Monday, July 23, 2012

The curse of the mummy

This weekend, to explore a bit further afield, I visited a public garden.  While the other visitors were admiring the densely packed flower beds and jotting down the names of plants, I was inspecting the undersides of leaves.  Leaves might not seem to have much to offer when compared to the brilliant colors of flowers and the fast-paced action of the insects that visit them.  However, the plainness of leaves disguises a world of quiet intrigue.

Often, the view from above provides a sign of the action underneath.  Chewed leaf edges are a clue that there may still be a hungry caterpillar below.

A furry caterpillar munches on a leaf.
Meanwhile, folded leaves can shelter a nest.

A female Misumena vatia guards her nest.
Even the leaves that look normal from above may hide a surprising secret.  As the people around me were busy identifying new plants to add to their own gardens, I discovered a mummy. 
A mummified caterpillar.
This caterpillar had been mummified by a parasite (likely a wasp).  The developing parasite would have fed on the caterpillar from inside before breaking out of the mummy through the hole that is visible at the top.

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