Defensive Insects

My younger brother Milo has posted about Entomotography, sharing his excellent “macro” pictures of dragonflies in India. Yesterday I was walking in the woods at Morgan’s Rock when I remembered that I had promised to describe in more detail the cornizuelo tree, which fronts fierce fire ants and sports sharp spines on its branches. Since these trees are all over the place, I set my camera to macro mode and looked for a good specimen. Below is a video that shows just how diligently the ants patrol their home, both when no imminent danger is present and also when a threat is detected. At the end of the video I’ve included footage of a caterpillar.

 

When I first saw the little balls on the caterpillar’s back, I wasn’t all that surprised. Many insect species (and other animals like fish and crustaceans, for that matter) cover themselves with debris to disguise themselves from predators. What struck me as odd, however, was that this caterpillar, clearly a poisonous species (or at the very least an example of Batesian mimicry), felt the need to cover itself with crap (which, as the video shows, I discovered to literally be true) and thereby potentially avoid predation. Of course, it may be that this particular caterpillar was simply defecating at an unfortunate angle that caused its excrement to catch on its toxic spikes. After all, a caterpillar that I spotted later had the decency to use a leaf. The dirty caterpillar’s neighbor, however, also happened to have some material on its back. Maybe the spikes are well-designed (purposefully or not) to stick to whatever is light enough to not hinder the caterpillars.

Pleased with the success of my macro photos and video of the insects, I next pursued a spider and some small plant details. I look forward to encountering further opportunities for macro photography so that I can share the minute characteristics of flora and fauna that I find interesting.

3 thoughts on “Defensive Insects

  1. Pingback: Photo Updates « Raxa Collective

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