Sunday, October 8, 2017

When It's Not Poop

A friend recently gave me a Dictamnus plant out of her garden.  Right on top was a very interesting stowaway.

What looked like a giant bird dropping on a leaf was no dropping at all...

It is actually the caterpillar of a  Giant Swallowtail Butterfly - one we don't commonly see this far north!  It uses its disguise of bird poop to avoid getting eaten by predators.

Giant Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar
It's not the only one that masquerades as a turd for extra protection. Several different types of Swallowtail caterpillars look somewhat like bird droppings in their early phases.

Black Swallowtail caterpillar
Similarly, I don't think any predator would find the appearance of this Hover Fly larvae appetizing...

Hover Fly larvae - ugly in appearance, but very beneficial as it eats aphids
Along these lines, I noticed a new visitor to my veggie garden this year that I called the 'poop bug' until I finally looked up its true name.

It is really called the Clavate Tortoise Beetle.  I can see why it is called that, as the dark markings really do look kind of like a miniature tortoise - but I still think it looks even more like bird poop.

Clavate Tortoise Beetle (aka Poop Bug)
These beetles like plants in the nightshade family, including tomatoes, but thankfully don't usually do a lot of damage.

I think it's really awesome how nature uses camouflage to protect caterpillars and other critters from predators.  As interesting as it is, though, I think I'm ready to see some wildlife that doesn't look like poop.

Ah, much better!
Happy gardening (and critter watching)!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A Berry Strange Mystery

I've previously posted about my Winterberry Holly bushes that I have on either side of my front porch.  One of the reasons I love them is that they loose their leaves in fall, leaving their branches covered only in bright red berries.  It is a spectacular sight.

The display of berries lingers into winter, often past Christmas, until the local birds discover them and feast.

My bushes are usually completely loaded with berries.  This year was no exception - until a couple of weeks ago when my Holly branches started looking much barer than normal...

For some mysterious reason, many of the berries had gone missing!

I'm not quite sure where all of my berries could have gone.

Any ideas?

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