Thursday, October 29, 2009

Beneath the towering Ombu tree

For the last couple of years, I have noticed that something eats the leaves on the fast-growing young branches of the Ombu tree at the arboretum. Last year, right after I noticed the chewed up leaves, the tree received its annual pruning. All the chewed up shoots ("suckers", really), were gone. For most of the last few months, I hadn't really ventured under there, but last week I returned because I needed to prepare for our school tours. I saw the chewed up leaves again, but couldn't find any bugs... till today.

During today's tour, I noticed a child was watching a small caterpillar on his finger. When I asked him where he found it, he said, "Right here", and pointed to the Ombu sprouts.

I told him to please put the caterpillar back, and he did, although he kept and eye on it for the remainder of his time under the tree. And so did I.

After the tour was over, I returned to the Ombu tree and searched until I found the caterpillar again. I broke off a little piece of branch, and carried him home on it. I also found 2 dessicated caterpillars on it, and a small spider who I suspect may have killed them. (I think the spider got lost somewhere in my car.) The caterpillar is currently on my kitchen table, his branch staying fresh in a container of water. Close inspection has revealed yet another, but slightly darker, live caterpillar that I had missed earlier. So I have 2 now.

They look to be some kind of geometer larvae. It would be nice to find out what kind. They are nice little moths.
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