Saturday, December 21, 2013
Mummies and Zombies
This looks like a normal moth caterpillar, but upon approaching it, it appears 'frozen solid'. Braconid Wasps of the genus Aleiodes have attacked it. They feed on the internal portions of the host. Just before pupating they chew minute holes in the bottom of the caterpillar and emit a sticky glue like liquid that hardens and keeps the host firmly attached to the twig. Some Braconid and Ichneumon wasps form cocoons on the outside, but the mummy wasp Aleiodes pupates inside.
Side note: I found the biology of this amazing, BUT, this may be nothing more than the caterpillars OWN cocoon. Some moths and butterflies leave a shriveled up portion of their skins before pupating into a cocoon or chrysalis. I've had this specimen for a couple years, and nothing has hatched out of it. Next time I find one, I'll have to open it up and look inside.