Our Ninebark Hosts a Limacodidae Convention
You just never know what you're going to find once you start looking.
Inspired by the appearance of the Spiny Oak Slug Moth caterpillar, I hoped to get photos of a cocoon, or some such. Or more photos of the original caterpillar.
What we found instead, was that the ninebark I thought was a pleasant shrub but had no specific wildlife value has been providing the salad for no fewer than three species
the slug moths. Weeeee!
Ninebark is a member of the rose family, which in some listings does show up as a host plant for
. Not that our shrubs were letting on that they were chow.
All of these guys are tiny and weird. At least by my previous definition of "caterpillar." But none is more irregular than
, the Skiff Moth. Why is this the weirdest of our new discoveries? He ain't got no legs!
Well, he does but he doesn't. When we first saw this guy we thought he was a chrysalis. But he is not. And if you are trying to keep an eye on him, you will find out shortly that he moves just fine, thank you very much. Be sure to check out the video under the Resources to watch him in action. Just wild. And there are others in the family (
family) that resemble this little fellow.
Which leads us to the solution of why the slug moths are called slug moths. I quote from Auburn's "Stinging Caterpillars," here:
"The head is hidden within the thorax; thoracic legs are reduced; and prolegs are modified to sucker-like lobes without crochets. Movement is slow, gliding, slug-like."
The other more, well, slightly more, "traditional" caterpillars like the Spiny Oak Slug moth get the benefit of the name because of modifications to their legs that are similar, but not as extensive, as those of the Skiff and its kin.
The next thing we spotted was a parasitized Saddleback Slug Moth caterpillar, which is similar to the Spiny Oak in its appendages.
cocoons are clearly evident--some have hatched out.
So on we went to another (of the three) ninebarks--ours are all the cultivar "Diablo"-- and found more Saddlebacks (
)! One teeny one about a pencil eraser long, and one more closely approaching half an inch.
And because I would love to get you images of the transition to moth-hood, both the Skiff and the Saddleback are in a bugbox with some tasty ninebark leaves. I'll keep you posted.
(Limacodidae family), Wikipedia (
(info on Diablo),