A caterpillar with red shoes?

Yes, a white fluffy caterpillar with bright-red shoes! This Spotted Apatelodes (Apatelodes torrefacta) was just one of several caterpillars we discovered and identified at the recent Caterpillar Weekend at Natural Bridge State Resort Park.

The red ‘shoes’ are actually prolegs. Furthermore, I understand this is one of the stinging caterpillars, although I didn’t touch it to find out.

Spotted Apatelodes caterpillarcaterpillarIt was a treat to find and identify ‘cats’ with other enthusiasts. I continue to be impressed by the wide variety of caterpillars naturalists have documented in the park. My thanks to Brian and Drew for making it a fun learning experience.

Amazing Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

During a recent visit to Natural Bridge State Park, Harry and I thoroughly enjoyed watching Ruby-throated hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) as they darted in and out, stopping briefly to drink at feeders. It was like watching a continuous aerial ballet.

Ruby-throated humingbirds

Here’s a few fun facts –

  • Hummingbirds are the tiniest birds in the world.
  • They are the only birds that can fly both forward and backward; they can also hover in mid-air, fly sideways and upside down.
  • They pollinate plants by getting pollen on their head and neck while gathering nectar from blossoms.
  • Most Ruby-throated hummingbirds fly 500 miles nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico during their spring and fall migrations.

We don’t have a feeder in the yard, however we regularly see one or more hummingbirds nectaring on various blossoms, especially red ones. These birds are indeed amazing, and I’m always thrilled to see them.

Banded Tussock Moth caterpillars

Harry and I recently visited Natural Bridge State Resort Park. It’s a bit early for autumn color, and getting late for many insects. I wasn’t sure what we’d see, and I was glad to find several different caterpillars.

This is a curled up Banded Tussock Moth caterpillar (Halysidota tessellaris). I’m guessing the arrangement of the stiff spines discourages predators, and I’m intrigued by the design. At first glance, it’s hard to tell it’s a caterpillar.

Curled Banded Tussock Moth caterpillar

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2nd caterpillar weekend at Natural Bridge

Click the image to open the 2-page PDF (700 KB)

Natural Bridge State Resort Park is holding their second Caterpillar Weekend – August 23-24; view the two-page flier (700 KB PDF). I attended this event last year, and was amazed at the variety of caterpillars we discovered.  It was great fun and I learned a lot!

I wish caterpillars were better understood and appreciated. It seems many folks think of them as bad ‘worms’. Caterpillars are not worms – they are one stage in the life cycle of butterflies and moths. Although a few can be classified as pests, most are beneficial. All of them are an important part of nature and the food chain, especially for adult and baby birds.

I am fascinated by caterpillars and appreciate the chance to learn more about them. I look forward to this year’s event and invite you to join us. It’s a great chance to meet others who appreciate nature, and to enjoy one of Kentucky’s beautiful state parks.