Saturday, October 31, 2009

Grim Grinning Ghosts

I suppose there are those who would find many of the creatures in My Florida Backyard creepy or spooky. After all, we've created an environment that welcomes spiders, bugs of all kinds, lizards, frogs and toads, and even bats. Throw in a witch and a mummy and My Florida Backyard is ready for Halloween year-round.

We even have ghosts - of a sort. At least, that's what Zebra Longwing butterfly caterpillars remind me of. Their bodies are stark white, cluttered with little black spots and studded with black spikes. They even have delightfully spooky little faces, with eyes and what seems to be a grinning little mouth.

And when they transform into chrysalides - well, then they're just downright freaky looking, even with their beautiful gold accents. I mean, they look like they have ears - how weird is that?

And they move! They're not the only chrysalides that move, but no one seems to get quite as feisty in sleep mode as these guys do. They flip around like crazy if you disturb them, undoubtedly in an attempt to scare off predators. Truly, they seem to be the superfreaks of the caterpillar world.

Their butterflies are beautiful, but even they have some kind of scary behavior. Males are so eager to mate with females that they won't even wait for them to emerge from the chrysalis. According to Kristen Gilpin, curator of the MOSI BioWorks Butterfly Garden, "Male Zebras will even break into the pupal case to mate with a female... before she even emerges. If you set several zebra longwing chrysalis into the flight cage you can always tell which ones contain females... the males swarm around them pushing each other out of the way. Kinda creepy actually."

We concur, Kristen, but we love our state butterfly anyway. There's room for all sorts of ghosties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night in My Florida Backyard - Halloween or not!

1 comment:

  1. I posted today on the same species :) Oh, and I found out what that caterpillar was that you collected on Friday. Pretty sure it was a Black Blotched Schizura moth. I have a post about it goign up tomorrow morning.