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Killer Caterpillars



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Fatal Attraction
Photograph by Darlyne A. Murawski

It appears to be the picture of harmony as a Myrmica rubra ant feeds on sweet secretions emitted from the dorsal nectary organ of a Maculinea alcon caterpillar. Yet these caterpillars are lethal carnivores inside Myrmica nests, gobbling up ant larvae with apparent impunity. Why? With one of nature's more amazing adaptations, Maculinea alcon caterpillars have a waxy coat of hydrocarbons that make them smell almost exactly like Myrmica ant larvae. Adult ants will therefore treat the caterpillars like their own offspring, carrying them into the ant nest, pampering them, even feeding them regurgitated liquids mouth to mouth. They barely seem to notice when a caterpillar munches a baby ant—a rarely observed carnivorous behavior caught on film by biologist and photographer Darlyne Murawski.

Photo Fast Facts

Camera: Olympus OM4 Ti
Film Type: Fujichrome Provia 100
Lens: 20mm macro
Speed and F-Stop: 1/60 @ f/16

Weather Conditions: Nice day
Time of Day: Morning
Lighting Techniques: 3 flashes, diffusers.



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