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Lepidoptera: Geometridae

?Omnivorous Looper?  ?Sabulodes aegrotata?

Inchworm infestation of Plumeria x stenopetala

15mb video, last day feeding, inching along.

(Updated 12-26-11)

Image 12-25-11 Orange wastes from adult moth

The moth has emerged and well within the degree day hours calculated from the slightly above average temperature used (70 degrees Fahrenheit) for the house where this larva was reared and underwent pupation.  Species id is still uncertain, although it looks very similar to some specimens of Sabulodes aegrotata on display via a search of images on the net.  For one which matches almost identically see:  http://www.mundobutterfly.com.ar/Imagenes/Aegrotata.html  However this is rather odd since that one is in Argentina?

Image 12-23-11 At rest on an embryo 2 clone which is blooming.

Image 12-23-11 Exuvia from the pupa, still attached to the silk cocoon.

Image 12-23-11

Part of the attachment point still attached (scalpel tip adjacent).  After inspection (and comparison to image below of it just after entering pupa stage), it would appear that this larva, just after entering the pupa stage, did a 180 degree rotation before making it's final attachment point which was rather difficult to disarticulate after opening the cocoon with the scalpel.

Image 12-23-11

I mention elsewhere on the site that my transfer hood's interior is white so that any particulates/foreign matter can be easily identified.  The paper towels lining the terrarium have also served this purpose helping to highlight not only the first liquids/wastes produced by the moth (dark orange, in the corner below where it was resting for the day) but also the area where it apparently rested and rubbed around a little bit (orange smudge center of paper towel and would have been just adjacent to the leaves housing it).

Image 12-22-11 (~9:45 a.m. p.s.t.)

This image was taken after the terrarium the pupa emerged in was slipped into the netted enclosure with its top off so that it could fly into and amongst the plants and blooms at its leisure.  Additional nectar has been provided, as well as clean water, both available via saturated paper towels in dishes containing the liquids.  Additionally, the moth will have the opportunity to feed upon whatever nectar is available for it from the emerging and open blooms and if you check out the brix page you will know how sweet those can be.  This image was under brighter daylight conditions and shows more of the patterns and pigmentation.

Image 12-22-11 (~4:45 a.m. p.s.t.)

Image 12-22-11

Image 12-22-11

Image 12-22-11 Full frontal view.

The below images show the development of larvae, the latest image just below, progressing into earlier images further down the page.  Although very distinct in anatomical form, and as such indicates that they are from the family Geometridae, the exact species still remains a mystery.  The reasoning behind comparing these larvae to the Omnivorous Looper is that:  They are similar in pigmentation; are in the form of a larva in the late fall/early winter;  the below larva obtained a length approximating those for the aforementioned prior to pupating; and at least provides some guidelines to compare to.

Image 12-14-11

Exuvia from the caterpillar now in pupa form, on the floor after being dislodged from the folded leaves above.  This is shared as these can sometimes be helpful in identifying an insect but for lepidoptera I am not sure.  Interesting that it had a few hairs, still visible along with some prolegs too.

Image 12-14-11

The above image shows an attachment point which the inchworm made prior to entering pupa stage.  This image is after my attempt to use a twist-tie to reinforce the petiole's attachment to the stem, whereupon I noticed the webbing holding it there, which I almost messed up, causing the petiole to separate from the stem.  Inspection of the plant after that showed no other webbing between petioles and stem, except for this particular leaf which is one of the two the larva used in constructing its shelter, as shown in the images below.  Note that this yellowing leaf has been fed partially upon by the larva, near the tip, which may have induced a stress response in the plant, causing the leaf to abscise before those lower down the stem, which is unusual otherwise.  The leaf scar just below the silk attachment point is from another leaf which was fed upon, the larva leaving only the midrib, and it abscised first, which wasn't surprising.

Image 12-14-11 Damaged leaf with silk attachment points on the petiole/stem area.

Image 12-14-11

Twist tie reinforcing the attachment for leaf #2 used by the larva for its "home".  This was placed as that leaf too is starting to yellow and although the degree days are steadily accumulating, it is doubtful that this leaf will stay attached until December 21, 2011 which, if using an average for indoor temperature and a model for the Omnivorous Looper, is approximately when it should emerge.  Although this shows some forethought by this larva, it was only half way there (the other leaf is weighty too) and it is uncertain whether it was responding to ethylene given off by the leaf starting into senescence or something else.  In either case, it was apparently trying to ensure that its home stayed put in the canopy and I helped it along.

Image 12-07-11

Larva 1 has entered pupa stage on the embryo 1 clone plant inside the house.

Image 12-07-11 A flash pic with mite tent in the background.

Image 12-05-11

Frass and leaf litter just before I cleaned up.  My cat decided that was the day to start playing with both items.  This is the total amount of frass produced from this larva while it was indoors.  Note the amount in the lower left hand side of the pot for embryo 1.  From small to large one can track the consumption of leaves from the deposits below, and the size it was when it deposited them.  After cleanup no other deposits were made, so the cat decided to wait until everything was nice and dry, it would appear and the fourth of December 2011 would be the date this larva last ate leaf tissue.  However I noted that it was consuming some of the silk it had constructed its temporary cocoon with and was re-depositing it into a new, tighter cocoon.

