Many caterpillars physically mimic their surroundings to avoid detection from birds, and our new CATERPILLAR OF THE WEEK, Sicya macularia - the Sharp-lined Yellow, is a stunning example of this. You may have seen some of our early season twig displays with very convincing brown or tan twig caterpillars, but the Sicya, or SiMa as we call it in the lab, have two dorsal protrusions and beautiful lime green and burnt red colors, that expertly mirror a young thorny twig. In the wild it’s important to not only look the part, but ACT the part too, so our COTW will remain completely still with its body outstretched, combining physical and behavioral mimicry to perfectly hide in plain sight.
The Sharp-lined Yellow overwinters on a host branch as an egg, emerging in early spring as hatchlings. The parent moth flew to Sam's light last summer, which was the first time he's encountered a female, so there was much excitement about finally getting some eggs. The five eggs she deposited remained in a vial in the corner of the lab for four months, so there was some skepticism as to whether or not they would actually hatch, but we decided to overwinter them in the fridge anyway; ending in a successful 2017 hatching!
Even if those eggs didn't hatch, we were still happy to have them since they are wonderfully intricate and unique little things. With net-like ridges and one concave end, they look more like Alien eggs (think xenomorph) rather than a caterpillar from New Hampshire! Would you think they were just caterpillar eggs if you saw these?
Stay with us for more about the Sharp-lined Yellow later this week when we dive into the pupal stage of this caterpillar; which is just as unique and stunning as the caterpillar itself!
Rearing Specialist & Outreach Educator