Brazilian Skipper Larva
Our featured animal this month is ugly by many standards. It is large for an insect (up to around 3 inches long), eats a popular garden plant, and looks like a flayed worm. The larva of the Brazilian skipper (Calpodes ethlius) is also called the canna leafroller, as that is its main food plant. The larva feeds on the leaves and uses silk to roll them into a shelter in which it hides. Without protection, this very naked looking caterpillar is easy prey for wasps and other parasitoids, which lay their eggs on it so their own young can feed on the caterpillar when they hatch.
Although the caterpillar is easy enough to find when it is eating cannas (the leaves are usually well munched), the adult skippers are not as often noticed. The Brazilian is one of the largest skippers, and its flight is fast and strong. The butterfly is mostly dark brown with some white dots on its wings. It has a large range but can only survive in warmer climates. It does, however, move north every summer to temporarily colonize urban areas where cannas are grown.