Spiny-backed Spider and More

Top Photo: Spiny-backed orb weaver (Gasteracantha cancriformis)

Only about 1/2” wide, spiny-backed orb weavers are distinctive for their shape and pattern.

The individual pictured is mostly white with black markings and red spikes. But, they may also be yellow or red with shades in between. The spines may be black.

Variable in color.

Some suggest the spines may deter predators such as birds or even subterranean-nesting, spider-seeking, solitary wasps. I doubt birds would be put off by the spikes. I must admit, though, it could be difficult for a wasp to drag a pointy, spiky object through an underground tunnel, the spikes getting hung up on every pebble, root, or bend along the way.

The first clue to spotting the camo looper in the photos below was the frass on the black-eyed Susan petals. Frass is caterpillar poop and wherever there are caterpillars, there’s frass.

Tell-tale frass on flower petals.

Camouflaged loopers (Synchlora aerata) are small caterpillars, the larvae of wavy-lined emerald moths in the geometrid family, which includes the so-called inch worms. These small loopers cover themselves with plant matter, petals, foliage, and disk material in order to camouflage themselves.

Covered with plant material as disguise.

Camouflaged loopers are attracted to various food plants but I most often find them on composites, most frequently on black-eyed Susan.

Close of camo looper on black-eyed Susan disk.

Frass also led me to a group of green-striped maple worms feeding on red maple above the boardwalk which descends into the wetlands. The frass was on the walking surface of the boardwalk.

Green-striped maple worms on maple leaf.

Each caterpillar eventually turns into a lovely pink and yellow moth called a rosy maple moth. But in the mean time, it spends its larval days devouring maple and sometimes oak leaves.

Note red mark on posterior segments of abdomen

Buttonbush grows alongside the boardwalk, in the wetlands. It’s ball-like white flowers attracts many nectar seeking insects. I was lucky enough to be there when a hummingbird moth sought nectar from the flowers of the water-loving shrub.

Hummingbird moth nectaring on buttonbush.

There are two species of diurnal moth in our area which may be mistaken for one another, the snowberry clearwing and the hummingbird moth. The behavior of the two moths is similar, if not identical (they even share host plants). It’s the red and green coloration that makes this moth the hummingbird moth.

Green, red, and white hummingbird moth.
Black and yellow/green snowberry clearwing.

Hibiscus is in bloom in the wetlands.

White hibiscus.
Pink hibiscus.
Red hibiscus.

Check the frog pipes at Troodon on Dino Trail, Water’s Edge in Explore the Wild, and Earth Moves in Catch the Wind.

Green treefrog peaking out of frog pipe in Earth Moves.

And to sing us out of here…

Locally breeding common yellowthroat.

Get outside and have a look around!


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