The Mystery of the Maggots and the Death’s Head Hawkmoth

Sometimes nature throws a bit of a curved ball with an unexpected outcome and here are my photos in response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Creepy.”

I love solving a good mystery and finding the clues to the puzzle.  Here in the garden I thought I’d tracked down the culprit of a rather large pupa.  We’d noticed severe pruning to our Cape Honeysuckle creeper and tracked down the efforts to one single huge caterpillar: a Death’s Head Hawkmoth caterpillar.   So when some weeks later we discovered a pupa in the soil we put two and two together and expected to have a moth chrysalis emerging.  Instead it was something more like that creepie movie “Alien”.  The pupae oriented to the top of the soil and moved with vigour…….and instead out popped a hundred maggots !!

It is most likely that a bluebottle fly parasitised the pupa laying it’s eggs within the transforming chrysalis.

Advertisements

A Jumping Spider, Dancing Butterflies.

The chill of autumn has started to bite signalling a change of seasons and right on cue are sightings of the beautiful velvety Cape Autumn Widow butterflies.  Hundreds can be see hovering above the grassy banks along my coastal hiking path.   Dainty creatures flitting to and fro.  The reference book says that they will deposit their larvae eggs amongst the kikuyu and low shrubs.   I’ve began to suspect that hordes of caterpillars will soon be descending into my seaside garden.  Only plants of a hardy nature thrive next to the coast and one of the species that does well is statice, or sea lavender.   The fine, lacy flowers come in shades of blue, lilac and pink and they are prized as cut flowers  for their ‘everlasting’ quality.  Whilst the flowers have an almost papery texture, the leaves are a power house of green vitality.  Of all the plants in the garden these are the ones which are mercilessly munched down to the stems and in the past a bristly caterpillar has been the culprit.  I’ve not been able to track down the identity, but have a very strong suspicion that they are the offspring of those gorgeous dancing butterflies.  Already there are the signs as tiny, skinny worms appear by the day.    Investigating further i discovered to my surprise that Salticidae – Jumping spiders have also taken up residence.   Known for their acrobatic flying stunts, they’re dubbed the bungee jumpers of the arachnid family.   Attached by silk strands they’re able to launch into the air after flying insects and should they fluff it they able to return safely along their shoot lines.  They’re also equipped with four pairs of eyes for excellent all-round vision.  Would it be that they’ll be tempted to a juicy fat worm or two?  I wonder?

The handsome Widow, note the orange and blue spots.
The handsome Widow, note the orange and blue spots.
The papery bracts of lilac statice.
The papery bracts of lilac statice.
A unquenchable appetite.
A voracious appetite.
The most delectable leaves.
The most delectable leaves.
Larvae hatch.
Larvae hatch.
The acrobat, Salticidae - the Jumping Spider.
The acrobat, Salticidae – the Jumping Spider.
Note the two pairs of frontal eyes, another two appear laterally.
Poised and ready to jump.  Note the two pairs of frontal eyes, another two appear laterally.

The fat, plump and the hirsute.

I guess the heading may well foil Google searches?  Its amazing what can be hunted out in the garden for macro shots.  Here is an array of the hairy, bristly or just plain smooth.  They sure have keen appetites though…..