Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Monday, August 9, 2010

Dressed For Success~Moth Style

Sometimes, you have to get very close to see what a flower has to show you~
If you're very quick or being particularly observant, you might see a little creature who has taken up residence. Like the tiny crab spider who waits patiently for dinner. Or, perhaps you'll notice a flower that looks quite disheveled
and when looking closer you discover a well camouflaged caterpillar.

The macro shot shows so much clearer the clever disguise that this caterpillar of the Emerald Wavy Lined moth (Synchlora aerata) uses for protective coloration. Caterpillars are especially at risk because they can't fly away when danger approaches. Camouflage is an effective means to blend into their environment and escape being eaten by a bird or wasp.

The Emerald Wavy cleverly disguises its body with pieces of a composite flower like rudbeckia. It's able to add bits and pieces of petals to its spiny back with silk and seems to instinctively know when it's time to freshen the dress!


The Emerald Wavy Lined moth is quite common, but folks rarely notice these loper or inchworm caterpillars because their camouflage is so successful. They hide beautifully on the cone and gardener and bird don't seem to notice. I might have missed this wonderful opportunity to have a close encounter with this clever creature had I not been looking for a stand of fresh flowers to photograph. It was a hot, still day and the 'petal' of a tattered Susan was moving about. Looking closer I saw what looked like a mutated petal attached to the cone of a Susan and met my new garden friend.

There are plenty of Susans at Clay and Limestone, so I don't mind sharing a few with the Emerald Wavy. Before long it will attach itself to the stem or underside of the leaf and weave silk and petal parts creating a perfectly camouflaged cocoon. A short time later a small emerald moth will emerge....

Isn't nature grand~

Gail

If you want to see other creatures who share the garden with me go here~Southern Crimson Moth: Return Of The Stealth Chompers; Taking care Of Bzzness (native bees); The Boys Of Late Summer and This Post Is rated BG (both Black Swallowtail caterpillar)

35 comments:

  1. Beautiful photos, dear Gail and what an amazing creature you found! Something has been eating the petals on the susans here and the culprit has never been seen. I wonder if it is the same snappy dresser? :-)
    Frances

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  2. Thank you for letting us in on that little secret!

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  3. Yes Nature is GRAND. Great photos Gail. I am going to have to go out and look through my Rudis to see if there are any of these caterpillars there.

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  4. What a clever catter! I have never seen this (or did I not look close enough) Emerald moth instar. Survival is key and they must be creative with all the bird eyes seeking them out... spiders too! Nature is grand Gail ... so full of beauty and intelligence. Lovely post!

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  5. Gail,
    So informative! I've never heard of this moth cat, nor noticed it in the garden. Your susans are gorgeous!
    Freda

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  6. What a great camo outfit. It would make a good halloween costume. You could be the flower and M the caterpillar. :)

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  7. Most interesting! Super catch too.

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  8. Indeed nature is grand, Gail, as was this lovely Susan post.

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  9. Wow what beautiful photos. And thanks so much for that great information. I might have missed one myself. I love Macro. What a gift to see something thru the lens eye, that you didn't see with your own. Great post and gardens.

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  10. Thank you for exposing this caterpillar. Love it!

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  11. Looks like the Susans are in full glorious bloom now? I have a little patch blooming too (nothing like you have) but I've never noticed these caterpillars on it. I'll have to look closely. I've honed my skills at that thru all the detailed searching of the garden for those nasty Ambush bugs.

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  12. Hi Gail...such an interesting post. Fascinating how nature works. I love the caterpillars disguise, never seen anything like it before.

    Tku for sharing this with us.......

    BTW the susan's are beautiful.

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  13. Gail, that was so interesting. I'll be on the lookout for these caterpillars now. Once again, you've taught me something new. Thanks so much.~~Dee

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  14. A real master of disguise! Despite the voracious appetite, it seems that overall the damage is minimal. Your ocean of Susans look fabulous!

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  15. Great pics and I learned something. What could be better? Thanks

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  16. Brown Eyed Susans are a favorite of mine... now I'll be sure to watch for the little creatures. That caterpillar is amazing and yes, all of nature really is grand!
    A beautiful post.

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  17. He certainly has done a great job of camouflage--even with enlarging the photo, I'm still not sure I see him. I agree that nature is amazing; all these little creatures that have adapted to survive.

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  18. Gail, you have a fantastic eye! I still had to look hard, even after you'd pointed it out! What a great camouflage...clever little animal!

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  19. What an interesting little creature. I've never seen a caterpillar wearing parts of flowers. I will certainly start to look closer.
    Marnie

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  20. The natural ability to camouflage in nature is very neat. Sunday while in the church parking lot we saw a Pandora sphinx moth. Unfortunately for it it didn't blend in with the pavement but it's camouflage would have been perfect in the forests. It was so camouflaged that it looked like some sort of toy GI Joe!

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  21. That is one fabulous photo, Gail! That disheveled look would fool the birds, but it could also make a diligent deadheader head over with the shears!

    I wonder if higher survival rates for the caterpillar means the Wavy Lined Moth can get by with laying fewer eggs? There were hundreds & hundreds of tiny bordered patch caterpillars on the sunflowers at first, but they must have been too visible as they grew - birds, wasps and other predatory insects flocked to the sunflowers.
    Your patience & detective skill is admirable ;-]

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

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  22. Gail girl HELLLOOOO ! : )
    Wow .. I haven't looked that closely to see this amazing creature .. it might have cousins here in my garden too .. but it has been almost 2 weeks and counting since I have been able to get in my garden and the withdrawal pain is horrible ..
    BUT .. every time I look at my Susans I think of you and I am so glad to have some by my bench because that IS the place to be , isn't it ? LOL
    Joy
    PS your photography skills are amazing girl !

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  23. You would never even know it was there! You do have a lot to share.
    My daughter hates moths so she would be very upset if I were to bring these flowers inside and put in a vase and have a moth fall out into her cereal.

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  24. Gail - I had difficulty even seeing that little amazing caterpillar even on the macro shot - he really does blend into "the golden landscape" so well.

    Sometimes when I'm photographing flowers I don't even notice the little critters on the blooms until the picture is on the computer screen.

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  25. Hi Gail, Beautiful flowers and a very unique caterpillar indeed. Haven't seen any like it though I have many caterpillars and moths here.

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  26. Nature is indeed grand! What a remarkable caterpillar. The crab spider, not so fond of, only because I dislike spiders in the house and these guys sometimes hitch a ride in on clothing. I am a good girl, however, and put them back outside. Indoor spiders get stomped, however.

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  27. Your susan's look so lush and beautiful-enjoyed your pictures!

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  28. Oh what a marvelous find. It's so nice to find such interesting things in one's garden. I'm always looking to see what I can find.

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  29. Hi folks,

    It really is a fantastic little find~Makes me want to hang out there and look for a cocoon...Thank you all for visiting~I am tickled pink to introduce you the the Emerald Wavy! gail

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  30. You are so observant!! Great find!

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  31. You are very kind to plant enough to share, and I guess the caterpillar is kind enough to take no more than it needs.

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  32. I saw two of those on my zinnias and didn't know what they were! I'll have to go back out and look for them again. Thanks for sharing the info!

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  33. Clever disguise, indeed! I had to search, even on the close-up shots. Nature is always interesting. Thanks for sharing your terrific photos.

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Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners
who make our souls blossom.


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