Florida: Faithful Beauty Moth

Faithful Beauty Moth (also known as the Uncle Sam Moth)

Faithful Beauty Moth (also known as the Uncle Sam Moth)

We saw the Faithful Beauty moth (also known as the Uncle Sam moth) for the first time only a couple of weeks ago at Sebastian Inlet State Park, Florida.  So pretty!  Its Latin name is Composia fidelissima, and it is more commonly seen in southern Florida.   You can tell it is a moth by its feathery antennae.  We are happy to get back to normal after a very close call here on Florida’s Atlantic Coast with Hurricane Matthew.

Best Caterpillar Ever!

Photographing the Tersa Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

Photographing the Tersa Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

Horizontal View of Caterpillar

Horizontal View of Caterpillar

Front View of Caterpillar

Front View of Caterpillar

Eye Spots of Caterpillar

Eye Spots of Caterpillar

This past weekend I was working in the flower garden and found this Tersa sphinx moth caterpillar under our tapioca bush. Sphinx/hummingbird moths come out at dusk to drink flower nectar. They especially love pentas. I couldn’t get over the realistic eye spots on the caterpillar – I think it was pretending to be a snake so that birds wouldn’t eat it. It had gold spots on its body, along with delicate shades of pink and blue.  After taking pictures, and I carefully placed it back outside exactly where it was when I found it. What a spectacular caterpillar!

Fascinating Dung Beetles

Large Florida Dung Beetle in Hand (yes I will pick up just about anything)

Large Florida Dung Beetle in Hand (yes I will pick up just about anything)

Baby Dung Beetle on White Sandy Trail (combed antennae are extremely sensitive to smell)

Baby Dung Beetle on White Sandy Trail (combed antennae are extremely sensitive to smell)

Dung Beetle Doing Headstand Pushing Mushroom Cap Backwards

Dung Beetle Doing Headstand Pushing Mushroom Cap Backwards

Burrowing Owl Family

Burrowing Owl Family

Did you know that Florida has dung beetles? We saw this Canthon species of dung beetle on a sandy trail at the Sebastian Buffer Preserve. “Tumblebugs” are nature’s ultimate recyclers, and they make the world a better place. They push and roll vegetable matter or round balls of dung into a hole they dig underground (thus aerating and fertilizing the soil). They reduce fly populations and disease by burying waste. Without them cattle ranchers would be in a heap of trouble.

Dung beetles push their food backwards with their hind legs, which makes them look like they are doing headstands. They can easily push 50 times their weight, and are one of the few insects that care for their young. They’ve been around since the age of dinosaurs, and can orient themselves using the Milky Way.

Florida burrowing owls often place dung or pieces of rotting fruit around their burrows (which is tool use). It is believed they do this because it attracts dung beetles – their favorite snack! Egyptians considered scarabs (a kind of dung beetle) to be sacred. They believed a scarab pushed the round ball of the sun across the sky.

Backyard: Don’t Forget the Little Things

Giant Tersa Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

Giant Tersa Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

Seldom-Seen Glass Lizard

Seldom-Seen Glass Lizard

Giant Florida Katydid

Giant Florida Katydid

Tiny Jumping Spider

Tiny Jumping Spider

Rainbow Scarab Beetle

Rainbow Scarab Beetle

Crab Spider (Spinybacked Orb Weaver)

Crab Spider (Spinybacked Orb Weaver)

Lubber Grasshopper

Lubber Grasshopper

Don’t forget to look for the little things in your backyard.  I bet you would be surprised at what is out there in the garden!  All of these creatures can be found outside the backdoor in Florida. 

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