Butternut Woolyworm

This mass is about an inch across.

I won’t even bother making this a “name this creature” post. It’s not likely that anyone would have seen this exact configuration of living matter, though the small wooly aphids come close in superficial appearance.

This mass of waxy filaments was peeking out from under the back side of a leaf on a volunteer walnut sapling near the back door.

It took some sleuthing to figure it out. The living, moving mass, on closer inspection, appeared to be a caterpillar– the larva of a butterfly or moth. Nope. Not.

It’s official name (and there are two indistinguishable individuals in this image) is the Butternut Woolyworm. Not a worm. Not a close relative of the common wooly worm we’ll see crossing the road about now, that morphs into an Isabella Tiger Moth.

It is the immature stage of a hornfly. Which is not a fly at all but a kind of wasp. And the waxy costume it wears at this stage of life is apparently a way to make itself unpalatable to would-be predators. I certainly was not tempted.

Read more at Hilton Pond.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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