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Small black caterpillar mimics bird dropping?

 
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rjlittlefield
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Joined: 01 Aug 2006
Posts: 18000
Location: Richland, Washington State, USA

PostPosted: Fri Jul 16, 2010 10:02 pm    Post subject: Small black caterpillar mimics bird dropping? Reply with quote

Wandering around a back yard in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, I spied what appeared to be a remarkably small bird dropping stuck on the shady side of a leaf.

Knowing that remarkably small bird droppings usually aren't, I looked closer. Sure enough it was a caterpillar, with an interesting shape that I did not recall having seen before.

Now I'm not well equipped on this trip, carrying only a Canon A710 IS compact digital. But this little fellow was interesting enough that I thought I'd see what I could get. What you see here is the best of it.

Let's start at the end. This is the little critter after it found a new resting place a few inches from where I found it originally. I say "resting place" because it didn't like to be in the sun, and it didn't like to be on the ground. Either of those two conditions, and it was on the run. But in the shade, on this piece of grass, it was nicely quiet.


1/40 second, f/4, auto ISO.


In the middle, I relocated the caterpillar to a number of different places, trying to get some decent angles on it. This one is on top of a table in the shade, shooting natural light with the camera and extended lens resting on the table.

1/15 second, f/5.6, auto ISO.


Here is a variety of positions that the critter assumes. These are using built-in flash diffused through a note card, mostly at f/8.




And finally a pair of shots that would be of no interest except that they happen to catch both sides of the caterpillar, showing clearly that those six white elliptical lumps we see in the first couple of pictures are not part of the caterpillar. They're probably parasitoid eggs, in which case this caterpillar is already doomed, just like 99% of its siblings. Life is tough when you're one of these critters!



Hope you find some piece of this interesting!

--Rik
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Harold Gough



Joined: 09 Mar 2008
Posts: 5787
Location: Reading, Berkshire, England

PostPosted: Fri Jul 16, 2010 11:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The larvae of Thyatira have a similar humped shape.

Harold
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rjlittlefield
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Joined: 01 Aug 2006
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2010 1:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, Harold. I have no idea what this critter grows up to be.

--Rik
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Roy Patience



Joined: 05 Aug 2006
Posts: 213
Location: Sourthern California

PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2010 4:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rik,

Interesting documentation of insect behavior. I wonder if all of us who hang around on the forum have some sort of visual preference for the tiny. I find myself lurking around the plants looking for subjects or interesting compositions.

Roy
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rjlittlefield
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2010 6:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Beats me, Roy. I like sweeping vistas too, but bugs resting in the shade are a lot easier to get to! Wink

--Rik
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Ken Ramos



Joined: 27 Jul 2006
Posts: 6951
Location: lat=35.4005&lon=-81.9841

PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2010 7:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I too look more closely at bird droppings these days, one never knows. Interesting looking little creature and complete with parasites. You have to feel for these creatures, as you mentioned, "life is tough" for them. As for a diffuser on a point and shoot, I sometimes use a couple of layers of frosted scotch tape stuck over the flash lens, seems to work well for me at times, though remember to remove it after use or it gums up the flash lens. Laughing Great post! Very Happy
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However, while there is grace where in all that I might live, while there is still breath in my being, while I may or may not accomplish anything more in life than to be living, I shall reflect upon the past, applying it to the present, for to possibly perceive to a near certainty, the outcome of the future.

Ken 2014
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rjlittlefield
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2010 7:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for commenting, Ken.

The deal on this camera is that at extreme close focus, the subject is completely shadowed from the flash by the lens housing. Adding diffusion right at the flash doesn't change that.

Worse, part of the visible background is not shadowed, so left to its own devices the camera produces an almost black subject surrounded by an arch of bright background.

To properly illuminate the subject, it's necessary to bounce or diffuse the flash so that it "reaches around the corner", while also doing something about that very bright background.

Holding a notecard just in front of the lens lets enough light through to illuminate the subject and also shadows the background.

The trick takes a bit of practice and looks pretty weird, but it works OK.

A big piece of paper would work better as far as the light is concerned, but iit's much harder to hold. Tradeoffs, tradeoffs...

--Rik
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Ken Ramos



Joined: 27 Jul 2006
Posts: 6951
Location: lat=35.4005&lon=-81.9841

PostPosted: Sun Jul 18, 2010 4:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

rjlittlefield wrote:
Thanks for commenting, Ken.

The deal on this camera is that at extreme close focus, the subject is completely shadowed from the flash by the lens housing. Adding diffusion right at the flash doesn't change that.

Worse, part of the visible background is not shadowed, so left to its own devices the camera produces an almost black subject surrounded by an arch of bright background.

To properly illuminate the subject, it's necessary to bounce or diffuse the flash so that it "reaches around the corner", while also doing something about that very bright background.

Holding a notecard just in front of the lens lets enough light through to illuminate the subject and also shadows the background.

The trick takes a bit of practice and looks pretty weird, but it works OK.

A big piece of paper would work better as far as the light is concerned, but iit's much harder to hold. Tradeoffs, tradeoffs...

--Rik


Ah I see what you mean. I too have encountered that delima at closer than average distances. Good idea Idea never thought of that myself and probably missed it being mentioned, if so, in other posts as well. See, you learn something new around here every day, well at least I do. Laughing
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However, while there is grace where in all that I might live, while there is still breath in my being, while I may or may not accomplish anything more in life than to be living, I shall reflect upon the past, applying it to the present, for to possibly perceive to a near certainty, the outcome of the future.

Ken 2014
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