American Copper Caterpillar

bernergrrl(z5 IL)June 23, 2009

So, the weather has been a bit of a drag butterfly-wise--I don't know how long it has been raining straight now, and it's been sad the last two times I've released EBST because each one hung onto a bush for two days straight before the rain departed enough so that they could fly away. They were in a pretty dry spot, but still...poor things. And I've not seen a butterfly flying around for days.

So, seeing this tiny little guy on the sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella)I have left growing in a back bed made me a little happier today (Plus, I am not crazy about sheep sorrel, but now I'm glad I let it stay)It was munching on flowers at the top:

There was another tiny caterpillar with a very noticable white strip going either down its back or laterally--I couldn't get a look, and when I went to look closer, it dropped down to the ground and disappeared (to my eyes). I wonder if that was a later instar. I'll keep my eye out for it. These things are tiny!

I'm toying with keeping this little guy or not.

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Awwww! You find the coolest stuff.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 7:47PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I'd sure keep it! I've raised some tiny ones before, like common checkered skippers, and it was really interesting.
American copper adults are SO pretty!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 8:03PM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)


You are getting some wonderful BFs to raise! Keep this one and take pictures so we can "experience" the life cycle.


    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 8:56PM
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todancewithwolves(Z9 CA)

Oh yes! I would keep it.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 11:00PM
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bean_counter_z4(Zone 4, Rkfd,IL)

Bernergrrl, wanted to say hi back from Rockford. This is a very interesting forum. My first time visiting. I'm reading all the posts and enjoying the pictures. Drop by my garden blog and say hi if you get a spare moment.

Here is a link that might be useful: Lilacs and Roses garden blog

    Bookmark   June 26, 2009 at 10:04AM
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bernergrrl(z5 IL)

So, I kept him. At first I had planted some sheep sorrel in a little container, but then I couldn't find the caterpillar. A day or so later I saw him on the side of the container, and he had just molted.

Then he had disappeared again; fearing that he didn't like the sorrel in the pot (some of the bottom leaves were beginning to yellow), I put some sprigs of sorrel in a container with water (the typical set-up). The sorrel is doing well with that set up.

Still no sight of him or a couple of days.

Yesterday, he was at the top of the flower bracts munching away and looking pretty plump. He definitely grew, so that was encouraging.

Just thought I'd post about his regular disappearances in case any one else wants to raise one of these--so that they know that they are very good at hiding and not give up because they are around somewhere.

Bean counter--Beautiful pics on your blog! I don't keep a blog of my own but keep thinking maybe I will. I love this forum, and especially in the summer when there are butterflies. Everyone here is so helpful and we support each other in this passion of ours. We also delight in seeing the different butterflies across the country.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2009 at 8:09AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Bernergrrl, yesterday I brought in some TINY common checkered skipper caterpillars to raise - 'hope mine don't wander!

    Bookmark   June 28, 2009 at 10:46AM
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A few years ago I raised a gray hairstreak when i saw a female lay an egg on a bean plant. I brought in the bean leaf that I saw the egg laid on. I had the same problem...finding the cat..but it ate very little and managed to turn into a beautiful little butterfly with very little help from me.


    Bookmark   June 28, 2009 at 9:03PM
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Cute caterpillar in the picture!
I saw what I think was probably a gray hairstreak (Strymon melinus) lay an egg down in a clover flower on 6/23. I brought it in to raise, and it is now a cute little yellowish-orange caterpillar. I'm not having that much of a problem finding it, because so far I only keep one clover flower in its container at any one time. So far, I have discovered that clover flowers start to get moldy in an enclosed container after about two days. I'm excited about this caterpillar, especially since it is my first hairstreak of any kind to raise.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2009 at 1:50PM
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bernergrrl(z5 IL)

Thanks! He's getting pretty chubby and still can be hard to find--melds in with the foliage really well when he's not on the flowers.

I keep looking on the clover flowers around here and all of the vetch for a hairstreak or something else fun to raise!

Was your hairstreak hard to see?

Looking forward to hearing about the hairstreak!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2009 at 2:56PM
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I don't quite know which stage you're asking about, so I guess I'll just tell the whole story. I'm going to have way too much fun with this, but here goes:

