We staged a secretive handover in a parking lot off an interstate.
I was right about baby being prepupal, he had turned PINK! by the time I picked him up! For whatever reason, many caterpillars tend to turn pink before pupating.
I love him!!!
Okay, enough nonsense, let’s let him pupate already. I gave him the Bowl o’ Dirt with Leaf Garnish, snapped the lid on, and put him in the nice, cool, dark garage.
GOOD LUCK BABY!!!
November 8, 2018
I took a peek!
Bowl o’ Dirt with Leaf Garnish, but hmmmmmmmm where is the baby???
Leaf Garnish removed. Hard to see in this photo, but there is a large bump where SOMEBODY may have burrowed underground.
This is the bottom of the clear plastic bowl. I can see a cavity with a green friend inside. He could be in diapause (hibernation) as a prepupa, and he’ll pupate when the weather changes a bit more. The pupae are almost always a dark brown, the green color would only be present in a VERY fresh pupa.
We’ll just have to wait a little longer and see!
November 21, 2018
reposting Dec 10, 2018 … originally marked as explicit…
Ready for another caterpillar flavor? I found a Polyphemus moth laying eggs on the side of my house. Brought her inside, put her in an enclosure while I grabbed a paper bag (easier to collect eggs on paper!!!), and she laid FIVE eggs in the 10 seconds it took me to get back to her.
Last year, I struggled with keeping my Polyphemus babes fed, since the trees they eat were not abundant in my yard (they ate all the little saplings down to sticks!). But this year, I anticipated Good Moth Luck, and have let all the elm saplings get big and tall regardless of how inconveniently placed they are. And here we are! 😀
August 31, 2018
Guess who’s here?
Mama moth laid 90 eggs and thankfully I was able to give away most of them. I kept 20 eggs for myself, and they started hatching this morning. Exciting!!
September 8, 2018
My fat babies 😭
I gave away 5 more eggs, and three have yet to hatch, so only 12 caterpillars right now. Much easier than 90!!
September 10, 2018
Compare the size of a newly hatched baby pillar with her two-day-old siblings.
September 10, 2018
Baby’s First Molt
You can see his old face is starting to come off! Exciting!
September 11, 2018
Fresh new clothes! In the top photo, you can see the baby’s old skin behind him (it’s the dry yellow thing). In the bottom photo, you can see all their discarded head capsules (I circled them). I collect caterpillar faces!
Remember: they are four days old at this point.
September 12, 2018
Gaze upon my large children
September 13, 2018
Oops forgot to post these yesterday!! Got distracted by BIRD NONSENSE
I probably need to feed them again. They are eating machines!!!
September 15, 2018
Important new development: Hairy Toes
September 20, 2018
The molting and cuteness are everlasting. Soon they will have their walrus mustaches.
Wow wouldn’t it be nice if I could post a video reblog on mobile?!
September 23, 2018
Big n’ fat
September 25, 2018
These were taken over the course of the past few days (time to retag these as “caterpillar laterposts”?), but as you can see, they are now LORGE. The last photo is a big fat baby molting again to become bigger and fatter.
On Monday, I’m bringing them to a school, where a class of VERY lucky 1st graders gets to MEET THEM and WATCH THEM POOP. Speaking of which, stay tuned because I have the action-gif of the poopening photo third from the bottom.
September 29, 2018
Polyphemus caterpillars: unanimously approved by 25 six-year-old humans
Yesterday, I brought four of the fatties to Cedar Creek Elementary school where they got to meet a class of 1st graders who are learning about insects. One of them was molting! One of them pooped, they were fat and eating and the kids LOVED them. They kept asking: “Are these REAL?!” You bet!!
I also brought the microscope and showed them some caterpillar faces! Photos above are from yesterday.
They grow. Larger and larger!
October 2, 2018
October 3, 2018
October 4, 2018
I’m in love
October 4, 2018 (pm)
October 6, 2018
How are they not making cocoons yet?!
LOOK HOW FAT
October 8, 2018
Like my new mustache?
October 8/9, 2018
Squeeze gently to check for ripeness.
Ah, yes. Almost ready.
(Where are my cocoons already?!)
October 9, 2018
It is time
The prophesy is realized. As it was foretold,
R O U N D B O Y
This prepupal green sausage is making THE FIRST COCOON!!!
October 10, 2018
There are now three cocoons
Top: the first cocoon, babby sewed some leaves to the side the their home so you can see the “naked” cocoon side. They don’t always hide in leaf cocoons, but it’s very common and a good camouflage strategy.
Bottom: the second cocoonis completely enclosed in leaves. The third cocoon looks the same.
The caterpillars were huge, so these cocoons must be MASSIVE, right??
