Monday, August 17, 2009

Camouflaged Looper

The deformity on the disk of this coneflower is not really a part of the flower. It’s a Camouflaged Looper, the larvae of a moth called the Wavy-lined Emerald, Synchlora aerata. The moth is common in our area so the larvae could be found just about anywhere.

The Camouflaged Looper takes bits of the plant it feeds on and attaches them to its body. Composite flowers such as this, often have odd growths in the disk and most people tend to ignore them. I’m sure predators that hunt on flowers also pay little attention to unusual lumps of plant material. This provides an enhanced level of safety to the little larva.

The larva usually has its head buried in the flower upon which it feeds. This larva was disturbed by my picture taking and lifted its head. The head is on the right side.

A substantial path has been grazed through the center of this flower. Small ants follow the loopers and feed on sap flowing from the plant. The abdomen of the ant in the foreground is full of sap.

Here’s the tail end of the larva on the left. If you see something odd about the center disk of a composite flower, take a close look to see if it might be one of these interesting creatures. There were several larvae in this small patch of coneflowers.

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