You never know what you might discover by looking at a plant. For example, while I was waiting for someone I looked at a shrub in front of a store. I saw signs of caterpillars, so I looked closer.
This leaf was rolled up. It looked suspicious. I decided to take a look inside.
There was a small green caterpillar.
It turns out it wasn't the small green caterpillar I was expecting. The one I was expecting has a black head capsule. This one has a light-colored head capsule.
That warrants keeping an eye on it to see what it turns into. I put some leaves into a container with some moist paper towel.
Within a few days the caterpillar more than doubled in size. Its exoskeleton is so clear, you can see what it has been eating.
Let's look closer.
Can you see the white lines that look like tree branches? Those are the tubes that carry air (oxygen) into the caterpillar's body.
The tubes are called trachea and they originate at the round openings in the caterpillar's sides called spiracles. We usually can't see the trachea because the exoskeletons of most insects contain pigments that block our view.
This see-through caterpillar probably turns into a pyralid moth. With some luck, we'll find out what kind in the next few weeks.
We have some new insects on the elephant food plant in the back yard.
They are oval and covered with white wax. Do you know what they are?
These rover ants know what the white insects are: a source of honeydew. The ants will defend the white insects and move them around to better sources of food.
The white insects are mealybugs. The two under the ant have just molted, shedding their waxy coats. Can you see the shed exoskeletons towards the lower end of the pile (they are open at the back)? Seems likely the mealybugs are most vulnerable right after molting.
Have you ever watched ants tending mealybugs?
We have a lot of white threads around this week.
The threads are a type of silk.
Here's another patch of silk.
One patch of silk was made by the creature in the photograph above.
The other patch of silk was made by these creatures.
Can you tell which is which?
Why do you think the animals make silk? Do they both make it for the same reason(s)?