Walking Small, Part 2

Look slowly and hard at something subtle and small.

~Philip Pearlstein

Some more finds while wandering in the heat in our yard jungle. The first one was a challenge. I noticed missing leaves at the tip of a Virginia Creeper vine (Parthenocissus quinquefolia). Only the curved stems of the leaves remained. I looked closely, and gently pulled the vine up from the sapling it was climbing for a closer look. At first, nothing. Then, something I touched moved. I stared at it and realized it was not a leaf petiole…it was a caterpillar.

geometer moth larva

Tentative identification is the caterpillar of the Lesser Grapevine Looper moth, Eulithis diversilineata (click photo to enlarge)

geometer moth larva close up

A close up helps to find the well-camouflaged caterpillar

These petiole-mimic larvae often rest underneath a leaf (of wild grape or Virginia Creeper) in a curved position where they really do like like a leaf petiole!

Lacewing larva

Lacewing larva with fuzz from flatid planthopper nymphs (probable prey items) stuck to its back

I always stop to look at the fuzzy little blobs that crawl along the trees in the yard. They are usually the larvae of lacewings, armed with sickle-shaped jaws that pierce aphids and planthopper nymphs. These tiny predators then place the discarded remains on spines on the back to complete their wolf-in-sheeps-clothing disguise.

Large Milkweed Bug

A Large Milkweed Bug, Oncopeltus fasciatus, probing a milkweed seed pod

The milkweed patch continues to provide some nice finds. I spotted a Large Milkweed Bug in the typical dress of orange and black for a critter that is distasteful to potential predators due its toxic diet of milkweed. These are primarily seed feeders, piercing through a seed pod into developing milkweed seeds with their sharp proboscis. They then inject digestive enzymes which dissolve the nutrients within the seed, allowing the bug to suck it up through that long beak. One interesting tidbit about these bugs is that they undergo migrations every year with overwintering southern populations migrating northward in spring to colonize milkweed patches as far north as Canada. As day length shortens with accompanying cooler temperatures, they migrate back to warmer climes.

As always, any slow stroll around the yard leads to a variety of tiny discoveries that are part of the complex matrix that helps a system function. Here are a few more of the pieces that make the machine that is our yard’s machinery work. Be sure to get outside and check your yard’s or neighborhood’s engine and see what makes it click. If you have a variety of native plants, you’ll be amazed at all the parts.

Banded Longhorn Beetle, Typocerus velutinus

Banded Longhorn Beetle, Typocerus velutinus

Handsome trig nymph

Nymph of a Handsome Trig, Phyllopalpus pulchellus (missing one leg)

Preying mantis nymph

Nymph of a Praying Mantis

Scudder's bush katydid nymph on black-eyed Susan

Another colorful nymph of a Scudder’s Bush Katydid, Scudderia sp.

Leaf-footed bug nymph with parasitoid egg on  it

A more ominous-looking nymph of a Leaf-footed Bug, Acanthocephala sp. (notice the lwhite blob, a ikely parasitoid egg, on its thorax)

Wheelbug nymoh

A definitely ominous-looking nymph of an Assassin Bug (aka Wheel Bug), Arilus cristatus

Colonus (puerperus)? jumping spider

Dorsal view of a tiny jumper – most likely Colonus puerperus

Colonus (puerperus)? jumping spider side view

Nice eyes

hummingbird at bee balm

I cheated a little on this one – a Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) feeding on Bee Balm (Monarda didyma), shot through the glass in our sun room window

9 thoughts on “Walking Small, Part 2

      • Thank you! We have a huge butterfly garden at our local park (a former baseball field adjacent to an old mill) and they plant many “Beautyberries.” I love photographing the flowers and the all the visitors, too. I’ve done several posts on “critters” and continue to snap shots of anything I can.

        Do you know what this is (apologies if I wear you out with questions):

  1. Thank you so much for these enjoyable and informative posts! From the pithy quotes at the top to the gorgeous photos to your comments and observations, it’s all good. I’ve loved moth week and vicariously appreciated the rainy backpack trip. Now I’ve realized how rewarding it is to enlarge the photos, especially the ones of tiny critters. Though my urban Florida yard is not as well populated with wildlife as yours, I’m thinking about what type of magnification I can take outside and explore. Undoubtedly there is more there than meets the eye!

    • Thanks for the kind words, Merrilee. I agree, there is so much to see (especially the small wonders) if you take the time to explore and look closely. There are so many ways to get lose to nature (even just moving closer and looking with the naked eye help), but I like to use close-focus binoculars ($$$) and hand lenses. One of my favorites is a jeweler’s loupe (with lanyard) from The Private Eye. Many smart phones also have excellent macro lens cameras.

  2. No problem. I have ever seen that caterpillar, but, using the SEEK app (and confirming with other online resources), it looks like a Ruddy Dagger Moth caterpillar. Very cool looking larva. Where was this pic taken?

    • My backyard. It was walking all over my Adirondack chair underneath the Hackberry tree. I assume it came from the tree. I’m in Hillsborough if I haven’t already expressed that. And, thank you, again.

      Sorry for the delay in responding. I didn’t see this message in my Reader panel.

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