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All dressed up to disappear
Insect shapes, colors, patterns, and textures are infinitely interesting. And the insect world is rampant with finely-tuned mimicry and astonishing camouflage. Over the past month or so I've seen a few insects that really wowed me with their disguises. In September, while on a caterpillar walk at Great Meadow in Concord we saw a Camouflaged Looper. (Thanks to our guide, Sam Jaffe, and to Cherrie Corey who organized the walk.) What is so amazing about this caterpillar of the Wavy-lined Emerald Moth, is that it's not born with the camouflage--it has to create it. In order to protect itself against predators, it attaches to its body parts of the particular flower or plant upon which it is feeding. The larva pictured here was found on goldenrod. Keep in mind, that the plant or flower parts must be fresh in order to maintain a successful ruse. Given the color of the petals on this one's back, I think it was in need of some fresh decor. Even so, it took our leader's expert eyes to find it. Go here to see a short video and to read a little more about this species: http://bugoftheweek.com/blog/2013/1/9/mystery-of-the-frass-revealed-camouflaged-looper-isynchlora-aeratai
The second impressive insect I saw recently was this grasshopper my husband spotted while we were on the beach in Pt. Reyes, CA. Can you find it?
I fell in love with this grasshopper's sandy costume and especially liked the detail around the "collar". I don't have an exact ID for this insect yet. But unlike the Camouflaged Looper, it appears to have been born with the gift of camouflage. I'll update this post when I find out more about it.
UPDATE: I have some information about this little grasshopper, Microtes occidentalis. I sent the photo in to bugguide.net for help. And received this expert reply:
"Looks like she is full of eggs, and like her wings are missing the tips off of their originally shortish length. Together, it means she probably would have a hard time flying (at least until her eggs are laid). She looks worn, and this late in the season is probably fairly old. As for the "collar" that is the "pronotum", which is the enlarged upper part of the front segment of the thorax. It forms something of a shield that helps to protect the bases of the wings and important muscles inside. Perhaps it is related to the muscles needed for powerful jumping hind legs too (I'm not sure). ... "
Keywords: caterpillars, grasshoppers, insects, lepidoptera, orthoptera
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