What You Could See…

Pictures often say so much more than words can. That’s why I’ve put together the following two dozen images of both plant and plant users (Lepidoptera and one Araneae) that you can find right here at the Museum. You may have to look a little closer than you may be accustomed to, but they’re here.

Let’s start with the Araneae. The wolf spider below has captured something, and though it’s difficult to tell exactly what that something is, it looks to be green and may have been a meadow katydid.

Wolf spider with prey.

Now is a good time of year to see black swallowtail caterpillars. If you have parsley, dill, or fennel growing in your garden or on your back porch, you probably have these colorful caterpillars on your plants. The ones pictured here (below) were in the herb/vegetable garden next to Sprout Cafe at the Museum.

Black swallowtail caterpillar ready to pupate.

The caterpillar in the background is younger than the foreground larva. It will look like it’s sibling after its next molt.

One molt to go before this caterpillar looks like its sibling in foreground.

Swallowtail caterpillars have a defense system made up of both a visual and chemical deterrent to predation. It’s an organ which under normal circumstances is below the surface of the skin in the thoracic region (behind the head) of the caterpillar. When the caterpillar is disturbed, the osmeterium pops out, which may or may not startle birds or lizards who would eat the caterpillar (or startle a naturalist poking the caterpillar with his/her finger). More importantly, the osmeterium emits a chemical odor that repels ants, spiders, and other insect predators.

Osmeterium after caterpillar was disturbed (I gently poked at it with my finger).

Nearby, in the flower garden in front of the Butterfly House, the many blooming flowers are a constant source of nectar for a variety of moths and butterflies.

Snowberry clearwing (a moth) moves in to sip nectar in the Butterfly House Garden.
Another shot of the diurnal moth, snowberry clearwing. Note how they hover while sipping nectar.
A fiery skipper (butterfly) rests between sips of nectar.
A clouded skipper.

Clouded skippers are named for the frosted, or clouded, edges of their wings. The clouding is also present in the center of the hind wing. The clouding is very faint in this photo (above) and looks almost lilac in color, but its there.

Another angle of a clouded skipper (no frosting or clouding on the upper surface of the wings).

Broken hearts have been seen on the Dinosaur Trail. Strawberry bush’s (Euonymus americanus) fruit are splitting open. The plant is also known as bursting-heart or hearts-a-bursting. If you’re in the area, the plant is located about 14 paces beyond the Albertosaurus on the Dino Trail.

A broken heart.
A final shot of strawberry bush.

A few posts back, I mentioned the sighting of cloudless sulphur caterpillars on a partridge pea patch in Catch the Wind. The eggs laid by the butterflies I’d seen over the past several weeks have hatched and are rapidly growing. They will soon pupate and become butterflies.

Partridge pea.
A pea pod.
Cloudless sulphur butterfly laying eggs on partridge pea.
Early instar of cloudless sulphur.
Slightly larger individual on pea flower.
Nearly full grow larva.
This one is ready to pupate.
An index finger for size comparison.

All of the plants and animals pictured here are common. Even the strawberry bush, which during most of the year may blend into the forest background and be easily overlooked. If you want to see any of these butterflies, moths, caterpillars or plants, you can, you just have to look. If you happen to be here at the Museum, find me and I’ll point them out to you!

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