Friday, October 13, 2017

Kevin' s Cat Bite

Kevin Firth from the Butterfly House* sent me this story of a "cat" bite (as in moth caterpillar) which demonstrates the death defying heroism of the Butterfly House volunteers.  Fear not, it has a happy ending.  First the bite in Kevin's words:

So as I drove home from the Butterfly House, I was halfway down Seminole when I felt a creepy-crawly sensation on my left leg ('bout halfway up my thigh). I didn't pay it much attention and just shifted around in my seat and kept driving....but the sensation didn't go away, so I absentmindedly reached down to scratch and felt the unmistakable shape of a caterpillar under my jeans. I figured one of the wandering monarch caterpillars had hitched a ride while I was at the house, so I did my best not to smash it before I got home.

As I was pulling into the driveway, the mystery cat decided that my leg was a close enough match to its host plant and started nibbling my leg. I pulled in the garage and exited my vehicle as quickly as I could and in the most dignified manner I could manage double-timed it into my kitchen, being careful to close the door before kicking off my shoes and dropping my drawers at which point I discovered that my tormentor was not a monarch but a prepupal dagger moth caterpillar of some sort.

By that stage the cat had darkened and its cavorting about in my jeans had rubbed off much of its setae (hairs) so I have not been able to determine the exact species). I could only assume that it had decided that I had a wooden leg and was trying to excavate its pupal chamber in my thigh.  How or where I picked up this nascent hitchhiker I have no idea, but I left it happily burrowing into some wood chips along with several of its congeners. 
Acronicta rubicoma - Kevin Firth
Ruddy Dagger cat - Kevin Firth
Alas, I did not get a picture of the offending critter as I was most decidedly more interested at the time in interrupting its attempt to pupate in my dermis.  The cat in question was most likely Acronicta rubicoma since it was apparently feeding on hackberry (before my leg, that is).  I did, however, raise a few A. rubricoma just recently (and, having learned my lesson last year, provided them with a more appropriate pupation substrate):
Kevin Firth

Ruddy Dagger - Bob Patterson CC
The  Acronicta spp are commonly called dagger moths, as most have one or more black dagger-shaped markings on their forewing uppersides.  The Ruddy Dagger Moth, A. rubricoma is an exception, having a conspicuous dark ring marking instead, referred to by moth aficionados as a reniform spot ("a kidney-shaped mark") on the forewing.  I looked at a lot of images on Bugguide and it looks more oval than kidney shaped, but then I am a reformed gastroenterologist so what do I know!  Bob Kipfer