The highly variable colors and patterns of the skiff moth are hypothesized to mimic senescent/necrotic lesions on leaf surfaces. They often have paired white spots that are thought to mimic the eggs of the tachinid fly, a parasite that enters the caterpillar after hatching. These “egg mimics” are hypothesized to work by dissuading flies that may attempt to avoid depositing eggs on victims that were previously parasitized.
These guys remind me of the tornado chasing vehicles that were on those TV shows about a decade ago.
This one was photographed on my wife, Sarah’s finger at Shaw Nature Reserve.
Finally, I was able to photograph the adult during National Moth Night this summer.
In my anecdotal experience of hunting for slug caterpillars over a six to eight week period this summer, the Nason’s slug (Natada nasoni – Hodges #4679) was by far the most abundant that I came across. This was particularly true in the drier, oak/hickory/pine hillsides of Hickory Canyon N.A. in Sainte Genevieve County.
This species is able to retract its spines, elongating them to their fullest with any notion of danger. These guys have pretty substantial spines and because the cats were so abundant, I found I was accidentally stung a few times while lifting vegetation. This was not a pleasant experience.
I really enjoy the colors and patterns this species displays.
The image below was one that I had previsualized and worked a good bit on to get it right. I used my plamp to hold the leaf and attached the plamp to a dead limb to position the leaf high enough to get the leaf and caterpillar back lit by the sun. I then used just a bit of flash to illuminate the ‘face’ of the caterpillar and the underside of the leaf. In cases where I removed the leaf to get a photo, I always placed the leaf securely back on the same plant.
Arguably the most stunning of Missouri’s slug moth caterpillars, the Stinging Rose Caterpillar can most often be found on oak and hickory saplings. However, a number of other woody species (including those in the rose family) will also be used as host plants.
This is one of the species I voluntarily allowed to sting me – it wasn’t that bad, perhaps a mild ‘stinging-nettle’ type of experience that was gone in 30 minutes or so.
The image below shows a little of the variety of color and patterns that can be found in this species, this one showing more of a yellow/orange background. Some animals can be found that are completely yellow.
Way back in April, Steve and I grabbed the canoe and took another adventure into Mingo. We believe we were a bit too early in a long spring to catch a lot of wildlife activity, but we did catch a few sites worth remembering. For instance, this single Coot allowed us to get pretty close as we were just getting inside Monopoly Marsh.
Along with water-loving avifauna, certain reptiles can usually be a sure thing to find at Mingo. I heard the expected usual whimpering from the back of the canoe as I attempted to get a steady shot of this Cottonmouth that was trying to absorb some sun on this cool April morning. 😉
One of the more destructive and unfortunate of invasive species to be found in Missouri, the Feral Hog has a strong foothold at Mingo. Polluting water, destroying vegetation, negatively altering natural communities and competing with native wildlife for acorns and other food sources are the major examples of the damages caused by this invasive. The Missouri Department of Conservation has recently announced new policy that should make significant improvements in reducing the numbers of Feral Hogs in the Missouri Ozarks.
Finally, we have one of the expected and desired of Mingo’s mammals – the Virginia Opossum. This nicely colored possum didn’t mind that Steve and I watch as it had a mid-day snack.