Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Fungivorous Caterpillar

I photographed some fungi in the backyard today. It's one of the more common species on our hill.

Laccaria sp. (as idntified by Sarah in the comments below)

Having read Denis Wilson's blog entry where he found a small fungivorous creature living between the fungal gills, I thought I had better have a closer look. Sure enough there were signs of something living there. Some parts of the fungus had been eaten and there was a network of fine webbing over the gills.

Fine webbing between the gills

Closer examination found the culprit - a small caterpillar which I measured at just 3mm in length. I have tried to get a better shot but the caterpillar has since crawled off and hidden somewhere within the fungus. I will attempt rearing it but I'm not too sure on my chance of success. If I manage a better photo at some stage I'll update this entry.

White hairless caterpillar with dark head capsule

An update to this post can be found here.


  1. Hi Mosura
    Seek and you shall find. Well done.
    I wonder if you can keep your fungus fresh enough for the caterpillar to pupate. But as most fungi have a pretty short "shelf life", naturally, your caterpillar is either a fast grower, or is mobile enough to move houses.
    Good luck, with it, anyway.
    Next step is maggots. Maggots love the big soft smelly fungi of our forests. Yum. You will have to keep them in a special box out near the chook shed.
    Happy pupations.

  2. I can clearly see the caterpillar! Must be delicious in there and quite comfy for it ;)

  3. Fascinating post Mosura, some great pics.

  4. Can you get enough of a look at it to see if it has prolegs? It might be a fungus beetle larva.

    Incidentally, what part of Tasmania are you in? I've visited the northwestern point, but haven't seen much of the rest.

  5. G'day Tim. Thanks for your input.

    No I have not seen that much detail. My judgment was simply on the shape of the head capsule and the large amount of silk webbing. However there are some Coleoptera with silk glands as there are other larvae with prolegs so I couldn't say for sure. I guess ultimately I'd have to see the crochets :-) This is why I'm currently in negotiations with the minister for finance (wife) about getting a better microscope :-)

    Oh and coincidentally I'm in the north-west of Tassie.

  6. Thanks Denis - yet it's the short shelf life that makes me doubt I can rear it but as you say they must grow quick when you consider the eggs could not have been laid until the fungi was at least close to the surface.

  7. Thanks Warren and Anonymous.

    Warren - Glad you like the pics

    Anonymous. - I'm not about to test the "delicious" theory :-)

  8. An update on caterpillar has been posted here

  9. The fungus with pink gills is a Laccaria sp.

  10. Hi,

    the fungus with caterpillar is a Laccaria sp.

  11. Thanks Sarah - Much appreciated!