Baltimore Checkerspot Larva and Glyptanteles Cocoons

Critique Style Requested: Standard

The photographer is looking for generalized feedback about the aesthetic and technical qualities of their image.


It was windy and very difficult to get good sharpness with a manual focus lens. This is a Baltimore checkerspot butterfly larva on a seed head of an old grass stem. The sun hid behind some clouds and was able to get some reasonable images with fill flash. The white spheres made of silk are most likely braconid wasp cocoons of the genus Glyptapanteles. I saw several larvae with these, but all appeared to be behaving normally. The wasp injects her eggs into the caterpillar and the wasp larvae consume the tissues of the caterpillar without killing their host. The caterpillar lives like a zombie and assumes a guarding position to protect the cocoons.

Technical Details

Z9 200mm f4 Micro (1/250 sec at f18, ISO 500, fill flash set at -2.0ev) Topaz DeNoise AI, Levels, Shadows and Highlights adjustment, slight crop for comp,

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Jim, it looks nice and sharp to me. The fill flash helped to stop movement of the wind, I would image. Looks really good to me. That BG really makes it pop. Great job!

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Jim, an interesting shot. In Korea I sometimes see these wasp larvae eating the caterpillars from within, but as you say, this one looks healthy. Maybe it was eating the wasp larvae or the cocoons? I think I see some small insects at its rear legs, maybe trying to fend it off? Anyway, very clear and tidily composed too.

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Thank you @Shirley_Freeman and @Mike_Friel for the comments and critique. I did some additional research and discovered that this caterpillar is literally a zombie due to the parasitic wasps that have invaded its body. Please see the image description for additional info…Jim

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An interesting note and the photo looks nice and sharp to me. We are supposed to have this butterfly here, but I’ve never seen one. Thanks for the interesting info.

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Beautiful and bizarre!! And very well done!!

Thank you @terryb and @Diane_Miller and to the @NPN_Editor for the EP. Insects have some unusual features in their natural history and was glad to capture this for the first time involving Baltimore checkerspot butterflies…Jim