A variation on a theme

A variation of the yellow-spotted tiger moth (Lophocampa maculata) caterpillar


I Become Obsessed With Moths
The past summer found me spending a lot of time looking at insects especially moths and butterflies. Two books that got me very interested in moths are the Peterson Field Guide to Moths by David Beadle and Seabrooke Leckie and Tiger Moths and Woolly Bears edited by William E. Conner. A few websites have also been very helpful including Bug Guide, the North American Moth Photographers Group, and Insects (Insecta) of the World.

To date I have identified the larva of seven species of moths in the lepidopteran Subfamily Arctiini, the tiger moths, on my land. A few days ago while walking in the woods I came across the one pictured above. For a while I was puzzled as to its identity but this is the larva of the yellow-spotted tiger moth (Lophocampa maculata). It is a bit different from the typical form. The entire body is covered in tufts of yellow bristles even the head and tail. The row of black bristles along the back are a clue to its identity. After looking over many photos of L. maculata caterpillars it seems that the larva show a range of color and pattern variation. The long white hairs (setae) which project from the head and tail and the row of black or dark bristles (rarely red or pink) down the back are characteristic of the species.

Documenting Biodiversity Where You Live
There is a lot of biodiversity to observe, document, and cherish. Not all of it is found in wilderness areas set aside by law or resolution. Even urban areas have abundant wildlife if you know where and how to look. Here where I live I am continuing to document the species in the woods, wetlands, and fields. The list keeps growing and one of these days, maybe this winter, I will get the species checklist cleaned up with proper spelling and nomenclature and post it here.

24 thoughts on “A variation on a theme

      1. Yes, I bought some insect recognition cards of shield bugs, bumblebees, and lady birds, I got them for my grand kids but will use them a bit first, so I can also help them with recognition.


  1. I’m looking forward to seeing your checklist. I’ve been toying with the idea of keeping track of everything I find just in my little urban lot but this year it wasn’t meant to be. In the meantime I’m bookmarking useful sites and sources like the ones you’ve shared here so when I get down to identifying things I’ll have something to work with. Whenever I’m in a used bookstore I check the natural history and field guide sections but so far haven’t found much.

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                    1. That’s a tough one. Depends on where the mushrooms are from. A lot of genera are common across the world but species differ from country to country. I know a few major groups and I work from there. Since I live in a north temperate zone I tend to rely on North American and European reference sources.

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                    2. I’ll be looking for them. Also, in a few/several days I will be posting on 3 or 4 species of boletes that grow in my state. The bolete group of mushrooms have a worldwide distribution and many species.


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