nanonaturalist: My life is being consumed by t…


My life is being consumed by tawny emperor caterpillars. There are so many of them and they eat so much that I have to give them fresh branches twice a day, and it now takes about 10 hours over the course of three days to clean their tank.

I have to move them back and forth between tanks, and during tank cleanings, my kitchen counter is overflowing with tanks and carriers. The clean tank gets a fresh branch of leaves, and I move the freshest branch from the dirty tank over to the new one. Then begins the process of painstakingly uncurling and closely inspecting every single leaf for hiding caterpillars because (1) they like to hide and/or the drying up of leaves makes them think winter is coming and it’s time to hibernate (2) they are really stupid and keep trying to eat dead dry leaves when nice fresh leaves are an inch away from them. And until I’m done with the tank cleaning (i.e., all the caterpillars are in the new tank), I have to keep putting fresh leaves in the dirty one. It’s an exercise in futility. By the time I have all the caterpillars in the clean tank, it’s dirty and time to start moving them back over.

I was pretty proud about how few were dying at the beginning, but now they are trying to die, I swear. They are drowning themselves, they are not eating, they are crawling under the paper towel at the tank bottom and getting squished, they are CRAWLING OUT OF THE TANK during the day and getting eaten by cats (I can only assume… I’ve had to pick caterpillars off the kitchen floor when I get home…)

Anyway, factor in that I am ALSO raising three giant stick insects (I stay up so late cleaning the caterpillar tank that I keep catching the sticks molting at 2 to 4 am!), three species of stink bugs, io caterpillars (one clutch of 20 eggs hatched last week, another clutch getting ready to hatch soon), and I have 6 actual cats (not caterpillar cats)… I have no free time and am actually skating by on 3 hours of sleep on weeknights.

I cannot WAIT for them to pupate and I can have free time again. I have thousands of photos backlogged for iNaturalist I can’t work on because caterpillars. Also I can’t work on in-depth posts on here until the caterpillapocalypse is over.

But yeah, I’ve been sifting through frass (caterpillar poop) I collect from the dirty tanks to separate the shed faces/head capsules. Trying to figure out what to DO with the faces. They’re getting pretty big! I used to need a microscope to see them!

May 22, 2017