Strange Goings On

The photos above and below are of glowworm beetles.

Glowworm beetle (head on right).

The light colored areas of the beetle glow in the dark.

They eat millipedes, which may explain why I’ve seen so many of these strange beetles. Millipedes are plentiful this year. So, whatever eats them should do well too. I’ve seen more glowworms this year than my previous nine seasons here at the museum.

The beetles pictured are either adult females or larvae. The females carry certain larval characteristics into adulthood (neotonous). Males are strange looking creatures themselves, having shortened wings, feathery moth-like antennae, and big eyes. But the females and larvae are the glow-in-the-dark wonders that you see here.

The photo below is a different species of glowworm beetle.

Glowworm hustling across path.

If you happen upon a creature like the one below, look, but don’t touch.

Southern flannel moth caterpillar.

Beneath the soft, and seemingly, carefully coifed hair-like setae, there are numerous spiky spines chock-full of poison, “yeow!” The one in the photo was crawling on one of our benches which are spaced out along the pathways through our outdoor exhibits. I moved the caterpillar after photographing it. I used a twig.

Next up is a fairly ordinary caterpillar which can apparently have a cone-shaped head in some phases of it’s youth. It’s a pine sphinx moth caterpillar.

Pine sphinx moth caterpillar.

I found a similar caterpillar about a year ago. I was at first unable to identify the larva until I discovered a look-a-like online. Here’s my photo from September of last year.

Unusual head.

Caterpillars of many species change their appearance during the four or five molts they go through before they pupate and eventually become moths or butterflies. The black swallowtail caterpillar looks like a bird dropping through its second or third molt. It’s not until its fourth instar (larval stage) that it begins to take on its green, white, black and orange look that most people are familiar with.

The caterpillar was identified by several people who should know, and until I hear differently I’ll have to conclude that the two photos of the white-striped green caterpillars are of the same species, pine sphinx (Lapara coniferarum).

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