The tale of a debris carrying larvae originally published by Loret T. Setters on June 19, 2015 at (beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com/).
I love when something in my garden is being chewed on. It means I am providing habitat and food for some species. Needless to say, I got quite excited when I was down by the gate recently and I spotted a particular Sawtooth Blackberry (Rubus pensilvanicus) plant that looked all lacy.
I have hundreds of blackberry plants whose thorns rip my ankles and catch on my clothes. Sometimes I grumble quite loudly (often even an excruciating OUCH* will come out of my mouth) as I attempt to untangle myself and ultimately draw blood from doing the untangling. But then I think about how these armored plants provide protective cover for so many in my beautiful wildlife garden. I consider how the sweet juicy fruits feed birds, insects and mammals (including me) and how the delicately scented flowers provide for pollinators and many other insects. It makes my battle wounds all worthwhile.
Back to my lacy plant. I turned over a leaf or two looking for who was feasting away. I saw a few crawlies but without my reading glasses I was hard-pressed to figure out who was doing the munching as they were too small for these old eyes to decipher. That’s when I spotted a “cocoon” on the end of one of the leaves.
I snapped off the part of the plant that contained the cocoon and decided I would put on my citizen scientist hat and take it to a breeding container to see what adult would emerge. As one who believes that each species has its own important function, I’m not in favor of trying to “save” insects by handrearing. I am, however, curious and appreciate an educational moment when it presents itself.
As I started to walk back toward the house I realized that the cocoon was walking…and toward my HAND! As much as I love my bugs, I don’t ever touch anything with my bare hands. I get rather “itchy” in that regard. As my friend crawled up and down the leaves, I turned the plant part over and over keeping the crawly away from my skin. You can see what I saw in this 7 second video.
I got up to the patio and grabbed a recycled beanie baby box which I use as rearing containers when I need to solve the “who turns into what” mysteries. I placed everything inside, took a few photos and a video and put some screening across the top.
Off to the computer, I come to discover that my cocoon isn’t a cocoon, but larvae of a Case-bearing Leaf Beetle. Guess this little turtle-type housing unit explains the beetle’s common name.
Apparently many species in the larval stage resemble each other. I can’t be certain, but I’m leaning toward it being a Warty Leaf Beetle Neochlamisus sp. possibly bimaculatus based on it being on Blackberry. I thought I would get a firm answer, but alas, it still hasn’t turned into an adult. Hopefully the mystery will be solved some time in the future if it ever completes the lifecycle.
While these beetles eat plants, the blackberry isn’t in any danger of being expatriated from my yard, so they can munch away. The beetle probably feeds something up the food chain. This particular plant was the only one that really looked chewed upon and blackberry can be quite aggressive so an added benefit could be mom nature’s way of keeping the blackberries from taking over the ENTIRE yard.
On a different trip around the “estate”, I spotted a cocoon on a Saltbush (Baccharis sp.) and zoomed in with the camera to get a closer view. Before I could break off the branch to attempt to find out what the adult might grow into, the “cocoon” jumped off one branch and onto another.
Fooled once again…not a cocoon, but larvae. I am overjoyed by this find because it is the Debris-Carrying Larvae of a Green Lacewing (Chrysoperla sp.), a beneficial pest-eating insect.
I learned about these insects two years ago when I found eggs on a palmetto bush. In my prior article on lacewings I was able to show the eggs, newly hatched larva and adults, but try as I might, I couldn’t locate the larvae decorated with the discarded carcasses of its meal tickets. Ewwwww, yeah, that’s what the stuff is that it glues to itself. Talk about a bold defense mechanism…but I suppose that if I glued some empty lobster claws to myself that no one would want to be bothered with me either. I guess we might conclude that Green lacewings are very savvy insects.
At any rate, I’m glad that I had this encounter to complete my photographic evidence of the lifecycle of a green lacewing.
So, once again I find myself mesmerized by new and interesting observations in my beautiful wildlife garden. Sometimes looks can be deceiving…and FUN.
*that’s the P.G. version. It actually is more like #*()@&*(&@!%^$###*(^&