Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Strange Caterpillars, Butterfly Releases, and Jewel Beetles.

Hey guys!

Check out what I found on one of the trees today.
caterpillar and ant
Now, what looks like an ant kidnapping a caterpillar to its nest is actually a very strange, and unique form of symbiosis between two separate insect species. I cannot be sure but I believe this is the larvae of a lycaenid or "blue" butterfly, a lepidoptera species known for employing ANTS as their dutiful caretakers. With these particular caterpillars, it seems that the ants remove the caterpillars from their nests to feed on the leaves of plants on a daily basis. As the caterpillar chomps on its vegetation meal, the ants stand guard, ever watchful, ever vigilant. In fact, a simple wave of my hand was enough to send the soldiers into a frenzy, poised only on both their hind legs as they wave their menacing mandibles in the air. So in actual fact, one might even think of the ants and the caterpillars as a farmer, grazing his lifestock with the ants playing the role of the former and the caterpillar the role of the latter. In return the caterpillars secret a sweet liquid called honeydew which, the ants feed upon. Something else that's interesting and of note, I helped someone release his first butterfly today! 
Ray meets butterfly
It was Ray's first time, I think, being touched by a butterfly and he told me it was a magnificent moment when it crawled up his fingers and slowly spread its wings. In fact, it was so obedient I even had the time to snap a few pictures of the two of them before the butterfly flew away, but NOT (of course) before making a wish! Meanwhile, Ray had a bug to introduce me to as well! It seems last night was quite a scare! A large "bee" came hurtling out of nowhere and into his room. Poor thing got struck against the fan and found itself perched on the flourescent lights. It "dissappeared" though, the following morning but upon closer inspection it was in actual fact hiding underneath the bed. Also, it wasn't a bee at all but rather, a large and beautiful jewel beetle. From the scarab family, I surmised earlier though (after a little wikipediaing) I managed to identify it specifically as a fig-eater beetle which probably explains the "loud buzzing sound" Ray heard when it was flying. It is actually quite tame though, once you get used to it and it sits now, on my shelf eating old apple skins.
such a beauty isn't it? Although I quite dislike the loud sound she makes when she starts to fly!

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