Paper Wasp, Caterpillars, and Butterflies

Top Photo: Paper wasp investigates fall webworms’ protective “tent.”

Fall webworms (Hyphantria cunea) are already forming their protective webs in some of the trees here at the museum. The webs, or tents, are full of caterpillars who spend their lives inside the web, never venturing out to eat. The webs cover the area in which the caterpillars are feeding. The larvae only come out when its time to pupate in the leaf liter, the soil, or cracks and crevices in wood, siding, concrete, and other sheltered locations. They will emerge as adult moths the following spring.

Fall webworm, web, or tent.

The webworms build their ever expanding webs as they go, protecting their food source, as well as themselves. Wasps, other insects and birds find it difficult to get to the caterpillars inside the webs, some becoming entrapped.

Caterpillar within protective web.
Wasp dangerously deep within web.
Here, the wasp is more concerned with freedom than food.

The wasp finally made it out of the web. Lucky, this time.

In Catch the Wind’s Wander Away I found a well worn juniper hairstreak (Callophrys gryneus) on the still blooming joe pye weed. In fresh attire the butterfly shows green scales on its wings. The individual I came across had seen better days.

Worn juniper hairstreak nectaring on joe pye weed.
A “fresh” juniper hairstreak from a different time.

On the north side of Wander Away stands a row of hackberry trees. Hackberry trees host at least three local species of butterfly, American snout, hackberry emperor, and tawny emperor. Today, it was a tawny emperor’s caterpillar I happened upon. It was making its way across the path.

Caterpillar from above.

At first, I thought the caterpillar another species, a prominent of some kind. Prominents are a group of about 60 moth species, some larvae of which have two projections on their posterior end.

Head first, note facial markings.
The facial characteristics are key.
Adult tawny emperor.

I’ve seen all three species of butterfly at this location, tawny emperor (Asterocampa clyton) was today’s offering. Even so, you have to be there to see any one of them. Get outside and have a look around!

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