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.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

More New Caterpillars and Stuff

A short walk around some small oak trees a mile down the road resulted in a few more caterpillars and 'stuff'.

Nason's Slug - Natada nasoni

I need more hours in my day so I can look these new guys up to identify them.  I'm still thinking that it will be a good winter job.

Angulose Prominent - Peridea angulosa
Identified by Shaina

All of these today were from oak trees.  I didn't take long wandering. Grandsons were waiting at the house to pay a game with me.  Jonathan won.

Oblique Heterocampa - Heterocampa obliqua
Identified by Shana

This one had sewed several leaves together and was hiding in its little nest. 

As usual, I was touching gently and carefully, watching for flannel moth stinging caterpillars. They're all over the place and love oaks and, around my legs, blackberry plants.  One day I will get zapped by one.  Charlotte did the other day when she was moving some hackberry branches she had trimmed from around her back door. 

Then I saw a wheel bug eating a flannel moth caterpillar.  So who to boo?  The wheel bug killing a caterpillar or the caterpillar for being a stinging caterpillar?  The white fuzzy thing is the caterpillar.

And eggs of about five species of moths and other critters.  I don't know the identity of most of them. This egg batch covered several leaves, hundreds of eggs.  Now to wait and find out what they are.

A good end to another day except for the part of not winning the game!  Of course, a grandson winning is a good thing too.

If you know the identification of any of these critters, please email me at

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cornucopia of Caterpillars

First critters on today's walk were turkeys, not happy with me coming too close to them.

Moving on ... I watched two duskywing butterflies laying eggs.  One on oak and the other on a vine in the pea family.

Duskywing Butterfly Egg on Oak Tree

There were eggs of butterflies, moths, and other critters on and under leaves.  This one egg was designated as food by these three ants.  They were working hard to break the egg loose and carry it off.

Ants Removing Moth Egg

An assortment of butterflies but not a large assortment were drinking nectar from goldenrod and other flowering plants.

Next, a cornucopia of caterpillars and eggs!

A look at the front of this caterpillar makes you wonder quite what it is!  Of course, the entire caterpillar looks quite different. This caterpillar will sting.

Spiny Oak Slug Moth Euclea delphinii Caterpillar
Spiny Oak Slug Moth Euclea delphinii Caterpillar

Spiny Oak Slug Moth Euclea delphinii Caterpillar

The prolegs (last few sets of legs) of the one below were comical.  All the caterpillars were on oak except for this one, on sweet gum leaves.  I believe it is Large Paectes - Paectes abrostoloides.

Large Paectes - Paectes abrostoloides

Large Paectes - Paectes abrostoloides

I'll be researching and identifying these caterpillars as I have time.  They were all found on oak.  I do know a couple of them and will add identification tomorrow. If you know the identity of any of these, please email me at Thank you!

Yellow Shouldered Slug Moth - Lithacodes fasciola

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wandering with a Paper Bag

After bleaching a greenhouse today and going home to rest, I put on my tennis shoes to head out and take a short walk.  Of course, as I tie my shoes, it starts raining.  The rain stopped and I took a short walk in the wet grass at the edge of the woods here.

I found several Variable Oakleaf caterpillars - Lochmaeus manteo - chowing down on oak leaves.

And a couple of Yellow shouldered Slug Moth caterpillars -Lithacodes fasciola - underneath a couple of oak leaves. 

A side view reveals the head and legs of this caterpillar.  It's head is a tiny little green bump to the left.  This caterpillar is SMALL!  I edit the photos after I return so that extras, like my hand holding its leaf, won't show in the photo. 

But in this photo I decided to edit it twice.  The second time I left my hand to show how small this critter is.  I don't know yet what kind of egg is on the leaf.  It's a fairly large egg.  I'll let you know what it is when it hatches.  I brought it in out of sheer curiosity.

As I walk, I place any goodies I want to bring home in a paper bag and sort them when I arrive back at the house.

Wandering with a paper bag - how much better can it get?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Oak Moth Caterpillars and Their Parasitoids (Walk 8-15-10)

So here I finally go walking, my feet having improved enough for me to wander. I walked about a mile, taking one hour. One camera was harnessed to me and the others just a short way away, in the car. In my pocket were paper bags for any treasures I found. Ahhh, it's wonderful to be walking again!

One of the first things that caught my eye were quite a few of these white fuzzy caterpillars.  These are flannel moths and will sting.  When I returned home, Charlotte called and invited us over for supper.  I mentioned them to her and she showed me where she was stung this afternoon while moving limbs she cut from a tree by her door.  They are nasty little rascals.  This is one of the dangers we watch for when we're walking.

I found quite a few of these last year.  I believe that it is the Varieable Oakleaf Moth caterpillar. 

There were quite a few Duskywing butterfly caterpillars.  I won't post photos of all of them.  This is a big beautiful Duskywing caterpillar.

There were also a couple of brachnoid infected caterpillars.  Well, one caterpillar was missing.  I noticed a wasp flying around a couple of leaves sewn together and knew there would be a caterpillar inside.  I then saw the ants and knew that there may NOT be a caterpillar inside any longer.  Ants were carrying away the head capsule and the brachnoid wasp cocoons.  It's good to know that brachnoids have enemies too.

Another Duskywing caterpillar has holes in its side where brachnoid larvae exited the little thing.  They created their cocoons and the butterfly caterpillar crawls on top of them and stays there for days, until it dies.  There are some nasty stuff we find when we go hunt caterpillars!

Another moth caterpillar, a fuzzy interesting one with whiskers that it can be proud of!  This is a Banded Tussock Moth caterpillar.

Yippee - two Polyphemus Moth caterpillars. They're beautiful.

And two Polyphemus Moth eggs that hatched trichogramma wasps instead of the moth caterpillar. 

Then, on a wild plum tree, a Red-spotted Purple caterpillar.  One of its host plants was growing near it, so I don't know if it had crawled off to pupate or what ...

Dan Stahr made a suggestion that led me to a page that identifies this as the Yellow-shouldered Slug - Lithacodes fasciola.  I like google.

A shadow on an oak leaf above my head caught my attention.  A closer look revealed that it was simply large green eggs.  Hmmm, what lays eggs like this on oak trees?  They're about the size of BBs. 

I haven't seen one of these for five or six years.  It's a fungus or some sort that kills lepidoptera. This WAS an adult moth. 

Another baddie.  An aleiodes wasp mummified the caterpillar and emerged from the abdomen.  This is what is left.  Last year it was a different species of caterpillar that I found mummified with a hole in the abdomen.  Last year we even found some that had the wasp still inside and was able to emerge the wasp in a container.  This year I'm keeping better records.

Two leaves close together are irresistible.  These caterpillars are found fairly often out there.  I have no clue what it is.

And The Laugher Moth caterpillar.  Yes, it's called 'The Laugher'. 

On one egg batch of some sort of critter there were at least three trichogramma wasps. I took photos of these two and then removed the wasps and put the eggs in a little cup. Wonder how many are infected ....
Trichogramma Wasps

I found quite a few bagworm moth caterpillars.  I'm only posting a photo of one of them.  They're cool.

It took almost as long to edit the photos and post them here than it took to find them.  My searches focus on oak trees primarily.  For some reason, I just wanted to document all larvae I find on oaks on our property last year and I'm carrying it over into this year too.

If you know the identity of any of these and would like to share it, please leave a comment or email me at