Feeling Warm and Fuzzy on a Chilly October Day …

October 9th, 2009 § 3

Acronicta americana – American Dagger Moth Caterpillar

Ctenucha virginica – Tiger Moth Caterpillar

Estigmene acrea – Salt Marsh Moth Caterpillar

Brrrr. I think it’s officially time to pull out the woollies! There is a damp chill in the air on this gray October morning – it’s a good day to pull out a trusty old mohair sweater. As I stepped outside today, I happened to notice that I’m not the only one donning a few extra layers. On my early walks around the garden this week, I discovered dozens of warm, fuzzy insects dressed up in wooly costumes – all of them decked out in vibrant fall colors. If only I could knit! From spiky and eccentric to elegant and lacy, there is fashionable inspiration everywhere in the garden. Parisian designers – take note!

All of the furry creatures pictured above are moth caterpillars. Aren’t they beautiful? Look at those patterns and colors, (click any photo for a larger view). I am not an entomologist, nor was the study of insects my strongest subject in college, so I needed a bit of help in order to correctly identify each species pictured here. One of my more important gardening goals is to learn more about insects. Not only do I hope to review and enhance my understanding of the allies and enemies I commonly find in my potager, but I also want to better recognize butterfly and moth species by caterpillar – just for the fun of it. If you are looking to quickly identify insects online, a really good insect and spider database, (with useful field photographs), is available from from the University of Iowa Department of Entomology – it’s called Bug Guide . If you live in North America and enjoy butterflies, moths and caterpillars, (and want help learning to identify them specifically), you will also love these websites: Butterflies and Moths of North America and What’s This Caterpillar. There are other useful entomological resources listed on the blog roll at right, under the heading ‘Insects/Entomology’. I think these are great places to bookmark and explore – fun for kids of all ages.

The plant world is also decked out in some textural attire right now. Puffy, fuzzy inflorescences in the garden are all aglow in mauve, taupe and violet. These seductive, smokey hues and intricate details really shine in the early light of day – sparkling and shimmering with morning dew. On damp, rainy mornings I notice the delicate flora are all wearing drops of water like brilliant, crystal-encrusted gowns…

Cotinus coggyria, SmokebushCotinus coggygria (Smokebush)

Miscanthus sinensis ‘purpurascens’ (Flame grass) inflorescence

pennisetum alopecuroides inflorescencePennisetum alopecuroides ‘Moudry’ (Fountain grass)

Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’ between showers…

cotinus rain dropsCotinus coggygria – wearing a necklace of rain drops…

Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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