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.
Tag Archives: parasite
Below are three photographs of mistletoe seeds I took at La Selva Research Station in Costa Rica. Seeds were most likely deposited by birds perching on the signs, but I’m not sure whether the birds scraped off the seeds (which can be extremely sticky, due to presence of viscin threads) or simply pooped them. If the latter was the case, the bulk of the poop is long gone, but it rains enough in the tropics for that to happen. There are threads visible on the top photograph, so I’m going to guess that the seeds were attached to the birds somehow, and the birds scraped them off onto the sign.
By the way, mistletoe are parasitic plants … which is why it’s amusing (to me) that they were on a sign. Although they are clearly green and can photosynthesize, they’ll eventually need the water (and other xylem contents) from a host. Under those adhesive pads there is (or will soon be) a haustorium that will attempt to burrow into the substrate in hopes of finding host xylem. If I lived at the station I’d naturally record how long these beasties survived, but staff probably clean off the seedlings every few weeks just so it doesn’t look to nasty. Some species can apparently last a year as self-sufficient seedlings.