It was an ordinary day, meaning that I don't exactly remember all of the details about it. I seem to recall that I had just brought up from downstairs a small plastic container with several Euptoieta claudia caterpillars in it. My mission was to sever the stem of a viola plant, put it in water, and then let it die a slow, horrible death at the, uh, mouths of the aforementioned caterpillars by being crushed into tiny pieces and mixed with fluids that would cause it to be slowly dissolved and stripped of its protective layers, and then be slowly digested. However, my cruel plan was interrupted by a brief, innocent look out of the sliding glass door.
At the moment at which I looked out the door, I saw something so interesting that it caused all thoughts of this cruel, premeditated murder to be blown out of my mind like shrapnel off of a bomb. What I noticed was that there was some small object outside flying around the lawn by means of wings, which it was flapping. I immediately called upon my powers of reason to identify this thing that was flying around the yard. I quickly concluded that, since inanimate objects do not usually flap their wings and fly, this must be an animate object, and, more specifically, some species of lepidoptera. Throwing some care to the wind, I ran outside to investigate this lepidopteran. I quickly came to the conclusion that this intruder was some kind of hairstreak, given the short appendages attached to the trailing edge of its wings. Given, however, that I am somewhat familiar with the hairstreak family, I knew that it would be nearly impossible to get a firm ID of this insect without a picture or the individual to compare to my field guide. I thought briefly about grabbing my butterfly net from its storage place ten feet away and capturing this insect to ID inside. However, at this point, my powers of reason had started to call in sick, and so I decided to make the decision to go inside to stare at the pictures in my field guide with nothing to compare them to. I had in my mind before going inside that it might be a gray hairstreak, so what powers of reason I still had left caused me to briefly study the butterfly in question and note key features before going inside.
Once inside, I studied the section of the field guide concerning hairstreaks to find that this butterfly could be a gray hairstreak, or also something else. I then braved the dangers of the field once again and headed out to the yard, this time with this new information that, while fairly insignificant, was still enough to have caused me to fail to spend a long time studiously poring over books and gain no useful information. When I reached the outdoors again, I immediately started to search the yard to see if this hairstreak was still around. I found, to my surprise, that it was. I immediately started to approach it, following it around as it decided that I was a threat to its well being and flew to a different flower. After it innocently landed on a clover flower, pretending to simply be getting sustenance from the flower's nectar, I surreptitiously crawled up to it, and watched as it did the dastardly deed. Still innocently looking like it was simply nectaring from the flower, it actually was working toward the flower's demise by gluing a living time bomb deep in the flower that would, after several days, crawl out of its shell and start to slowly grind up and digest the flower. After the butterfly left as if nothing had happened, I plucked the flower from the rest of the plant and examined it to find this time bomb. Once I found where it was hiding, it was not hard to see. Despite its pretty, aqua-colored, oblong housing, I suspected the truth even at that moment. Later in the day, after putting the whole flowerhead in water, I did some research and confirmed my suspicion that I had left the preparations of one cruel plan to find another.
To add to the torment of this flowerhead, I discovered upon returning on 6/28 from a trip that the flower had grown very moldy in my absence, probably trying to kill my poor, innocent, little caterpillar that had hatched while I was gone. Fortunately, the flower's scheme failed, and I found the caterpillar in the same place the egg had been.

So far, the caterpillar has continued to live and happily munch on two more flowerheads. I changed its food again this morning, as the flowers were starting to mold again. I had it in a sealed plastic container with no air circulation before today, but now I have a piece of paper towel over the plastic container to give it some air circulation. I have not had much trouble finding the caterpillar for two reasons: 1, I only have one clover flowerhead in there for it to hide in, and 2, it is yellowish-orange and so sticks out from the flowers very well. I do not know what instar it is in, but probably first or second.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2009 at 5:13PM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

What a tale! LOL

    Bookmark   June 30, 2009 at 6:28PM
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I know what you mean... RAIN RAIN RAIN RAIN....

I haven't seen anything with wings (besides my moths inside) for a long time... besides mosquitoes (lots of them :( ) and small moths...

Great find, keep us posted.


    Bookmark   June 30, 2009 at 7:03PM
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bernergrrl(z5 IL)

Jmcat--phew! I will never look at a clover flower in the same way again--ever! I know what you mean about staring and trying to memorize salient characteristics which seem to fade once one gets inside to the guide book. I had that experience recently with an elfin--very frustrating. Definitely need to keep the camera handy at all times.

SB--There is more rain coming all this week! I am not expecting a good butterfly year again. The plants are looking great though.

The little AC cat keeps eating and hiding on me.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2009 at 8:47PM
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bernergrrl(z5 IL)

He pupated after disappearing. Here is pic as a final instar on the flower buds of the sheep sorrel. I'm posting so if anyone is interested they can maybe get a search image.

Here is the chrysalis. He found a spot at the bottom of the cage between two sheets of paper towels and pupated there which means to me I need to go easy with the cultivator in the garden.

I'll post a pic when he ecloses.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2009 at 7:30AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Wow! I can't wait to see the adult butterfly!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2009 at 8:23AM
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bernergrrl(z5 IL)

It eclosed today, and it was ready to get out of the container. The pic is fuzzy because I took it through the top, but it was pretty. Hopefully it's a harbinger of more butterflies to come!

    Bookmark   July 16, 2009 at 2:53PM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

They are so beautuful. Thanks for sharing your pictures. It's a great feeling when a new species successfully reaches adulthood. : )

    Bookmark   July 16, 2009 at 5:49PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

That butterfly is just gorgeous!! Thanks for posting the picture - I never see American coppers here.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2009 at 6:44PM
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Wow! You are so lucky! Those are rare here. Great job. Big pats on the back.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2009 at 9:47PM
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Your butterfly is so cute.Hope to see more photos from you. Awesome!

    Bookmark   July 17, 2009 at 3:49AM
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