Tag Archives: moth

Banded tussock moth

Banded tussock moth (Halysidota tessellaris) caterpillar with stemmata peeking out from behind the anterior tufts. The second photograph shows the barbed setae, which will eventually be detached and rewoven into the cocoon.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Banded tussock moth (Halysidota tessellaris) caterpillar

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Barbed setae of the banded tussock moth (Halysidota tessellaris) caterpillar

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Checkered-fringe prominent

Found two of these caterpillars on blackberry last week. I really should have brought them back home to see if they would eat morning glory leaves. Apparently they hate morning glory despite being named Schizura ipomoea (and thus traditionally called a morning glory prominent). Also sometimes referred to as the false unicorn prominent. You can distinguish the checkered-fringe from the unicorn prominent (Schizura unicornis) on the basis of head striping (among other differences). But don’t handle them during the identification process: they spray mixture of formic and acetic acid from that dorsal horn on abdominal segment one, and that will hurt and make your skin blister.

According to one study, these caterpillars coat the tissues of freshly-girdled tree stems with fluid. The authors guess that the fluid contains something that blocks the de novo production of chemical defenses in the leaves. This “chew and spit” behavior seems to be common in the family (Notodontidae). More details and papers on the behavior at David Dussourd’s website.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Checkered-fringe prominent (Schizura ipomoeae)

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Checkered-fringe prominent (Schizura ipomoeae)

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Variable oakleaf caterpillar

This is a newly-molted variable oakleaf caterpillar (Lochmaeus manteo), with old head capsule still attached. I initially thought the capsule was the head and that the thorax had eyespots, but John and Jane Balaban on Bugguide.net pointed out the obvious to me.

This species sprays formic acid, apparently.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Lochmaeus caterpillar

Close-up of Lochmaeus caterpillar

FYI, Al Denelsbeck posted an almost identical image here, complete with close-up of the eyes.

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Grape leaf miner identification

There are two species of moth that commonly mine grape leaves (Vitis spp.) where I live (Pennsylvania), and I think I’ve figured out how to distinguish them. I’m sharing here just in case somebody might be in need of tips.

The one I most commonly see is the grape leaf miner, Phyllocnistis vitifoliella. It has a very prominent, dark frass line in the center of its mine path, and the epidermis is visibly pushed up by the larva. Further images of the mine (and of the adult) can be found on the relevant BugGuide.net page.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Grape leaf miner (Phyllocnistis vitifoliella)

Less commonly found, at least in my immediate area, is the American grape leaf miner, Phyllocnistis vitegenella. Unlike the previous species, there’s no visible frass line (the frass is dark and diffusely deposited, I gather), and the path looks more like the glossy residue left by a slug. A further difference is that late-instar P. vitegenella induce leaf margins to curl slightly prior to pupation. You can see that curling on the upper right part of the leaf in the photograph. BugGuide.net has more mine photographs. Photographs of the adults are here (auf Deutsch).

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; American grape leaf miner (Phyllocnistis vitegenella)

There are reports of a third species in Pennsylvania (and Kentucky), Antispila viticordifoliella, but I haven’t encountered it. So here’s a link to it’s Wikipedia page, with image from that page. Apparently the frass is collected in irregular lines or big clumps. There’s also A. oinophylla, but apparently it hasn’t been found in Pennsylvania (yet?).
Antispila viticordifoliella image from Wikipedia

If I’ve made any errors in the above, let me know.

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Planthopper parasite moth larvae

Here are some photographs of Fulgoraecia exigua, a moth that parasitizes planthoppers during its larval phase. There were dozens of these caterpillars at this location, many of them hanging by silk threads. They look like miniature sheep (a parasite in sheep’s clothing, I guess), and are rather cute, I think. But not for planthoppers, as you can probably guess. When the larvae hatch (earlier in the season) they crawl around and seek out planthoppers to latch onto, then suck their juices and eventually displace their hosts’ wings as the weeks go by. I.e., the planthoppers go about their lives with a caterpillar attached to their abdomens. When it’s done feeding the caterpillar lowers itself to the ground on a silk thread and pupates. I’m going to go back to the spot see if I can get photographs of the pupal form, which looks like a miniature version of the Sidney Opera House, built from the waxy fluff that protected them.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Planthopper parasite moth (Fulgoraecia exigua)

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Planthopper parasite moth (Fulgoraecia exigua)

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Planthopper parasite moth (Fulgoraecia exigua)

Photographed on the Goshen Running Path, Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. Many thanks to Drs Roger Latham and Doug Tallamy for identification help.

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