Azure butterflies laying eggs on the flowerbuds of our Swamp Dogwood. Here is a photo of one of the slug-like, greenish caterpillars that I now find on the Swamp Dogwood flowerheads.
Note the caterpillar's little black head... it is rarely seen, as it seems to be retractible.
One thing the caterpillars have in common, whether they are all the same species or not, is their relationship with ants. Many of these myrmecophilous caterpillars are attended by ants.
Next is a photo of a Lycaenid caterpillar... showing it in a typical position in the flowerhead of a Swamp Dogwood. The caterpillar's ant is scouting for trouble while keeping in constant contact with its friend, the caterpillar.
I took this next video to show how the ants are very protective of their honeydew food-source. Watch as throughout the video the caterpillar feeds on a flower while its ant scurries around searching for enemies. Towards the end of the video, I poke a stick at the caterpillar and the ant aggressively attacks it in defense of its caterpillar.
Once, I disturbed a caterpillar while removing an obstruction near it. When the ant came to tend the caterpillar it went crazy when it sensed some chemical signals from the caterpillars eversible tubercles. These twin glands are everted in the photo below and the ant is about to go crazy.
Here is a macro video showing the ant as it senses the chemical signals of the everted tubercles. Watch how the ant reacts to the two separate times the tubercles are everted.
The Azure butterfly caterpillars (and their relatives) sure enjoy feeding on flowers.
Well, there you have it! A Nature Post on the little drama happening in the Swamp Dogwood flowers in our backyard.
See my previous post for a photo of the Azure butterflies laying eggs on the Dogwood flowerbuds.