Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Carnivorous Butterflies?!

The Harvester- Feniseca tarquinius

Every schoolchild learns that butterflies lay eggs on plants, the caterpillars feed on the vegetation, grow, form a pupa, and eventually emerge as an adult butterfly which will probably feed on flower nectar, but may instead feed on rotting fruit, sap, or some other organic matter. The Harvester does something different just about every step of the way, breaking all the rules.

Female Harvesters lay their eggs among woolly aphids (Neoprociphilus, Pemphigus, Prociphilus, and Schizoneura). These insects are interesting in their own right. They have both winged and wingless generations, nearly all of which are female, and they usually require at least two different hosts. For instance, the woolly alder aphid (Paraprociphilus tesselatus), a species in which Harvesters are frequently associated with, requires both alders and silver maples, with different generations feeding on each tree.

Harvesters are also members of the Lycaenidae (the plot thickens), but the dietary habits of their larva turn the typical ant/caterpillar alliance on its ear. When Harvester larvea hatch, they eat the woolly aphids – they are the only carnivorous butterfly larvae in North America. Aphid-munching puts Harvesters a bit at odds with the ants, and so the larva will sometimes conceal and protect themselves under a mat they spin from silk and festoon with aphid carcasses.

Recent research has also found that Harvester larvea can produce a chemical camouflage that mimics the species of aphid on which they are feeding.

- Source: Bootstrap Analysis

.....One example is the Harvester butterfly that will lay eggs in woolly aphid masses because the resulting caterpillars will feed on them. The Harvester butterfly (in the butterfly stage) can also pierce woolly aphids and drink their fluids (much like a spider eats its prey). The Harvester butterfly is an exception, however, as most caterpillars and butterflies are strict vegetarians.

- Source: BN & Victoria Butterfly Gardens

DAMN! And the photo isn't mine. Found it when I went to Google them. I found out about them via BN ( BugNation ). Wonderful wonderful forum that I'm a member of.

I never knew there was such a thing. Who knew! First we have blood sucking moths and then carnivorous butterflies! What has this world come to? XD


Deborahinwi said...

LUV your blog! I am very interested in these types of things also. Would you consider putting up the follow link so i can link to you? Thanks!

Brittanie said...


I'm glad you like it. I love it too. *^^* As for the follow link I didn't know that there was supposed to be one. All of the people following this blog must've found a "follow button" somewhere to click on.

I'll need more details on it so I can help you find it. Thanks for the comment. Means the world.

about me said...

I think it's somthing that you add to the blog. Love this blog! Hehe.

Brittanie said...

Awww! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

These would be great for greenhouses to combat aphids without the use of chemicals. To bad someone does not raise these just for that!!!!