Meet the Camouflaged Looper 1


Here is a camouflaged looper. It hides from its enemies by fastening petals onto its back.

The camouflaged looper disguises itself by attaching flower petals to its back.

The camouflaged looper counts bee balm among its host plants. That means the mother camouflaged looper can lay her eggs on bee balm, knowing that when the eggs hatch, the caterpillar will be able to eat it.

Bumble bees (a native wild bee) love bee balm.
Bee balm is also host plant to 8 species of butterflies and moths in Louisville, including the camouflaged looper.

Caterpillars are picky. They can only eat certain things. This is because most plants are toxic to most animals. Try grabbing a leaf at random and eating it. It will taste bad.

Insects, like the camouflaged looper, can only survive because they have adapted to get around the toxic chemical defenses of their host plants.

The monarch caterpillar is adapted to ingest (eat) cardiac glycosides, the toxic chemicals found in milkweed. Cardiac glycosides will cause cardiac arrest in most animals, but not the monarch, because they are adapted to be able to process these chemicals.

The monarch caterpillar can only eat milkweed, because it has adapted over thousands of years to get past the chemical defenses of milkweed, but not other plants.

 

The Juniper Hairstreak butterfly’s caterpillar is adapted to eat beta thujaplicin, the toxic chemicals found in red cedars, their host plant.

The Juniper Hairstreak caterpillar has adapted over thousands of years to get past the chemical defenses of eastern red cedar, but not other plants. It needs eastern red cedar to live and reproduce. It is also adapted to camouflage against eastern red cedar, but not other plants.

So, insects that eat leaves are very picky. That’s why we need to plant what they can eat. The only way we can provide for wildlife is to plant a diversity of native plants because that’s what it takes to support the diversity of wildlife that characterized Kentucky’s landscape in the beginning.

Cultivating this diversity is good for everything and everybody. We literally cannot live on this planet unless we support other living things.


One thought on “Meet the Camouflaged Looper

  • Conrad Selle

    Once a few years ago we saw a really strange insect that was in a lug of grapes from a vineyard. We put it in a jar for a while and we could see the underside of it because of the glass. It had at least a hundred rows of legs that it articulated a row at a time to advance at a geologic pace. The critter looked like a piece of debris. Probably did not live on the grape vines but some weed in the vineyard. Have not seen one since. About an inch long as best I can remember. We did not have appropriate photo equipment to record.

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