The Strange and Bizarre

How cool is this!?!  A woman brought this in this morning for ID, and when I saw what it was, well, I was just tickled pink!

This is one of those slug-like moth larvae that Dr. Doug Tallamy showed us in his slide show last month.  It is one of those native insects that is dependent on native plants for survival. 
The moth itself, which is a skiff moth (Prolimacodes badia), is a brown, furry-looking thing. And I mean FURRY!  Not only is the body covered with long hairs (I suppose technically they are called something else), but the wings, too, are quite fuzzy.

So, what can I tell you about this critter?  It’s coloration is such that when it is sitting on a leaf (either eating or digesting), it looks, to a bird, like it might just be another necrotic spot – a patch of diseased leaf.  A great way to avoid being eaten.

But wait!  There’s more!  See that white spot on the side?  There are two of these – one on each side.  These serve as ANOTHER bit of cryptic coloration, but this time the target is not a bird, but a parasitic fly (a tachinid)!  If you find one of these ‘pillars and it only has one white spot, then it has been parasitized.  Sometimes, apparently, you can removed these eggs with a pin, but usually it is too late and the ‘pillar is doomed to being eaten alive from the inside once the maggots hatch and move inside.

If I can get it to upload, below is a video I took of this guy oozing along in the jar – it gets better towards the end, so keep watching.  The really cool bits are how the slug-like foot moves, and then seeing the ‘pillar’s head emerge.

If it doesn’t upload (and it might not), you can go see it on my other blog here.

What else…it eats a variety of native plants:  blueberry, oak, willow, poplar, cherry, chestnut, maple…and more.  The trick for this fellow, however, will be trying to find out WHICH plants it was eating!  Most caterpillars only eat the plant on which they hatched.  So, even though books list them as eating a variety of foods, that list applies to the species, not the individual.

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About Dahlem Center

The Dahlem Center is a non-profit nature center/environmental education center located on almost 300 acres just south of the city of Jackson, Michigan. The Center is one arm of the Dahlem Conservancy, which includes land conservancy and stewardship in its mission.
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