Monday, October 23, 2006

You Know You're Doing Better When You Want to Feed Your Caterpillars

Such little cuties!

I found them on the orchid tree, a couple weeks back. I was trimming it within an inch of its life, getting it ready to burst into fall bloom. And on the underside of one leaf I saw a bunch of little orange caterpillars, all huddled together.


Perhaps this huddle is a ruse to confuse predators? It certainly doesn't look like a caterpillar when they do that.

Since I'm ever so fond of bugs, I plunked them into a plastic tub and have been putting in fresh orchid tree leaves every morning. Slowly but surely they started turning from orange to green.

One or two have passed on, succumbing to something Awful to Green Caterpillars. Fungus? Parasite? Don't know. Whatever it was, it cut the poor things in half. Maybe it was the other Mystery Stuff Under a Leaf that did it. (oh, mea culpa!)

So far, most are still around. If I'm late with the leaves, one or two may go walkabout. A couple days ago, retrieving one and handling it a bit too roughly, it stung me.

Another first. Never encountered a real-for-real stinging caterpillar before. Or not its sting, anyway. No harm done. It felt like an ant sting, but made no red mark, and only hurt for an hour or so.

What surprised me, as they grew and thrived, was how they still kept together. If they went wandering, they did it in a line, nose-to-tail. It was really quite funny to see.

Now they're getting big and rambunctious, and don't group together quite as carefully as before. But boy are they beautiful.

Little tykes are growing up.


LL said...

Ok, bless your heart, I know how much you just love and adore insects.



*said in small voice* I WILL admit that them following each other in a line is kinda cool though.

pepektheassassin said...

O, I love this post. I love these pictures (and the post following, too!) When I was in college I kept a little skinny green worm I found in a head of lettuce as a pet. I changed his lettuce once in a while, and he grew into a big fat pinkish caterpillar with black dots, who then made a cocoon and one day hatched as a beautiful, spectacular curley moth with golden eyes. He flew away and was never seen or heard from again. Wonderful pictures! Great post!

Desert Cat said...

There's hordes of big greenish gray fuzzy caterpillars in San Pedro lately. Apparently the heavy rains this summer made it a good year for them, whatever they are. If I knew what they ate, I might try to raise one to cocoon stage and see what emerges.

k said...

ll, a little light bulb just went off over my head.

I couldn't figure out why I was so surprised when I realized you weren't a bug fan.

It's because you're such a science fan, and a very intelligent and well-educated one.

So I lump the creepy crawlies in with the rest, and tend to forget not everyone else does.

I'm SO glad you like their funny walkabouts, at least!

They're as beautiful as your model of a cell. Less gelatinous, too. And maybe stripier.

k said...

Oh, *caterpillars make wonderful housepets!* Wasn't that an old SNL line?

DC, I bet if you could squeeze in a little quiet time you could find out where they're hanging. Maybe even catch some in the act of eating a leaf. I always figure, whatever they're eating at the time must be good for them, so that's what I'll feed them, the few times I decide to take one in.

I love leaving the lid off the container, too. I'm really thrilled at these guys for sticking around so well.

Desert Cat said...

All the ones I've seen seem to be intent on a migration of some sort.

k said...

ahHA! oBOI!

Were they nose to tail?

What direction were they headed?

Did they circle around anything?

Desert Cat said...

I don't recall that they were all headed in a particular direction. They were here and there all over the valley, crossing the road, crawling around my property. I picked a few up that were in my way and moved them to safety, but none that I saw were grouped together or doing any of the interesting behaviors that yours were. They're a much paler green--more the color of mesquite leaves.

k said...

Apparently this grouping and forming a line is specifically io behavior.

I've never seen or heard of any other caterpillars acting like that.

I was giggling at Miss Assassin's lost commenter, who may have been headed north, following either the north star or a giant sperm:
in the comments.

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