Sunday, July 18, 2010

Nettles and Admirals

When I first started seeing large numbers of Red Admiral butterflies 4th of July weekend, I went to the web to refresh my memory about them, their life cycle and their caterpillar food plant.  It's nettles, a plant that, like poison ivy, I do my best to avoid.  Stung once, as the saying goes.

I've seen lots of nettles along the roads and trails recently and I've resisted the urge to look under the leaves for caterpillars - until today.  The abundance of Urticaceae with leaves eaten by insects was just too tempting.  It wasn't until I got back home, that I had a chance to review the stinging potential of the 5 species of nettles found Wisconsin.

I was lucky.

I didn't get stung again - and I got a close look at the caterpillars I had hoped to see.  The caterpillar eats its way out of the egg in about a week.  Then it folds a leaf over itself, stitches it together with silk and creating a safe little feeding tent (circled in red below).

Peel the leaf open - and look for the Red Admiral caterpillars. 

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