Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the July 10, 2016 Newsletter issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort beside Chichén Itzá Ruins, central Yucatán MÉXICO

With the advent of the rainy season the landscape suddenly is lush and green with newly emerged vegetation, with caterpillars eating that vegetation. The diversity of caterpillars is stunning. But, down here not much is known about many, maybe most, caterpillars, so it's hard to impossible to identify them just by matching what you see with identified caterpillar pictures on the Internet. I knew that when I took the following picture of one feeding beneath a Bauhinia leaf, but took the picture anyway, shown below, thinking that its novel features of fuzz might help in the ID process.


Another view better showing the fuzz tuft arrangement is shown below:


A surprisingly dark-orangish head is shown

Apatelodes? head

Up north tussock moths produce similarly distributed fuzz tufts, so when volunteer identifier Bea in Ontario saw the pictures she immediately started with that group, but found nothing to her liking. Eventually she wrote back, appending a picture of a caterpillar up north not occurring here, pointing out that "It has all the tufts in the same place, a red head, the only difference is color and length of hair." That northern caterpillar was identified as Apatelodes auduboni, so a good guess is that our fuzzy-yellow caterpillar is a member of the genus Apatelodes, of which several are listed for this area, but not illustrated; or at least they might belong to the same family, the Bombycidae.

I find hardly any lifecycle information about Apatelodes species. Here we'll just park our pictures under the keyword Apatelodes, and maybe someday an expert working on the genus will find the page and be glad to know that in early July the caterpillar in our picture turned up near Chichén Itzá ruins in the central Yucatán, México, feeding lustily on a leaf of Bauhinia ungulata, the "Cowfoot," a member of the Bean Family.

from the July 24, 2016 Newsletter issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort beside Chichén Itzá Ruins, central Yucatán MÉXICO

A fuzzy, white caterpillar with curious red blotches near the head during up in deep forest this week, shown below:

Apatelodes? late instar

A close-up of the head end with its red blotches is shown below:

Apatelodes? late instar red splotch

Volunteer identifier Bea in Ontario thinks this must be the same caterpillar species she IDd as probably an Apatelodes species a couple of weeks ago. Just that this week's individual is much more boldly colored, as it well might be if we have a later instar.

Interestingly, this older one just refused to expose his amber-colored head, while the younger one earlier displayed no hesitation at all.