Friday, June 20, 2014

mystery woolly worm

Strangest thing in a very long time!

I have been running around in the woods for a very, very, very (yes, three verys) long time and I had never seen anything like what I encountered yesterday.

At first glance, it simply looked like a bird's down feather, recently molted and clinging to a branch. But on closer inspection, there were more than one. And, they appeared to be crawling. Nature fact #207: Feathers don't crawl. 

They also had a penchant of "circling up," front end to back end, locomotive to caboose.

I tried to pick one up and the feathery filaments came off in my fingers like the white residue of a powered donut. 

D--- odd-looking caterpillar, but butterfly or moth? I knew not which.

It took awhile to ferret out their identity, Karen Sue helped, and the world wide web. According to Featured Creature Carly what I had encountered were "Butternut Woollyworms (Eriocampa juglandis) which are the larvae of a species of sawfly." Larvae that like to eat butternut leaves, perhaps walnut.

So they weren't caterpillars! O-D-D.

But it gets odder. Carly continues, "Unfortunately, they don’t stay so sweet and cuddly looking. They will eventually crawl down into the soil and form a pupa where they will silently wait until they transform into their adult fly versions. The white strings are waxy filaments that deter predators from making a quick meal out of the larvae."

Sawflies—really more wasp than fly—are members of the order Hymenoptera with broad connections between the head and thorax and caterpillar-like larva. The females use their saw-like ovipositors to cut into plant stems to lay their eggs.

Did I say, ODD?

1 comment:

Marie said...

That is really interesting. They look like someone's threads tore off onto the branches as they ran through the woods. I'm sure it was weird seeing them crawl, and having the "strings" disintegrate in your hand! By the way, thanks for writing me! I plan to post about the Dusky Seaside Sparrow in a few days. I really appreciate you bringing that anniversary to my attention! It's good to be back with you!