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What is this?

Posted by catherinet z5 (My Page) on
Wed, Jun 6, 07 at 16:45

Hi all,
On our walk last night, we noticed this cocoon-type thing in a tree. Its about 7-8" long and wrapped around the branch. Its pretty flat. Any ideas?
I'll bet Dirtgirl knows.
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Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: What is this?

And the word from Dirtgirl is.....

HOLY COW WHAT IS THAT?

The most fascinating thing I've seen in a long time, Cathy! OK, a few questions, and then a few blind guesses on my part.
Is that a cherry tree it's on? Does it look like spider silk or more like paper, like a hornet's nest, or are there leaves stuck around on the outside? Were there any holes at all, even small ones? By any chance did you move it around, hear anything rattling inside? What did it taste like? kidding. I'm just excited with this one.

Gee this is something. Bird's nest? It kinda resembles an early hornet's nest material wise, and they don't always make them in the classic shape, either. It also brings to mind the cocoons I have found of the giant silkworms, except that I can't come up with any that really look like what you have there.the size of 7-8 inches is another clue. I have seen Hickory Horned Devil caterpillars that were easily 5 inches long but I don't know from personal experience what their cocoons look like , much less when to expect to find them pupating. Some of the bigger caterpillars do their thing while hangingfrom a branch, some do it underground. Some are a sturdy sac of yellowish white silk, and some are wrapped in leaves....there's all kinds.
By all means, you should DEFINITELY post this on both the butterfly forum and the Name that Insect forum, for good measure.

Now I have some homework to do!!
I'm flattered that you'd think I know, but I'm totally stumped for the time being!

DO you have any more pictures? I KNOW what a good photographer we are dealing with here so hopefully you can get us a few more goodies to look at.


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RE: What is this?*

and you're sure it's not a clump of dried dead leaves left over from the killing frost...Or maybe an oriole's nest from last year that has fallen...
I'm now leaning away from the hornet's nest possibility. There seems to be fiber or leaf-ish stuff there in that one part.


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RE: What is this?

Hmmm, I am not worthy to comment, but it looks a bit like scat except paper-y. Maybe a closer shot of it would reveal more?


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RE: What is this?

LOL dirtgirl, Wouldn't it be funny if it were just leaves that had got caught on the branch from last year??!
It definitely looked like wasp-type stuff, but it seemed too flat (wrapped around the other side), to have even held anything. I think its either on a cherry tree or that wild plum I showed you last year.
I didn't touch it, and there weren't any obvious regular holes. I'll check it out more closely today......if it doesn't get blown away in the high winds we're supposed to have.
I'll feel really stupid if its just dead leaves!!
Thanks Dirtgirl and Vonyon!


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RE: What is this?

LOL dirtgirl, Wouldn't it be funny if it were just leaves that had got caught on the branch from last year??!
It definitely looked like wasp-type stuff, but it seemed too flat (wrapped around the other side), to have even held anything. I think its either on a cherry tree or that wild plum I showed you last year.
I didn't touch it, and there weren't any obvious regular holes. I'll check it out more closely today......if it doesn't get blown away in the high winds we're supposed to have.
I'll feel really stupid if its just dead leaves!!
Thanks Dirtgirl and Vonyon!


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RE: What is this?

Oops, sorry! That's what happens when you leave things minimized and come back later, forgetting the last thing you did was post a message!
I checked the "thing" again, and between the leaves was a bunch of small round things, like old dried up brown larvae or something. I know that's not much help for ID'ing it.


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RE: What is this?

Geez. (forehead-smacking sound) I think I know what it is.
Possible cherry tree, dried-out papery-webby-looking thing...
what you may have there is this year's tent caterpillar refuge. Did that tree have any caterpillars in the forks this spring?
If you pick it apart you should see things that resemble dried up caterpillars and dried up cat poo, too. Sounds like you have already found something like this.

And if you look carefully along the branches you might find another egg case, a shiny dark lacquer-looking blob. It will almost blend right in with the bark. Little buggers just growing and waiting to munch down on brand-new leaves.

If that's not it, I am out of guesses.


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RE: What is this?

That's a good possibility Dirtgirl. It just seems more like old leaves.......but maybe a few leaves got caught on the "tent" last year. Do you mean that the larvae live in that thing overwinter, and come out this summer? There definitely looked like there was dried up "stuff" in between the leaves/sides. I'll look for that egg case the next time I'm down at the bridge. Nothing looked very viable for this year.
I just knew you'd come up with some very plausible idea! :)
I wish my knees and feet were in better shape, so I could check out more places in the woods for treasures/mysteries like this one.
Did I send you the pic of the gnatcatcher babies? They've flown the coup. What a cool nest they have!


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RE: What is this?

no, they hatch out of an egg case, usually along a branch somewhere (that's the varnishy looking blob) and then the lot of them spin their "tent" as a kind of bivouac to protect them as they grow. We had a big year for them here this spring, and then the late freeze came and killed off the new leaves. I came across a cherry tree that was almost toally stripped of every available bit of vegetation, and there was nothing else to eat--the new leaves were burnt to a crisp. The cats were all clustered around the tips of the branches as if trying to find just a bit more to eat.

Now, get on it right now and SEND ME THOSE GNATCATCHER CUTIES!! They are really noisy though, aren't they.
Cant wait--your pics are awesome.


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