Wednesday, June 21, 2006

At the Moth Tree -6/20/06

American Idia [Idia americalis]

A Gypsy Moth caterpillar [Lymantria dispar]
Photos by M. Winn

The first Moth Night of the 2006 season was held last night. Participants:
David, Paula, Aidan and James Smith, Lee Stinchcomb, Noreen O'Rourke, Jimmy Lewis and myself.

The highpoint of the evening was the discovery, by Aidan Smith [age 5 or 6, I forgot to ask ] of an interesting caterpillar on the trunk of the English Oak we call the Moth Tree--at East Drive and 73rd St. I had high hopes that it would turn out to be an interesting , perhaps unusual moth. Looking through David L. Wagner's new Field Guide to Caterpillars of Eastern North America, I had no trouble identifying it. Somewhat disappointingly it turned out to be a common pest -- a Gypsy Moth caterpillar.

The text identified it perfectly:
"Five pairs of blue warts followed by six pairs of red warts." You can count them on the picture above.

Luckily for us, nobody of our group tried to handle this caterpillar because, as Wagner writes:

"The caterpillars are allergenic to many people, especially if the hairs get in the eyes or contact vulnerable areas of the arms, neck, and legs; hypersensitive individuals may react to single hairs and scales from adults."

The single moth of the evening, pictured at the top , was an American Idia, easily identified by its deltoid shape, and by the three black spots at the edge of each forewing.

P.S. Below you can see the anterior prolegs of the caterpillar, found on the underside of abdominal segments three to six. The thing that looks like a suction cup at the end of each proleg is a crochet. It helps the caterpillar hold on to surfaces.