In an earlier post I pondered what lay within a silky tent strung between segments of chicken wire. A butterfly larva? Or as one reader opined, perhaps a paralyzed caterpillar, soon to be devoured by a spider?
While I wasn’t looking, the caterpillar — which was very much alive and not on anyone’s menu — continued to spin its magic and metamorphosed into a shiny cocoon.
I was huddled near the end of a rotting log when I spotted a brightly patterned bug just a few inches away. This was quickly followed by a good-grief-what-the-heck? moment when I realized it was “attached” to a large caterpillar. What followed next was fascinating.
The piercing mouthparts of this immature stink bug had seized hold of one of the caterpillar’s hind “legs” (known as prolegs to bugsters) and it was feeding on the still-living larva.
The caterpillar was strong. It pulled that stink bug several inches across the log face. Despite its best efforts, however, it couldn’t break free.
The stink bug’s grip was stronger. In fact, several times the caterpillar swung loose, dangling in air. The stink bug never lost its hold on the log or the larva.
Although the larva was still alive when I left, the end was inevitable — it was lunch on legs for this young spined soldier bug.
The stink bug’s piercing mouthparts latched on to one of the caterpillar’s hind “legs”.
The caterpillar was strong enough to drag the stink bug across the log face but not strong enough to dislodge the mouthparts.
I spotted the stink bug first and only then realized it was feeding on the caterpillar.
The stink bug will feed well on this caterpillar.
The stink bug’s grip, though slender, was tenacious. Even when the caterpillar swung free in the air, it didn’t dislodge the bug’s grip on either its dinner or the log.
When I first spotted this duo, the caterpillar was clinging to the leaf at the bottom of the log. They travelled quite a distance during this deadly tug-of-war.
The spined soldier bug goes through 5 stages (instars, for the biologically inclined) between egg and adult. Each stage looks quite different than the others. Turns out I found the third instar.