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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Prodigy

 
Loretta, Ramona and I took a fun walk at Nordhouse Dunes today and saw some awesome plants, but I think I'll have to save that, so I can continue the caterpillar tale.

First thing this morning, I went out to check the milkweed plant. Here's what I found. The bare stalk sticking out to the left is the leaf they were on yesterday! The are mostly on the upper right leaf.

milkweed tussock moth caterpillars

When I turned it over... wow! One- only one- caterpillar has gone to instar 4, and now looks like a tiny version of the final instar, at about a half inch in length. See his orange markings with the black tufts?

milkweed tussock moth caterpillars

If you had asked me before watching this how long each instar phase lasts I would have guessed a week. Each one has been about one day! I went back out at 1 pm to check again. They were moving to the only large upper leaf remaining.

milkweed tussock moth caterpillars

And where's the child prodigy? He appears to be out there exploring new territory with more boldness than his siblings.

milkweed tussock moth caterpillars

When I checked before dark, they were all on that upper leaf, but there was still only the one instar 4. I wonder if they will figure out to go down the stalk when they run out of leaves.

See Hungry, Hungry Caterpillars
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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Hungry, Hungry Caterpillars

 
This morning when I checked on the caterpillars a lot of the leaf was gone, but where were the worms?

milkweed tussock moth caterpillar

Oh, there they are! And they are almost twice as long as yesterday, about a centimeter long, so probably third instar now. They really grow fast!

milkweed tussock moth caterpillar

And definitely looking like the tussock moth type caterpillars with those tufts of hair. In most cases, those can be irritating to the skin, so I didn't encourage any of them to crawl on my hands.

milkweed tussock moth caterpillar

When I got home tonight I thought I'd check on them. Wow! They didn't read the memo about how they don't usually eat the veins (to avoid the bitter sap).

milkweed tussock moth caterpillar

There isn't going to be enough room for them tomorrow. There are more leaves farther down the stalk, but they don't seem to have any sense of knowing that. The few you see on the main stem are the ones that have ventured the farthest. Will they all just fall off? Apparently no bird found the free lunch here, either.

So many cool things happened today, I hardly know what to share, but I had to continue the caterpillar saga.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Little Furry Baby Surprise

 
This morning I turned over a milkweed leaf that had been chewed, just to check for any Monarch caterpillars. This is what I saw.

milkweed tussock moth instars

Wow! Lots of baby caterpillars. Caterpillars grow through stages called instars, where they shed their skin each time they grow. Most everyone is familiar with the pretty Monarch caterpillars. (Not the orange milkweed bugs in the lower right.)

Monarch Butterfly caterpillar

But are these very small Monarch instars? Maybe the first one, I thought. I found some pictures on line, and the first instar (the one that has just emerged from an egg) isn't striped. But it's also not furry. The subsequent instars all show the stripes clearly. So these aren't Monarchs.

Take a closer look.

milkweed tussock moth instars

You can see a couple of the tiny caterpillars that are almost smooth. The others look like tiny tussock moths. I got that far without help. Then I went to BugGuide.net for help. The man who identified it for me pointed out that the smoother caterpillars are probably first instar and the furrier ones are probably second. He also noted pieces of cast-off exuviae. Hey! I learned a new word too.

He quickly provided an answer, and then I felt a little silly, because I should have been able to figure this one out. I know the final instar of these caterpillars. I've featured it here before, in 2013.

tiger tussock moth

It's the Milkweed Tiger Tussock Moth!

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Rambling Along the Pere Marquette

 
Loretta is staying with us for a few days before she heads for a month in Brazil and then goes back to Alabama. So, today we all went for a little ramble along the Pere Marquette River, starting at the Maple Leaf Access.

Let me just say that I'm not calling it a walk, because it was a little rougher than I realized. I think the bank has eroded and made the trail less stable than when I was last there. It's not an official trail, just one made by anglers. This led to some challenging scrambles, but no one complained too much, except about the hefty mosquito population.

hikers by river

There were tons of wildflowers in bloom. Some I'd never gotten pictures of before. I do have other pictures of this, but it's such an awesome flower, I have to share it. This is Michigan Lily, Lilium michiganense, obviously enough!

Michigan Lily

This next picture isn't even a good picture, but it fulfills a longtime goal of mine. I finally got a picture of a kingfisher! Now I'll have to work at getting a better shot, but for now, I'm really happy to get even this. They are so nervous they stay out of range.

kingfisher

Nothing unusual about these Brown-eyed Susans, Rudbeckia hirta. Heck, a lot of you may have them in your gardens. But I like the way they look against the water.

brown-eyed susans

Finally, just a nice shot of a bend in the river. This is one of my favorite picture-taking spots. If you follow the link below, you can see it in April.

Pere Marquette River

There may be more flower pictures ahead this week unless something else grabs my attention! It's all about whatever brings me joy for the day.

See Spring Overload is Beginning
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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Flowering Spurge

 
I seem to be on a roll with plants. Here's one of the Euphorbia that grow wild and are native here. The family Euphorbiaceae has over 300 genera and 7500 plants in it. Most are tropical, and some are very strange. It's one of my favorite genera. I've showed you a lot of pictures of them taken at the Philadelphia Flower Show. See link at end.

I love the little bright white flowers! But just like the poinsettia (another Euphorbia), the colored part is a bract, not a petal. The actual flowers are tiny, in clusters at the center of the bracts. Compare the ant for size. Also, see the stamens sticking straight out of each flower?

flowering spurge

The plant grows in open, sandy areas, like along roads or railroad tracks. The white is so bright, and the growth form somewhat unique that I can usually spot it with drive-by botanizing.

flowering spurge

The leaves grow alternately up the stem, and then there is a whorl at the top and the flower stalks radiate out of that

flowering spurge

I was quite pleased to spot some today. Also, got to drive a nice back road! This is Astor Road. I'll have to drive it again in the fall to look for Asters. Har har.

Astor Road

See Euphorbia
See Cumberland Spurge
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