eating leaves.

Molting Imperial Moth caterpillar - Eacles imperialis
While flipping oak branches to look underneath the leaves, I was startled to find an Imperial Moth caterpillar.  It was preparing to molt. It's head capsule is on its head, positioned like a surgeons mask.

After taking everything home (that we wanted to take home) and opening the paper bag bag to sort things out, we took another photo.  It had finished molting.    The color difference is partly due to the molt and partly due to the fact that the second photo was taken indoors, after sunset, with a flash.

Eggs are everywhere.  Moth eggs, butterfly eggs, and other critter eggs.  We gently remove the eggs from the leaves and place them in a little cup to see what (if anything) will hatch. 

Assorted butterfly and moth (and other critter) eggs
Whew - a short walk filled the bag.  As we sit and type this blog, the Imperial Moth caterpillar turned around and is now eating its old skin.  What a fascinating world we live in!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

More Brachnoid Wasps and More 'Stuff'

The first find of today's walk was a sad one.  A Yellow Lined Slug Moth has brachnoid wasp cocoons on its back.  This caterpillar will be dead shortly.  We did find another Yellow Lined Slug Moth caterpillar that appears to be healthy.  We won't know until it emerges as an adult, though.

Yellow-shouldered Slug Moth - Lithacodes fasciola
Brachnoid Wasp Cocoons 

Yellow-shouldered Slug Moth - Lithacodes fasciolaBrachnoid Wasp Cocoons
We startled a deer that took off into the deeper woods.  There wasn't enough time to take a photo.

Next, a couple of caterpillars.  One is another caterpillar of a species we picked up last week and the other is one caterpillar of a species we raised last year.
Afflicted Dagger Moth - Acronicta afflicta

We found several of the caterpillar just above, varying sizes. 

A racket and rattle near me caught my attention.  A butterfly predator had caught and was eating a butterfly predator.  A Robber Fly caught a Dragonfly and is eating it.
A Robber Fly caught and is eating a Dragonfly
A Robber Fly caught and is eating a Dragonfly

Nothing to do with butterflies, but mushrooms were popping up all over the place!

This looks like a little table or pillow with lace around the edge.

Today's finds: about 10 species of caterpillars, several species of eggs, one set of brachnoid cocoons, and a load of fun.