Friday, June 22, 2012

Unexpected Tiger Moth Caterpillar Hunt

Last year, this patch of Butterflyweed at the back of my vegetable garden supported a large population of Unexpected Tiger Moth larvae, Cycnia inopinatus, which are an endangered species in Ohio.  According to the literature, the larvae should have pupated at the base of the plants and the late spring hatch of adult moths should have laid their eggs on this clump of plants.  I’ve been making casual observations of the flowers in hopes of finding more larvae, but have seen none.  I decided a more thorough search was in order.

Larvae begin their lives feeding on the blooms, so I began to search flower by flower.  The larvae coloration trends towards bright orange, so they can easily hide among the flower clusters.  Examination from the top revealed no larvae.

Examination from the side revealed no larvae.

Examination from below revealed no larvae.  There was no sign of feeding or of fras anywhere on the plant.  I have to conclude that there are no larvae there. 

I did find many other neat animals making their homes on or otherwise using the Butterflyweed.  This jumping spider wasn’t at all curious about me and did its best to escape my sight.

Soldier Beetles, Chauliognathus marginatus, were busy at the flowers.  I would guess they were after nectar.  Each had its head buried down in the flower and was not moving.  Apparently the black on the wing covers can be quite variable in this species.  All of those I found last week on the Indian Hemp had black patches that extended the full length of the wing cover.  These just have black tabs.

Bees were the most frequent visitors to the Butterflyweed.  The Honeybees moved slowly from flower to flower.  They must have been taking every drop of available nectar.  Since they are not a native species, but don’t cause any particular problems, Honeybees have no status in the Blue Jay Barrens management plan.

A couple of these small green bees left the flowers and took sweat from my hands as I moved foliage aside in my search for larvae.  I’ve found these same bees on about every flower species I’ve looked at during the past week.

This bee was the most active of the different species I observed.  Its head would just pass low over the flower as the bee crawled across the bunch.  This looks like the same species that I saw swarming back in March.  Oddly, I didn’t find any butterflies visiting the Butterflyweed.

I’ll keep watching for the Tiger Moth larvae.  The Butterflyweed is still producing new clusters of flower buds, so suitable larvae food will be available for quite some time.  Hopefully the plants will once again support a good population these unusual larvae.

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