Fall in Rhode Island

posted by Casey Dunn / on September 30th, 2009 / in Arthropods, Parasites

Manduca

The leaves are starting to turn and the garden is getting thin as most fruits and vegetables are harvested. There are some fun surprises among the plants that remain, including this tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta) above that was chewing on our tomatoes. It stayed in one spot, and over the course of two days more and more parasitoid wasp larvae, probably Cotesia congregata, emerged to spin their cocoons. When the mother wasp injected her eggs into the young caterpillar, she also injected a virus that had been multiplying in her ovaries. This virus continued to reproduce in its new host, castrating the caterpillar and preventing it from metamorphosing. This trick provides the the perfect feeding ground for the wasp babies.

Other organisms are also at their peak, and the woods are full of beautiful and delicious fungi. The specimen below is Laetiporus, also known as chicken of the woods because it is so common and quite eatable.

Chicken

Photos by Casey Dunn. Thanks to Doug Morse, Alan Bergland, and Erika Edwards.