At night I’ve discovered there are many creatures lurking, crawling and flying around my house. I am speaking of the six-legged kind. Do you know what group of animals has six legs?
I’ve found a good way to meet many of them is by setting up an ultraviolet light shining on a white sheet when it gets dark. This is a great attraction if you are an insect who is active at night.
At my place they definitely don’t practice social distancing! There can really be a big crowd on that white sheet, constantly bumping and crashing into each other.
Insects will come to your porch light as well. See if your parents will let you leave it on one warm night. Every 15 minutes, go out to see if you have insect visitors.
I guess I should add that the porch light works best if it is pretty dark around your home and there aren’t lots of other lights around you. (This may be tough for some of you who live in brightly-lit neighborhoods.)
I’ve discovered a fierce and vicious predator coming to my black light set-up, and I’m thrilled to know it is here. It is a type of ground beetle called the Fiery Searcher, but another common name fits it better. It is also called the Caterpillar Hunter.
Way back when I was in fourth grade and began collecting insects, I lucked out and caught a Fiery Searcher to add to my collection. It is one of the largest of our ground beetles. I thought then, and still do, that it is one of the most beautiful insects you’ll ever see. Its colors are shiny metallic green, gold, purple and red. The legs are mostly black, but the rest of this beetle is colorful and gorgeous.
I don’t use Latin names very often, but I was so taken with this beetle all those years ago that for some reason its scientific name has always stuck in my mind: Calosoma scrutator.
Caterpillars are the favorite prey of these beetles, both when they are a larvae and an adult. They have very strong mouthparts, called mandibles, so they can easily grab and eat an unlucky caterpillar. They are one of the few ground beetles that can climb trees and bushes looking for their favorite food. They can live for 3 or 4 years, so in a lifetime will catch and eat thousands of caterpillars.
This time of year, their favorite food is the Eastern Tent Caterpillar. In the last week I’ve seen several of these full-grown hairy caterpillars crawling around on the ground. A Fiery Searcher would catch and gobble up an unlucky tent caterpillar very quickly.
I’ve also included photos of a couple more caterpillars. The one on a flower head is a type of inchworm that will become a geometer moth. The green one will become a Cloudless Sulphur butterfly. Unless a Fiery Searcher finds them first!