Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Caterpillar Visitors


We have previously written about one of my favorite caterpillars, the very social Eastern tent caterpillars.  Although their webs drive my editor and other home owners crazy when they infest a favorite tree in the Prunus or Malus (apple) family, their community life and strategy for surviving cold weather are fascinating.

I received this from Kevin Firth as part of a series on uninvited larvae in the Butterfly House.
"Docents in the Butterfly House encounter a number of Eastern tent caterpillars (Malacosoma americanum), either brought in by guests or clawing on the netting. What we hardly ever see are the adult moth that those caterpillars are destined to become. To remedy that, Lindsay (his daughter) and I raised a few through pupation and we just had our first adult eclose yesterday. I have attached a few photos."
 

Many small moths that you would pay no attention to are actually quite beautiful close up.  In the case of M. americanum, I would have to go with "cute furry critters" reminiscent of an Ewok from Star Wars.  Their wild mop of "hair" and shaggy leggings are a throwback to a style a generation or two in the past.  In contrast, their feathery antennae laying beside the head are neatly trimmed.

M. americanum by Kevin Firth
Thanks to Kevin, we can enjoy seeing M. americanum in its brief adult glory.

More pictures of various life stages are at fcps.edu/islandcreekes

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