I’ve done that in the past, sometimes with dismal results. This time I already knew the location of a couple of interesting specimens, so I was sure the search wouldn’t be a total disaster. Far from being a disaster, my search was more successful than I imagined. I begin with a species I had never seen before, the Skiff Moth caterpillar. This species looks so much like a leaf blemish that I would have passed it by if I hadn’t previously seen it in photographs. That’s a Sycamore leaf it is consuming.
Those spines are capable
of delivering a painful sting. The
caterpillars have the habit of feeding from the underside of the leaves and are
often hidden from view. I managed to
confirm the stinging ability of these caterpillars as I maneuvered the leaves
in order to get some photos.
These look very much like a
patch of fluff stuck to the leaf. Head
and feet are neatly obscured, but the hair generally points toward the rear
where a wispy tail is formed, so you can usually figure out which end ought to
be doing the eating.
The Banded Tussock Moth may be the most noticeable
caterpillar currently roaming Blue Jay Barrens.
I’ve been finding them on every tree or shrub I search.
seen half a dozen different colors this year.
Most showed some yellow, but a
few were white. This is the head end
showing the signature eyebrow and whisker tufts.
My first sign of
caterpillars in the tree was the sound of fras, caterpillar droppings, falling
through the leaves. Unfortunately there
were only a few branches low enough for me to reach. I saw many American Dagger caterpillars
resting beneath the leaves, but this was the only one close enough for me to
photograph. Turning the head back toward
the body is a characteristic posture for a resting American Dagger caterpillar.
forward and rear tufts of hair make me think scorpion whenever I see this
A patch of Sweetclover that I mowed earlier
this summer also contained several Dogbane plants. Those plants regrew and now have the fresh,
young leaves preferred by this caterpillar.
I’m still finding Monarch
caterpillars on the Milkweeds. I can’t
remember ever having a year where I’ve seen so many Monarch caterpillars. If Monarchs are doing this well elsewhere,
the wintering grounds will be overloaded.
This is an
early instar individual and has yet to reach the most colorful stage of its
Its body fills in the void left
by feeding and gives the appearance of a portion of leaf that has withered due
to some unfortunate experience. This guy
fed much more slowly than I’ve come to expect from caterpillars. Perhaps rapid feeding spoils the mimicry
This is a Wavy-lined Heterocampa. Although it is supposed to be very common,
this is the first I have encountered.
It’s an attractive caterpillar, but it would have been overlooked had it
not been silhouetted by the sun shining through the leaf.
This Red-humped caterpillar was
on the barn wall a short distance from a hole used by wasps going to and from
their nest. Bodily fluids were leaking
from a puncture located about two-thirds of the way back from the head. It moved very slowly and later fell to the
ground. I suspect it may have been wasp
prey that escaped its captor while it was navigating the entrance hole. It fled the wasp, but was still immobilized
by the sting.
This Banded Tussock
is nothing but a hollowed shell.
There were several caterpillar-like blobs and
shadows high in the trees that were beyond the ability of my eyes or camera to
make clearer. The camera zoom did allow
me to extend my reach some, but the results were never great. I was able to change a gray splotch into a
group of early instar Turbulent Phosphila caterpillars feeding on
Greenbrier. I’ll have to check back and
see if I can get a better view once these guys have put on some size.
30 minutes ago