Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Harvester - Feniseca tarquinius
Photo by Tom Poklen

Two postings on other blogs today reminded me of a nice photo from last summer. Over at Gallicissa, Amila has a nice photo of an Apefly, a Sri Lankan relative of the Harvester. Coincidentally, over at Niches, Wayne has a post in which he mentions the vegan propensities of butterflies and moths- they are vegetarians at all of their life stages.

The Harvester is a great illustration of carnivorous tendencies in butterflies. They are one of the few species that doesn't have a host plant. Like the Apefly, their caterpillars are insectivores and feed on mealy bugs and wooly aphids. There are other examples of non-veganism as well. Some of my favorites include Hawaiian inchworms in the genus Eupithecia, which are insectivores, and noctuid moths in the genus Calyptra. They are sometimes called vampire moths, because their proboscis is modified to pierce mammalian skin, and the adults feed on blood. Happy belated Halloween. There are also a bunch of moths that feed on lachrymal secretions of mammals. Like some humans, they are vegetarians without being vegans.

But back to the Harvester. They live in the eastern US, but I have never found them common. The one pictured is only the fourth or fifth one I've ever seen. It was found during this past summer's Illinois Butterfly Monitoring Workshop in DuPage County. Unfortunately, I was so preoccupied with preparing for the workshop that I left the house without my camera. Not only did we find an uncommon butterfly, it posed nicely and let many folks take its picture. Fortunately, several of these folks were willing to share the images they got. Thanks, Tom!

Update: Kathie at Sycamore Canyon was kind enough to give me a blog award! Thanks Kathy! More on that later.



At 11:17, Blogger Gallicissa said...

What an important role they appear to be playing in biological pest control. Thanks for sharing this and for the plug!

At 12:19, Blogger Dave Coulter said...

Nice post, Doug...

At 22:52, Blogger Ur-spo said...

do they have nasty pointed teeth?

At 05:42, Blogger cedrorum said...

I like the name "vampire moth". The harvester looks like an anime character with those big eyes.

At 20:46, Anonymous Moe said...

Great shot!

At 19:28, Blogger Kathiesbirds said...

Great, now I have something new to have nightmares about! Vampire moths? OMG! Nature never ceases to amaze me and moths that feed on the lacrymal secretions of mammals? I'll try not to cry next time I'm outside! You could do a horror movie about these that would rival "The Birds!" Hitchcock, where are you?

BTW, you are most welcome!

At 22:47, Blogger Shanshan said...

Aww, those photos were brilliant. (:


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