Posts Tagged Wildlife


Each of the three Mystery Caterpillars wandered around the aquarium for a few minutes, found a spot surrounded by leaves, and tucked themselves into their cocoons.

The smallest one went first and probably got the best site:

Mystery Caterpillar - Cocoon 1

Mystery Caterpillar – Cocoon 1

The medium one:

Mystery Caterpillar - Cocoon 2

Mystery Caterpillar – Cocoon 2

The largest caterpillar munched the leaf around the new cocoon and removed some of the silk (?) wrapper. It looks like the caterpillar’s fur falls off and becomes insulation inside the wrapper.

The large one with mostly black fur managed to bind two leaves together:

Mystery Caterpillar - Cocoon 3

Mystery Caterpillar – Cocoon 3

The Monarch remained calm, well above the scramble:

Monarch Chrysalis - with skin

Monarch Chrysalis – with skin

The caterpillar’s skin (or whatever it is) remained loosely attached to the outside.

All of which puts me in mind of Della Lu:


I wonder what they’re thinking after they type Y E S …



Praying Mantis

It’s the season for large insects, but this Praying Mantis came as a surprise:

Praying Mantis on screen

Praying Mantis on screen

Mary spotted it on the outside of the window screen in the front bathroom. We watched it for ten minutes as it strolled around the screen, all the while keeping at least one compound eye aimed at us.

If humans were half as tall, those things would be terrifying!

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Mystery Caterpillars

This being caterpillar season, we put a mystery egg mass on a Swiss Chard leaf into a small container:

Mystery Caterpillar - eggs on Swiss Chard

Mystery Caterpillar – eggs on Swiss Chard

I think the darker egg was a dud, because two days later they all hatched and ate their egg cases, leaving that one behind:

Mystery Caterpillar - hatched

Mystery Caterpillar – hatched

Mary deported them to the trash, put two on a leaf in an aquarium on the kitchen table, and, eight days later:

Mystery Caterpillar - 8 days

Mystery Caterpillar – 8 days

They’ve been chowing down on spare garden greenery; unlike Monarchs, they eat what’s set before them.

One has dark “fur”:

Mystery Caterpillar - black morph

Mystery Caterpillar – black morph

The second is lighter:

Mystery Caterpillar - brown morph

Mystery Caterpillar – brown morph

A third caterpillar escaped the trash can apocalypse and also resides in the aquarium, albeit stunted by its ordeal:

Mystery Caterpillar - pale morph

Mystery Caterpillar – pale morph

They’re too bristly to be Wooly Bears. I’m sure they’ll turn into nondescript brown moths.


Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillars By The Handful

Monarch butterfly eggs occur in onesie-twosies on each milkweed plant, but Tussock Moths carpet-bomb the leaves with eggs that hatch pretty much all at once:

Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillars - detail

Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillars – detail

With a population density like that, the plant doesn’t stand a chance:

Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillars

Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillars

A few hours later, they were gone and so were the leaves! Presumably, they’re traveling across the ground to the adjacent milkweed plants; one or two may find our patio.

Despite all the egg-laying we saw, we haven’t seen any Monarch caterpillars out there.


Monthly Image: Cross-striped Cabbageworm

In the normal course of events, this critter would become an undistinguished brown moth:

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Right now, it’s a two-day-old cross-striped cabbageworm. Its kin are voracious consumers of Brassicacae out in the garden and Mary’s raising it as a show-n-tell exhibit for her Master Gardener compadres; she advised it to not start any long novels.

Taken hand-held with the Pixel XL through a clip-on 10x macro lens.

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Monarch Caterpillar Windshield

The Monarch Butterfly egg produced a teeny caterpillar:

Monarch caterpillar - 3 mm - 2017-08-02

Monarch caterpillar – 3 mm – 2017-08-02

Each time it molts, it eats all of its skin except for the transparent cap over the first body segment:

Monarch Windshield - 2017-08-09

Monarch Windshield – 2017-08-09

If the rest of the caterpillar were behind the windshield, it’d be feet-upward with its “face” at the top.

The picture comes from a focus-stacked set of microscope images captured with VLC; I turned the positioner’s elevation knob the smallest possible amount between each of 16 images along the 1 mm (-ish) height of the capsule. This magic incantation applies more weight to high-contrast and high-entropy regions:

align_image_stack -C -a monarch vlcsnap-2017-08-09-18h4*
enfuse --contrast-weight=0.8 --entropy-weight=0.8 -o Monarch_Windshield.jpg monarch00*
# empty line to reveal underscores in previous line

That came out pretty well.



The main cicada season has only begun, so these two may have emerged slightly too early:



They’re “ordinary” cicadas, not periodical cicadas, which certainly matters more to them than us.

They’re completely harmless, but definitely don’t look it:

Cicada 1 - ventral

Cicada 1 – ventral

Their topside armor would look great on a robot:

Cicada 2 - dorsal

Cicada 2 – dorsal

Found ’em dead on the driveway, alas.