Blackberry Looper

2011 May 28

Sam found this for me in the yard somewhere on July 21, 2010[1]. It was a small green inchworm, only a bit over an inch long and very thin. The background in these photos is a kleenex, by the way.

It liked to pose with its head end elevated and its front legs tucked in. It was obviously trying to mimic a small green twig, although I’m surprised that it so frequently was curved like this instead of being straight.

An interesting feature is the shape of the head. The projecting ‘horns” on the head and thorax mimic the buds at the tip of the branches on most woody plants.

The shape of the head, and the tiny granular-looking white spots on the body, make me think it is a Blackberry Looper, Chlorochlamys chloroleucaria. Which, according to BugGuide, “feeds on the fruit of blackberries, and the petals of various composite flowers”. This seems oddly specific, actually. I wonder if flower petals are more nutritious/less toxic than the normal run of leaves that a caterpillar is likely to find? And, I wonder whether it waits for the fruit to ripen, or just eats the green fruit as soon as it forms?

So, if that’s what it is, then its tucked head is probably specifically mimicking blackberry branch buds[2]. Although, it is a sufficiently general shape that it would probably blend in on pretty much any small tree or bush.

If we find another of these, I’ll definitely need to try raising it to adulthood. The adult is a distinctly green-colored moth that looks quite different from your run-of-the-mill moth.

[1] One of the things I’ve been noticing about well-camouflaged insects, is that the ones you actually find are usually anomalies. They are usually somewhere that they would not normally be, because that’s when their camouflage fails and you can easily spot them. The ones that are in their normal habitat are rarely actually seen, because their camouflage is very good then. If this one had been on its actual foodplant at the time, Sam would probably never have found it.

[2] And, it turns out that if you want to see what the bud of a blackberry looks like, there is a problem when one does a Google search. The term “Blackberry bud” (and also “Blueberry bud”) turns out to be slang for a particular kind of marijuana, so that’s mostly what the search turns up pictures of. Ah well, we have our own actual blackberry plants growing out back, and that’s what I have a camera for, after all.

3 Responses
  1. May 28, 2011

    I’ve seen these before – my daughter and I examined and “played” with them for a while. It’s fascinating to see them up close in such detail.

  2. May 29, 2011

    I used to see caterpillars. Now I just see digestive tubes with legs.


  3. May 31, 2011

    Yep, “digestive tubes with legs” pretty much sums it up. It’s all about matching form to function at each stage of life. When your entire problem is to eat and gr0w quickly, you’re an eating machine. When you grow up and are ready to reproduce, you dump the eating machine functions and become a breeding-and-dispersing machine. Which is why the insects who have taken this strategy to extremes probably outnumber all other non-microscopic land animals combined.

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