I found this mummy of a dead caterpillar hanging on a small redbud tree outside our house on February 3rd. I sent the picture to Kevin Firth who responded, "If I had to guess, I would say an American dagger (AD), Acronicta americana. You can still see the remains of the black hair pencils. We went on a hike last fall at Ha Ha Tonka State Park and found several mummified cats on redbud. According to Wagner, the culprit is Aleiodes stigmator, a Braconid wasp."
By coincidence we had found two white A. americana caterpillars on the underside of leaves on the same redbud tree back in 2014. I prepared a blog but never posted it so here it is.
|A. americana in happier days - Kevin Firth|
|American dagger - Wikimedia|
These AD larvae feed on the leaves of a variety of popular neighborhood trees like oak, ash, elm, redbud, willow and maple and then crawl onto the ground to pupate so they commonly are found by children. A good rule to teach kids about hairy caterpillars is "look it up before you pick it up."
|Caterpillars on leaves in 2014 - REK|
|Silk cocoon incorporating moss and twigs|
As I was gently transferring a cocoon in the palm of my hand it to its winter home, I felt it move slightly. I had seen this in a Luna moth pupa so I laid it on a leaf and gently pressed on its tummy and recorded this video.
|Return of the mummy!|