Posts Tagged 'caterpillars'

Current Lepidoptera

And even more butterflies. This is a Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus). Mostly southern, but makes forays as far north as New England. First spotting of this species for me, in Green-Wood.Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) caterpillar. This is the one that gets on your parsley; the earlier instars or stages are black with a white splotch in the center, making them look somewhat like bird turds. Behind a fence on a lot in Red Hook, where several Killdeer, a couple of Semipalmated Sandpipers, and a Semipalmated Plover were patrolling the mud of a stalled development project. Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis) on a sidewalk in Brooklyn Heights.And another, this time in Coffey Park, winking its wings in some sun-spotted shade.A Red-baned Hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops) found with swarms of bees and wasps on a non-native aralia at the NYBG. This is another mostly southeastern butterfly species that strays up into our parts (but I supposed all these reference books are old; planetary warming means species are moving north.Same pollination frenzy. This Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis) looks species-perfect on the outside, except for some ragged edges to the wings.But looks rather like an “intergrade” between Red-spotted and its co-specific White Admiral, which is generally found further north (I’ve never seen one). Here’s another I spotted some years ago in Prospect with more purple.

Caterpillars

In case I spoiled your breakfast with the carnivorous devouring of an adult Monarch’s brain, here’s the famous caterpillar stage of Danaus plexippus. Spotted in Virginia recently.Although the Yellow Bear caterpillar is named Spilosoma virginica, this one was spotted in Westerchester Co., NY. It’s a Tribble! And it looks like it might have some mites on it. The moth of this species is resolutely unspectacular, but the caterpillars are, in David L. Wagner’s words, “exceedingly variable in coloration, ranging from beige or yellow to dark red-brown or nearly black.” The very long hairs are key to ID. Here’s an example from Staten Island. Another from Prospect Park.Insert exclamation point. This is the Redhumped Caterpillar (Schizura concinna). Nothing else looks like it in these parts. The raised rear end is a defensive posture, one of a number of which-end-is-which caterpillar strategies . Such flamboyant patterns (check out Wagner’s book, Caterpillars of Eastern North America, for an excellent guide to the amazing world of caterpillars) are warnings. Or fake-outs. This specimen was found on the same property as the Yellow Bear.

Lymantria dispar

The infamous Gypsy Moth caterpillar. Introduced to North America in 1869 by a fellow who wanted to cross them with silk worms. Within a decade, they were munching their way through our hardwood forests. The young larvae travel by wind, shooting out a silky thread like spiders to ride the currents of the sky.

Mature Lymantria dispar caterpillars are distinguished by five sets of raised blue dots and six sets of raised red dots. The binomial translates as “destroyer unequal” referring to both their amazing skill at defoliating forests and the disparity between males, which typically have five instars (stages), and females, which typically have six. The female moths are also larger than the male moths.All these, on the museum building and a nearby beech at Storm King, were dead.

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This is interesting: how one climate-change-denial Republican rep is screwing his climate-chaging district, not least with his contempt for their lived experiences.

Pale Beauty

Subtly tinged with green, Campaea perlata is known as the Pale Beauty moth. The caterpillars, also known as Fringed Loopers, enjoy munching away on the leaves of a broad range of deciduous trees and plants (65 species!). Like most moths, it’s nocturnal, hiding away from predators during the day.  This particular day was quite overcast, so there it was, the pale greenish beauty.

Eastern Tent

Here are two examples of Eastern Ten Caterpillars (Malacosoma americanum), which are often mistaken for Gypsy Moth caterpillars. The invasive Gypsy Moth (Lymantria dispar dispar) was introduced to Massachusetts in 1869 by some idiot who wanted to improve silk production: they got loose and have been a serious threat to our eastern hardwood forests ever since. I’ve never seen one of the handsome devils. These native Tent caterpillars can eat a lot of greens too, but not to the extent of the (unfortunately named) Gypsy moths. Last week, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge was crawling with Tents, which are also rather good-looking specimens.

Yes, when I say “crawling,” I mean it. Populations fluctuate year to year, and this looks like a boom year. We were on the lookout for the two types of cuckoos, Yellow-billed and the less common Black-billed, who love to scarf these up, but saw/heard no evidence of the notoriously discreet birds.

Natural History Note 1: The sapling above was one of several newly planted oaks. A tag on one identified it as coming from the Greenbelt Native Plant Center.

Natural History Note 2: It’s getting rarer and rarer for me to see a local life-bird, that is, a species for the first time. The Black-billed Cuckoo eluded me until last week in Prospect Park.

Wooly Bear

Pyrrharctia isabellaOur old friend the Banded Wooly Bear caterpillar, bearishly larval stage of the Isabella Tiger Moth, Pyrrharctia isabella. This was found behind a large piece of bark, which was put back. img_2643Have you heard the one about judging winter’s length/severity by the amount of black and/or orange on the animal? Turns out that the colors are just a factor of age: the orange expands and the black contracts during each successive molt.Pyrrharctia isabellaThe caterpillar is overwintering in a state of dormancy. They can actually freeze solid and thaw out without ill-effects. An Arctic Wolly Bear (I’m not sure it’s the same species) has such a short period of summer that it can stay in the caterpillar stage for a dozen years, growing a bit each summer before finally cocooning and reforming as an adult, when it lives for about a day.

I would not recommend living in a state of dormancy right now. Things to do instead.

Cocoon

cocoonThe winter woods are quiet and relatively monotone in color. But look closer. (And listen!)

We were looking at tree buds. This big cocoon with remnants of leaf-covering was just hanging there. One of the giant moths of the family Saturniidae made this, I think. Will it make it? Has it already be taken over by parasitic wasps? Overhead, a trio of Red-tailed Hawks explored their own futures.

Ah, the future. There is a subset of Americans who seem pretty immune to reality. Perhaps it is a grounding in the fiction of religion, because if they believe that, they may well believe anything. Or perhaps it is the authoritarian personality that wants to be led.  Or maybe it’s the willful ignorance of the self-satisfied. All these could be in play. Don’t forget the power of conspiracy thinking, a strange urge to make everything seem rational, orderly, and controlled by somebody. And the windowless rooms of Fox and Facebook…

It’s really up to them in too many ways. They have to be convinced that lies, more lies, and damned lies are antithetical to democracy and civilization, not to mention their own damn-fool asses.


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