Thursday, August 18, 2011

Enjoying the variety and the mystery. And tolerating the smell.

The late summer heat has the hemizonia patch at the arboretum in full bloom, or maybe just a bit beyond.  It's also in full stink.  This plant is nicknamed "tarweed" with good reason.  It has an unmistakable aroma that entices from afar, but becomes less pleasant once it gets on my hands and my clothes.  But I continue to venture into the smelliness to get a closer look at the bugs!
Eating the flowers
Just like last year, these plants are full of grasshoppers and caterpillars.  But this year, the caterpillars look different.  Some of them look like last year's, but some have different markings...

Caterpillar on hemizonia
Or maybe just fewer markings!


Grasshopper on hemizonia
Now with the grasshoppers, I know they are all gray birds, S. nitens.  I already know and love that the nymphs can be found in many color variations.  (see the Gray Bird Color Parade in my sidebar, or on Flickr) But what about these caterpillars?  Are they all just different variations of the same thing?   To be sure, there are caterpillar species that can vary in color and markings.  But I think the only way I would really know for sure about these would be to take each one home and rear it out.  And I just don't feel like messing with them right now.  I have reached my limit of bug containers around the house, and keeping up with their various food supplies.  So the true identity of some of these caterpillars may have to stay a mystery for now.
caterpillar on hemizonia

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