Posts Tagged ‘predators’

What a Surprise! Part 1

I went out after supper last night, and there on the side of the sweetgum tree was a luna moth.

 I haven’t seen one of these for years! It tolerated my presence while I took pictures … and more pictures.

The evening light slightly changed the color of the moth.

Moths have feathery antennae. Butterflies don’t.

This spot looks like an eye and would keep predators away.

A luna moth’s wingspan measures between 3.0 -4.25 inches wide.

I didn’t realize they had such a large body.

A Slimy Resident

I found this slug on a leaf of a Solomon’s seal plant.

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A slug is a snail without a shell.

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Slugs live underground where they can remain moist.

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They feed on tender leaves, seedlings, soft fruit, fungus and decaying matter. They breathe through the “hole” in its shell called a mantle.

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Birds, toads and ground beetles are a few of the predators that eat them.

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Slugs are one thing I rarely see, and I wouldn’t have seen this one if it wasn’t for the wet weather.

Surprise Observation

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A red-spotted purple butterfly flew into the oak in our front yard. It made many short stops on different leaves, acting like it was looking for a place to lay an egg. Butterflies tap their front feet on the leaf to smell it.

Obviously, I didn’t take this picture today. She moved so fast I wasn’t even going to go out and try for pictures.

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I’ve never seen them lay eggs in oaks, but my butterfly books list oak as a host tree. It moved around in the tree so quickly that I couldn’t tell if it laid an egg or not.

Oak trees hybridize, so I’m not sure what kind this one is. I know it’s in the the black oak family because the leaves are bristle-tipped.

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The female lays her eggs singly on the tip of the leaf where predators aren’t likely to find it. Red-spotted purples their eggs in wild black cherry  and willow trees.

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The little caterpillar eats the leaf along the vein. It cuts off a piece of the leaf, leaving it to dangle and draw attention away from the caterpillar.

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The caterpillar’s pattern changes as it grows.

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This caterpillar is full grown and ready to pupate.

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It looks like I should occasionally check the oak leaves for red-spotted purple eggs and caterpillars.

Busy Picture

A picture from below the leaves of our catalpa tree.

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There are sunlit shapes and shaded ones in this complicated composition. There’s the linear lines from the tree’s branches. There are leaves in their natural state and others that have been skeletonized by the catalpa hornworm caterpillars.

The short dark lines on the leaf in the middle of the picture are young caterpillars

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They stay on the underside of the leaves where predators less likely to find them.

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This caterpillar was higher in the tree. I thought it was sick or dead when I took the picture. It turned out that the caterpillar was molting — shedding its skin.

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There’s also variety in their coloring.

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 Cocoons of a parasitic wasps cover most of the back of this caterpillar.

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They do have variation in the color of their patterns.

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The full-grown caterpillar burrows into the ground, forms its pupa and the moth emerges in late spring.

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Our catalpa tree stands about 50 feet tall.

Braided! How?

My camera always accompanies me when I’m out in the yard. I had been taking pictures of this and that.

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Then I found this daisy fleabane (Erigeron annuus). Its lower petals looked like they had been braided into a half circle. The shape was just too deliberate looking to have had happened naturally.

What would’ve positioned those petals like that? What was the reason? (To make me curious?)

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A crab spider was all I found on the small cluster of the flowers.

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The flowers were past their peak by the next evening. The”braided” area still remained roughly the same.

I just noticed another crab spider in the lower flower head on the left.

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The two flower heads in the center created a cute enclosure … it would be a good place to “camp” or hide from predators if you were a tiny insect or spider.

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A tiny bee took advantage of the fresh flower head for an evening snack.

The “braided” petals still remain an unsolved mystery. Maybe I’ll learn more with future encounters … which would probably be next year, since the daisy fleabanes are almost done blooming.

Catalpa Worms

Actually, they’re caterpillars. Fishermen call them “catalpa worms.” Last night I found the first signs of catalpa worms this sumer — two fallen, dried leaves with an empty eggs in a mass on each one.

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The catalpa tree stands 35 or so feet tall in our backyard.

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The catalpa sphinx moths lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves.

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The newly-hatched caterpillars feed on the underside of the leaves.

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They then travel in groups in search for their next meal.

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They always feed on the underside of the leaves, to stay more hidden from predators.

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Obviously, they change as they grow.

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The caterpillars molt five times before they’re fully grown.

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Even the full-grown caterpillars feed on the underside of the leaves.

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These are cocoons of a parasitic wasp. The earlier stages of the wasp feed inside the caterpillar.

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This predator appeared to be an immature bug of some kind.

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 Caterpillars ate almost all the leaves in August of 2008!!!! The tree grew naturally the next year.

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Then I lucked out that year and found a caterpillar under another catalpa that grew in the shrub border of our backyard. It was working its way under the plant litter on the ground.

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I placed the caterpillar with plant debris in a bug container so I could rear it out to see the chrysalis

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and the adult catalpa sphinx moth.