By Carlie Gentry
When working outdoors, insects sometimes find themselves to be a large factor in your day. Often this occurs as mosquitoes, black flies, or no-see-ums that refuse to leave you alone while in the field. Other times you may come across an angry hive of bees or hornets that disrupt your workflow when you disturb their home. But every now and then, you come across an insect that is just downright cool looking and requires taking a short break to check it out! Below are a few of the coolest insects I have come across during my time working on the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Trail Crew.
LeConte’s Haploa Moth
The caterpillar of the Haploa Moth family are commonly known a “wooly bears”. Folklore says that the amount of black on a “wooly bear” caterpillar is a tell of the severity of the upcoming winter.
The urticating hairs of the Saddleback Caterpillar excrete an irritating venom that causes a painful, swollen rash and even possible nausea if you come in contact with them.
Sometimes called a “nettle grub”, the full-grown larvae of the Io Moth (pictured above) is nearly completely surrounded by venomous spines.
These caterpillars are sometimes referred to as “loopers” because of their form of locomotion. With legs on the head and tail of the body but none on the abdomen, the caterpillar must create a loop as it moves along like an inchworm.
Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar
We know this caterpillar is early in the larvae stages because it is predominately brown in coloration. As it gets closer to purpating, it will turn a yellowish or green color.
Hickory Tussock Caterpillar
Hickory Tussock Caterpillars get their venomous qualities from the plants they eat. Contact with the hairs of these caterpillars is much like the rash caused by exposure to poison ivy.
White Spotted Sawyer Beetle
The existence of the White Spotted Sawyer Beetle, which feeds on pine and spruce trees, is much heavier in forests that have suffered fire damage. The more severe the fire damage, the larger the population size can be supported. They particularly thrive when there is also healthy forest in the close vicinity for adults to feed on. These requirements make Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness a prime location for them.
Spined Micrathena Spider
We know this spider is a female because the males of this species do not make webs. Their silk is only used in the mating ritual, which oftentimes is fatal for them.
I am by no means a scientist but have completed all research to the best of my ability.