Wednesday, June 25, 2014

woolly bears & such

And speaking of woolly worms, when last we met, there's a large group of moth caterpillars collectively known as woolly worms or, as I prefer, woolly bears, that grow up to be rather spectacular moths; some even make long-range weather predictions.

Gretchen Kirkland sent me this photo of a giant—for obvious reasons—leopard moth (Hypercompe scribonia), found in her backyard. This striking creature had spent its wayward days of youth trundling about as a woolly bear caterpillar. 

Wiki media
This falls under the category of the weird wonderfulness of life: little creatures that amble about unnoticed with spikes, waxy filaments and/or bristles, a.k.a. setae, because it is to their evolutionary advantage to do so. It seems to me that wearing a coat of bristles that look like a black bottle brush would be cumbersome. But the protection that it affords gives it the opportunity to metamorphose into the above giant leopard moth in a coat that Cruella de Vil would kill for. 

Getting from point A to point B—caterpillar to moth—is nothing less than miraculous, when somewhere in between it breaks down its corporeal form into a Lepidopteran goo and rearranges itself, yet it happens everyday en plein air.

As a caterpillar they eat dandelions, broadleaf plantains and violets, as an adult there's no need for such.  

Thank you, Gretchen.   

1 comment:

Marie said...

Pretty cool. There was something like this in TX that would fall out of the trees and sting your neck if they fell on you. I wonder if most bristly caterpillars sting like that.