Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fifteen Minute Caterpillar Hunt

People often question how I manage to find so many different things when I’m out walking. I reply that I just look. A nameless person suggested that I must have a bird’s perception to be able to look at a bush and see a caterpillar, or did they mean that I must have a bird’s brain. I’ll have to think about that. Anyway, as a demonstration of finding things just by looking, I walked back to an area of small shrubs and trees and gave myself fifteen minutes to find as many caterpillars as possible. This leaf tells me that caterpillars have been here.

A caterpillar skin. A shed skin suggests that there should be a larger and easier to spot caterpillar somewhere nearby.

Searching for one thing doesn’t mean you ignore everything else. I enjoy each new discovery as it comes along. The oak leaves are developing some wonderful galls. I’m not sure how large these pea sized growths will eventually become.

Here’s a neat insect. I’m guessing it to be some type of predatory bug. The front legs are much stouter than the rest and are held together in much the same manner as the front legs of a mantid. I can imagine those legs holding onto some small insect while the juices are sucked out.

The Bladdernuts have produced several fruits this year. The fruit looks like it could provide a lot of good eating, but inside is mostly air with a few small seeds.

This is a beautifully colored assassin bug. I don’t remember ever seeing a specimen with this yellow and black pattern. He wasn’t very tolerant of my presence and flew just after I took this shot.

The nuts are ripening on the Common Hazel. The leafy bracts turn the nut into a piece of art. That’s the end of my fifteen minutes. I tallied zero caterpillars, but that doesn’t matter. I found some really neat things while looking. Things that I never would have seen had I not gotten close enough to discover them. I often go searching for specific things, but I never let that objective keep me from enjoying all the other natural wonders that are out there to be found.


  1. My wife often rolls her eyes at my ability to spot birds, even from within a car doing 80 on the interstate, but I clearly have a long way to go. You are an inspiration.

    Can I ask a technical question? What camera set-up are you using for these wonderful images?

  2. Wonderful images. Yes, I agree the hazelnut picture is a work of art.

  3. Hi Steve...The gall on the Oak is a great photo since you say it is the size of a pea!! I have never seen one at that stage.
    You know when I was a kid ( well maybe I still am like you lol) Hazel nut tree and there fruit was so plentiful but I have not seen any in years !! In your spare time could your look into why the may have died off!! LOL : }
    The photo off it is real nice!!
    The birds brain thing ..I'm not going there!!!

  4. Clark – I use an Olympus SP-500 UZ camera for all of my photos. It has some manual options, but it’s basically a fully automatic point-and-shoot camera. I bought it about three years ago because I wanted something small and lightweight that I could carry in an unobtrusive belt holster whenever I went out. I’ve taken about 25,000 shots with it and am happy with the way it works.

    Thanks, Lois. Hazelnuts are certainly a treat for the eyes when they begin to take on their fall colors.

    Hi grammie g. I’ll keep an eye on that gall to see how big it gets. I’ll let you know if I discover what’s become of you Hazelnuts. Maybe they left with the butterflies.

  5. Great post, Steve. Your first insect is an immature stage of a bug in the genus Zelus. I did a couple of posts on them a few weeks ago. They are assassin bugs, so you are right on the mark about them being predatory. I had the first impression that you did that they are very mantid-like. Love that oak gall with all those lovely spines! What a beauty!

  6. Thanks, Wilma. When I posted the picture, I kept getting the impression that the bug was somehow familiar. Now I know where I saw it before. If my mind was a little more orderly, I would have made the association.