Image 12-07-11

Larva 2 in a re-folded leaf with frass and damage upon on other embryo 1 clone plants in the greenhouse.

Image 12-07-11 Larva 2 upclose and still in larval form.

Although mentioned at the very bottom of this page, Erannis tiliaria is most likely not a candidate for this inchworm, although pigmentation was similar.  However, after researching for a looper which manifests itself in larval form late in the fall, I have found one which may match, but as mentioned below too, an adult moth will make identification much easier.  Being multivoltine (many generations per year) the Omnivorous Looper, Sabulodes aegrotata, appears to somewhat match (UC IPM information on this) in both size and pigmentation throughout the various larval instar stages.  In addition, it is noted from reading (TAMU information on this) that there is a probability that these could also be pollinators for P. x stenopetala, as moths are generally attracted to white flowers with sweet scents and, white with a gardenia-like in scent, embryo 1 most definitely matches that description, as does embryo 2, as well, but it doesn't have as strong of a scent as does its sibling.

Image 12-04-11

Almost fully elongated length is approximately 2.25 inches.  Fully stretched in a video (not shown) ~2.5 inches.

Image 12-03-11 Purple hue is from LEDs.  Length now longer than 2"- Penultimate instar stage?

Image 12-01-11 Caught out while feeding during the day and upon one of the "home" leaves.

Image 12-01-11 Just heading back into silk pouch after being bothered and is rather camera shy.

Image 10-21-11 Shown for comparison of larvae stages.

Note the damage upon the immature leaf margin.  That was pretty much all they did to this P. rubra, not finding it tasty and I did not remove them from this plant, curious to see what they would do.  It was not a blooming plant.  The black stripe is consistent, although I am uncertain whether it is just pigment or what.  Although I have limited experience monitoring traps in the field for lepidoptera, I am most unfamiliar, for now, with their internal anatomy during larval stage.

Image 11-30-11

One missed and still in the greenhouse and it is a sibling of the larger one shown further down who is in the house.

Another e1 clone which they apparently prefer to both munch and house themselves upon.  The above image shows damage and the leaf still folded/tied together prior to opening for photos.  Since this one is upon a non-blooming clone, their preference as to blooming versus non-blooming is uncertain, though most have been found upon blooming plants.  The one shown further down which was trapped briefly in the mesh bag started out on an e2 clone, and both of these appear to prefer e1 clones to the e2 clones, as each has the ability to feed upon those but chose not to, although proximity to the e2 clones for the greenhouse occupant is not quite as close as it is for the one in the house whose leaves between e1 and e2 clones overlap and touch.  Even though missed until now, this smaller version of the pampered one inside will now too be under observation and already it is interesting to note the differences both in body size and stages of pigmentation, presumably in response to the different climates presented during the past few weeks (greenhouse versus house).

An up-close view 11-29-11

Pigmentation along dorsal/lateral sides appears to be starting to fade.  11-29-11

This silk pocket is were it returns after browsing/grazing during the 8 hour dark period.

A stowaway, discovered 11-26-11 - much larger in size now too!

Although it was thought this particular subject of study was over for the season, it is most fortunate that even with insecticidal soap spray treatment which this plant, a clone of embryo 1, was well rinsed with, something survived and is allowing for further study.  The plant (an embryo 2 clone) having the mesh bag over the leaf (which this one escaped) was only soaped in areas which did not directly affect the bagged leaf.  Presuming that it doesn't decided to try and find another spot to host in my house, and the cat doesn't discover this one crawling around and eats it, then once this larva enters pupa stage, it is going into something which hopefully will be conducive to pupation and eventual emergence within a confined area, so a possible id can be made.  It should be noted that although this clone of embryo 1 has leaves which touch the adjacent plant, a clone of embryo 2 which was next to one which this larva started on, it doesn't appear to much like embryo 2 leaf tissues, having only digested those from this particular clone so far while inside the house.  As well, those clones from both embryos which are in the greenhouse show no damage, whatsoever, with only the blooming plants (all three indoors now) of Plumeria x stenopetala showing significant damage (a P. rubra, although slightly infested, wasn't for long and minimal damage occurred on an emerging leaf margins earlier this year) and is an indication of preference not only to species but only those in bloom too, whether just with initial bloom clusters forming or actual open blooms.

Damage which has occurred after being moved indoors.

Frass amongst the leaf litter from the caterpillar who is now reaching 2 inches in length.

Image 10-30-11

This little pest has just made itself tucked in and comfortable upon one of the clones of Plumeria x stenopetala embryo 2.  This particular plant has two forming bloom clusters.

Zoomed out showing feeding damage.

Captured in a fruit stained mesh bag.

Another angle showing the two forming bloom clusters.  Presuming that it will go through the pupa stage, an identification perhaps can be made. Although this larva appears similar to Erannis tiliaria, an adult moth would provide verification.