A troubled caterpillar

lep1This tiger moth caterpillar may appear normal at first glance.  But a closer look reveals it to be plagued by dozens of wasp larvae, slowly consuming it alive as they cling to its back:


photo details (top photo): Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens on a Canon EOS 50D

ISO 200, f/7, 1/200 sec, indirect strobe in a white box

(bottom photo): Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS 50D

ISO 100, f/13, 1/250 sec, flash diffused through tracing paper


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With all those bristles, how did the wasp lay those larvae in the first place?

I'd say it's sad, but it's life in nature. Well, it's still sad actually. I was just looking at some photos I took of a leaf-footed bug with tachinid eggs around its thorax and head, so your photos immediately rang a bell with me.

Despite the poor caterpillar's grim prospects, these are fantastic shots!

Nice photos, even without mites, although leps do have quite a few. Quite a few years ago (1975) Cornell University Press published Asher Treat's beautifully written book on 'Mites of Moths and Butterflies' for anyone who is interested.

What fascinates me about these creepy hymenopterous thugs is how few are known to attack mites. Except for a few encyrtids with records on ticks (by species of the aptly named Ixodophagus), an Australian caeculid mite parasitized by another encyrtid, and a bizarre Chinese eulophid (possibly the same family as what is on your arctiid?) that eats gall mites within their galls - which I suppose could be called serial parasitoidism - mites get a free ride from the Hymenoptera.