Species of the Month - October 2017
Scarlet Caterpillar Club
Scarlet Caterpillar Clubs can be found anywhere that caterpillars occur;
in woodland, grassland and most other kinds of habitat. Sometimes
there is just one club, sometimes a few together. They are similar
in shape to fungi such as Wrinkled Club (Clavulina rugosa) or Smoky
Spindles (Clavaria fumosa), but are unrelated. as those are
basidiomycetes and this is an ascomycete. Its surface is rough
with perithecia tips which release the spores. Basidiomycete club
fungi have a smooth surface. There are other Cordyceps species but
they do not have this colour and shape. If it looks like C
militaris then you can be confident that it is.
the spores are released only the lucky few that land on a
butterfly or moth caterpillar will survive. When the caterpillar
enters the soil or leaf litter to pupate, the fungal mycelium begins
to grow inside it, replacing the caterpillar's own insides.
Sometimes this happens before the caterpillar has pupated, and then when
you dig the fungus out you find its base attached to a dead caterpillar.
The right-hand one above was growing on some rotten wood so it was quite
easy to dig out. The result is shown below.
This is what we found when we dug out the fungus from the dead wood. The fungus is growing from a dead caterpillar, which we thought might be that of the Emperor Moth. The caterpillars are usually well decomposed and hard to identify with certainty.
times, the caterpillar pupates first, and the fungus is found growing
from a pupa (making the host species even harder to identify).
This one from our 2015 Sea Life Centre bioblitz had three fruitbodies
growing from one pupa.
are not common anywhere but they seem to like short vegetation in thin
soil over rock, especially limestone rock. Something has been
grazing on these ones.
Photo by Jan Hamilton of Scarlet Caterpillar Club on moss-covered rock outcrop in grassland, on our Kentallen cycle track field trip in Oct 2014
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