Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Mystery Object




I need help. I found this object on the ground under an old, large elm tree during the lunch hour dog walk. It is sitting on graph paper that has 1 cm squares. It is less than 10 grams in weight, I'd say about 5 grams from what it looked like on my scales. It feels fairly solid but is not rock hard by any means. I suspect that it is a winter shelter for some sort of insect/butterfly/moth but I don't know. Any one have any ideas?

For now I am putting it in a large jar in the unheated barn with cheese cloth on top to keep whatever inside if it chances to come out.

9 comments:

bev said...

Your "mystery object" looks to be a Cecropia moth cocoon. They are quite large and usually a bit puffy looking, about the colour of an old tea bag, and often have leaves woven into the silk. I've photographed several that I've found attached to bushes. This one was photographed at Murphy's Point Prov. Park in eastern Ontario in November 2004.
http://www.pbase.com/crocodile/image/36022751

Nannothemis said...

I agree, if not Cecropia, another silkmoth. Keep it outside, lest you have a big moth emerging with no place for it to go!

Trix said...

I'd say Cecropia, as well; it's very similar to the ones that routinely dot our Northern Ont. bush, although the last two years there seemed to be less and less...

Norene said...

neat. i like these kinds of mysteries! (guess it isn't a mystery anymore, but it was before i clicked through to the comments.)

if it hatches, i hope you'll be able to post another photo.

bev said...

trix commented "I'd say Cecropia, as well; it's very similar to the ones that routinely dot our Northern Ont. bush, although the last two years there seemed to be less and less..."

the problem with Cecropia and other large silk moths such as the Luna is that they are frequently attacked by parasitoids such as larvae of tachinid flies and parasitic wasps. When you come across the caterpillars of Cecropia and Luna moths, they are often already showing signs of parasitism. Much of the problem goes back to the release of an alien tachinid fly (Compsilura concinnata) which were introduced as a bio-control for Gypsy moths. Unfortunately, they didn't confine their activities to parasitism of Gypsy moths, but also attack our native silk moths. This page contains some information on the situation.
http://nature.sbc.edu/studentwork/kellogg/saturniid.html
From my own observations in eastern Ontario over the past couple of years, I've found several Cecropia and Luna caterpillars which are under attack from parasitoids. I've also kept an eye on cocoons that I've found attached to bushes, and no moth has emerged (parasitized caterpillars are pretty much doomed and do not mature into moths). If you're interested in looking at photos of a Cecropia caterpillar with parasitoids, I shot some photos of one in summer 2004. There's also a photo of a parasitized Luna caterpillar which I found on the ground in the forest. (just click on thumbnail shots to see larger views).
http://www.pbase.com/crocodile/caterpillars2004&page=2

Randa said...

Hey Bev -- I live about 20 minutes away from Murphy's Point Provincial Park! Are we neighbours??!!!

bev said...

hi randa,
yes, in terms of relative distance on the net, we're neighbours. i'm about an hour east of Murphys Point. i'll link my name to my blog on this post in case you want to drop by to check it out.
-bev

threecollie said...

Could it be one of these?http://www.fotosearch.com/DGT037/12391041/

Ontario Wanderer said...

Thanks to all who answered! I think it is the Cecropia moth cocoon. I shall put it into a larger container and leave it in the barn until the weather warms up to see what comes out. I'll post another photo if I get a live critter. (3C, N not a mantis. I've lots of those egg cases around the property and know what they look like. The colour is correct but the shape and size are different.)