small black caterpillar
shrouded in silk strands clings
to the top of a dry grass stem
head raised, not moving
I find first one, then several more small black caterpillars, clinging to the ends of dead grass stems. To my eye they stand out, black against the pale dead grass, like the banded woolly bear caterpillars, black against gray pavement. But these caterpillars are not crawling in search of a place to hibernate. They are not crawling at all. Their bodies are wrapped in silk strands, head arched back. It's as if the larva climbed to the highest place it could find, clutched its multiple feet around the grass stem, raised its head and said, "This is as high as I can go in this earth-bound body. But I want to ascend!"
One caterpillar has choosen a fluffy cluster of goldenrod flowers gone to seed for a resting place. Probably what I'm seeing is not a defunct caterpillar but merely the shed skin of a larva that has molted during its rapid growth.
Another pair, end to end, have chosen the same grass stem. The one farthest out has its head raised in the usual supplicating pose. The other one seems to have been in the act of turning around. Too crowded up here! But alas, it didn't have time to find another stalk to climb before the urge to molt.
I find one chrysalis hanging from the same kind of dry grass stem. Perhaps the little black caterpillar that left its outgrown skin behind is turning into a pupa inside and will emerge as a moth or butterfly.
During an online search for black caterpillar, I only find one that looks like my stem-bound husks. If the match is correct, they may be the larva of the Harnessed Moth, Grammia figurata. If so, I can understand the larva's urge to transform into a moth that can spread its flashy red, black and white wings and fly above the earth.