Something new going after my Spicebush Swallowtail cats

christie_sw_mo(Z6)July 5, 2011

I've found three different baby Spicebush Swallowtail cats that looked sort of mummified and capsule shaped, obviously parasitized by something. The cats were very small, only about 1/4 inch long when I found them and already dead.

I kept one of the capsules in a jar to see what would hatch out and it looks like a wasp or fly, barely bigger than an ant, not as big as a housefly. It has a skinny body and maybe about 1/4 inch long . It's small and flying around inside the jar so I don't think I would be able to get a picture of it.

Does anyone know what it might be? I have never seen anything hatch out of an early instar cat like that.

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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)


I have seen these mummified caterpillars at a local nature park, but haven't experienced them at my house. However, I don't get a lot of Spicebush Swallowtails to raise. I just saw my first Spicebush, a male, in my yard today. I will keep a close lookout for eggs or small cats. This is really depressing. I hope you find out what it is.


    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 1:05AM
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mary_littlerockar(8a-7b mid Arkansas)


Put the jar with the culprit into the fridge or freezer for a bit. The cold will slow down the flyer so you can take a photo. I actually froze one of these insects so I could take a photo of it but it sort of drew up into a ball. While attempting to take a photo, it actually became warmer, unfolded itself and I was able to take a good photo. Maybe this will work for you.


    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 12:12PM
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Probably a chalcid wasp.

Here is a link that might be useful: chalcid wasps

    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 6:49PM
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Putting it in the fridge did help Mary. I took some photos. I'm using my daughter's camera because mine is missing. I don't know how to use hers and don't want to mess something up. I will have her help me put them on the computer later today or tomorrow. Be sure and check back to see them.
How big are chalcid wasps Elisabeth? I can't tell if that's it. I think they look different from what I have but it will be easier to tell when I get the photo on the computer maybe. Thanks

    Bookmark   July 6, 2011 at 10:02AM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

We did our local July 4th NABA Butterfly count yesterday. I helped my friend Amy at Redbud Valley, one of our local nature areas. Amy is a naturalist, employed by the city of Tulsa. She works at Oxley Nature Center and Redbud Valley. Everyone wanted to do Oxley, as there is lots of nectar available right now, so it was just the two of us.

Anyway, part of the hike goes through an area of Spicebush, so we checked out the plants. There was lots of evidence of predation. We found two small live caterpillars, one in a leaf roll with a mass of eggs on the underside. The eggs were so small, they could only be seen with a magnifying glass. Amy sent the two live cats home with me to raise. I'll return them to the area when they eclose. I removed the leaf with the eggs on it, and moved the cats to a small potted Spicebush.

The temps here were 104 in the afternoon. We were exhausted and extremely sweaty after our 4 hour up and down hike. Not much nectar available, and not many bugs out--just 19 species. But we did get to add Spicebush to our count.


    Bookmark   July 6, 2011 at 10:39AM
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Here's what I found inside the Spicebush leaves, a tiny capsule with a Spicebush Swallowtail skin still on top of it. I put it by a penny so you could see the size. You can see a wasp/fly in the background that had already hatched out.

Here it is next to the penny

Here's a side view

Are Chalcid wasps this little?

    Bookmark   July 14, 2011 at 11:45AM
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The second one hatched and it's a little different. It has shorter wings and shorter antennae. Maybe one's a male and the other is a female or just different types of wasps. They both hatched out of the same kind of pupae.
I had forgotten, I did have chalcid wasps once before but I believe those hatched out of a chrysalis and there were dozens instead of just one.

Yet another kind of wasp: Today a full sized wasp crawled out of a Tiger Swallowtail Chrysalis that I'd been eagerly awaiting. : (
It had a brownish red body and black wings and was about an inch long.

It's really frustrating to learn that there's so many different parasatoids, diseases etc. It's a wonder there's any butterflies at all.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 5:12PM
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Wouldn't that be something if that was the new stingless wasp IMPORTED here to fight the emerald ash borer ?!?!

I was just talking with a friend about the possibility of unintended consequences in introducing new species. I'm not even sure what they look like, but it made me think of them...

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 5:46PM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

You are right, Christie. It is a wonder that there are any butterflies at all. Just remember the odds for BFs in the wild, and every BF that you successfully raise adds to the population.

Just saw my first female Spicebush Swallowtail this evening. A male has been hanging around for about a week. Hopefully I will find eggs soon.


    Bookmark   July 16, 2011 at 12:47AM
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