Upon my Pond Apple tree
, camouflaged against a branch, I found a
cute black caterpillar with red spots and white stripes.
search of the rest of the tree revealed quite a few more of the
little gonodonta nutrix, or citrus fruit-piercer moth caterpillars. Each of the instars I
found had a slightly different appearance.
This caterpillar on my fingertip was the smallest caterpillar, or earliest instar, that I could get a decent photograph
of. When they move, or when you startle them, they curl up the front
of their body like this tiny one on my fingertip. They crawl a lot
like a looper. Let's have a
closer look at those reddish-orange dots and white spots:
It took quite a while to coax the tiny caterpillar into stretching
out so I could document its decoration.
They're very squishable
at this size, so I didn't want to nudge it too firmly.
I want photographs of the gonodonta nutrix moth
turns into after it pupates, so I brought a few inside
to raise in a bug box. When I went to provide them fresh leaves, and
dump out the caterpillar frass, I found this tangle of bits of leaf:
See all the little tiny bits of leaf the caterpillar chewed off and
I lifted the branch gently to isolate it in its own bug box
(so the other caterpillars couldn't eat it) and was surprised to see
that the caterpillar only built the top of the shelter:
I was happy to find a similar cocoon on the tree. Of course, I
brought that one in as well.
While I was out there, I searched high
and low for a very tiny caterpillar so I could photograph the first instar. They were well hidden, or all gobbled up, or my eyesight
just simply rots. I'm guessing one of the former two, because I did
find several eggs:
Speaking of gobbled up, I found this dead caterpillar, still
hanging from the leaf, that something killed. Have you any idea what
that little thing hanging onto it might be?
It seemed a bit small to be making a cocoon, and after I disturbed
it by picking up the branch it crawled out, so I released it on the
pond apple tree
and brought in a larger caterpillar to raise.
While I can't say for sure what led to the demise of that small
caterpillar, I have no doubts about the cause of death of this one:
This very large beetle is a
Florida predatory stink bug, Euthyrhynchus floridanus
. It's obviously predatory; check out that
huge proboscis stuck in the citrus fruit-piercer (gonodonta nutrix) caterpillar.
The beetle was out
feeding several times when I went to observe the caterpillars on the
pond apple tree
If all goes well, and the
caterpillars I brought in
become moths, I'll try to get them to pose for pictures before I let
Little update - on a baby pond apple tree, only about a
foot and a half tall, I found a
one of the citrus fruit-piercer caterpillars.