Friday, January 16, 2015

The caterpillars eat their match, part two

When they eat the leaves of their host plants, the caterpillars of the orange-barred sulphur butterfly are green.  However, the one that I found was not eating the leaves, nor was it green.

An orange-barred sulphur (Phoebis philea) caterpillar on a Christmas cassia (Senna bicapsularis) flower.  The flower to the right had already been reduced to almost nothing, presumably by the same caterpillar.
Instead, the caterpillar was the same bright yellow as the flower on which it rested -- and which it would soon eat.  The only thing that prevented the caterpillar from blending in with the flower completely was its pattern of black stripes and spikes.

A few minutes later, the flower's style had already been consumed by the caterpillar.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The caterpillars eat their match, part one

Sulphur butterflies are large and tempting targets for my camera, yet they are surprisingly elusive.  Therefore, I was excited to discover one landing repeatedly on a row of Christmas cassia bushes -- and thrilled once I realized that the butterfly was depositing eggs on the plant.

An orange-barred sulphur butterfly (Phoebis philea) laying eggs on a Christmas cassia (Senna bicapsularis).
Even when laying eggs, the butterfly did not remain still for long, but at least it was long enough for me to get close and take a good look.  Then, after the butterfly had visited a few different spots on the bushes, it departed.

The sulphur flying off.  Some herbivore damage is visible on the leaves, but I didn't find any caterpillars feeding there.
Once the butterfly had moved on, I turned my attention to finding the eggs it had laid and any caterpillars that might have already hatched from previous clutches.  I found a couple of eggs on the tips of young leaves.

A recently laid sulphur butterfly egg.
However, the leaves were not where I found an orange-barred sulphur caterpillar feeding.  To be continued...

Monday, January 5, 2015

The host with the most, part two

The mining flies and galling mites inflicted peculiar injuries to the lantanas, but last year I saw plenty of ordinary herbivory of lantanas too.  Of course, after finding evidence of herbivory, I sought out the herbivores themselves.

A lantana leaf fastened in half by silk.
When the damage was fresh, I did not have to look far before finding the herbivore.  One type of caterpillar, the lantana leaftier moth, made pouches out of the lantana leaves by tying them with silk.  It then consumed the leaf down to a membrane while remaining concealed within the folded leaf (until I came along and pulled the leaf open).

A lantana leaftier moth (Salbia haemorrhoidalis) caterpillar eating the leaf from within.
Another, much larger caterpillar made an even more complete meal of the lantana leaves.  After it had finished with a leaf, there was often not much left besides the tough central vein.

A lantana after a visit from a very hungry caterpillar.
Looking for the first relatively intact leaf adjacent to the consumed leaves, it was easy to find the lantana moth caterpillars that were responsible for the devastation.

A lantana moth (Diastema tigris) caterpillar underneath a lantana leaf.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Remembering old acquaintances

To start off 2015, here is a look back at one of the highlights of 2014 -- the red foxes.  Most of the time, I encountered the foxes in the road or in the yard.  However, a couple of times, I found them down on the rocky beach (where they had been harassing the shorebirds).

Two red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) on the beach.
On this particular occasion, three of the foxes playfully roamed over the rocks.  I hope you enjoy watching the foxes and have a happy new year!

* To see this video in high definition (1080p), you may need to: 
(1) click "YouTube" to watch on the YouTube website
(2) change the settings at the bottom of the video screen