Nope! Check it out:
You remember the first bab got SO FAT WHY? They squeeze themselves like an accordion before they make their cocoon and pupate inside. Adult moths look way bigger than they actually are thanks to their wings. Polyphemus moths are pretty big anyway, but the cocoon and pupa are only about a large as the moths body, the wings are just tiny inflatable flaps until they emerge and pump them up.
Only 9 more to go!
October 12, 2018
Only 3 caterpillars left!
Currently, 9 babies are tucked away in their cocoons. Look how cozy! The three remaining sausages are being their typical ridiculous selves. For example, this:
I mean, sure, this is how I eat my breakfast, too.
October 14, 2018
All the Babs are in Cocoons
The final caterpillar made a cocoon on Friday, and caterpillar season is finally starting to slow down a bit (who am I kidding, caterpillar season in Texas lasts 9 months).
Here’s what happened the 17th through the 20th!
Wandering around, trying to find the perfect pupation location.
Poops! Their poops are typically as big as their heads!
The last caterpillar needed to be original, and made a naked cocoon (no leaves). Here’s the beginning.
All done! The finished cocoons are thick and hard, which protects them during the winter. They will pupate inside the cocoon, and when the moths emerge, they spit out a special enzyme that dissolves the silk so they can emerge. For that reason, it’s important that the cocoons are kept somewhere somewhat humid (similar to the outdoors!), since our homes can be very dry by caterpillar standards. I have a humidifier in the caterpillar room, but you can also spray a mist of water onto them regularly.
October 21, 2018
I’ve been keeping the cocoons in my garage so they could be exposed to the cold weather and experience the natural change in seasons… and of course we had a weird freeze in early November followed by spring weather in late November… so I had a fat lady emerge last night, to show off at an outreach event today! She was just hanging out and was hard to see in the enclosure, so I decided to wear her.
And of course that wasn’t good enough for me
Anyway. After she warmed up enough, she peed on my neck and flew away like a champ. That was pretty inspiring. I’ve only ever seen them do the dead fish flop before! They can actually fly!
The rest of the cocoons have been transferred to the fridge in hopes that everybody else will WAIT until real spring.
December 1, 2018
trying this again Dec 10, 2018 … reblog had been flagged as explicit… uh…
Saved this larvae from the up coming storm and the cold weather outside. Small guy was crawling on a busy sidewalk and I decided to keep them until I get home and the weather clears up. What kind of larvae is this?
Can’t tell much from the photo but seems like it’d be a caterpillar.
Looks like an armyworm moth of some sort! Don’t know where you are in the world, but in the US, the genus Spotdoptera is fairly prolific.
I am inexcusably behind on introducing y’all to one of my new babies. Please meet:
This fuzzy bab. It’s good advice to never touch fuzzy or furry caterpillars, because sometimes they sting. But, if you know, for sure, what a caterpillar is, and you know it doesn’t sting, then it’s fine. The older caterpillars of these moths are very easy to identify, and they are safe. The above photos are NOT of an older caterpillar, though! I wasn’t sure yet, so I let him hang out on my front porch.
Above photos from October 14, 2018
A few days later (October 17), I found the bab, but bigger, fuzzier, and orangier! Those thin orange rings between body segments will identify this black fuzzy caterpillar as a Leopard Moth! In my area, Giant Leopard Moths are the most common, so that’s what I have him identified as. At that point, I brought him inside. I mean, look at this face:
It had been a little while, so I went looking for him today, and I found him hibernating (?) in this dried up leaf!
You may be wondering what happens to all these caterpillars over the winter. How do they stay safe when it gets so cold? They will enter a state similar to hibernation called “diapause.” Essentially, they stop eating, they may change color or shape, and they find a safe place to be while they wait out the winter. Many moths and butterflies “overwinter” as a pupa. Moths have the added protection of their cocoons to stay safe. But some butterflies overwinter as a chrysalis, too! One of my favorite childhood memories was finding a Swallowtail butterfly chrysalis in the pile of branches my dad had pruned off our bushes, putting it into a container, and checking it one day in early spring to find the butterfly had emerged!
But! Many caterpillars stay in caterpillar form over the winter. They can stay camouflaged, but they can also respond to threats by periodically moving around. My Tawny Emperor babies will overwinter as younger caterpillars. And Leopard Moths also overwinter in caterpillar form! I’m not sure if my fuzzy baby is overwintering or getting ready to molt (I had caterpillars into November/December last year!). My guess is he’s about to molt, but it seemed like a good opportunity to talk about diapause!
I didn’t mention: some species will overwinter as adults! Question Mark and Comma butterflies are some examples. Their wings resemble dead fall leaves for a reason!
hi!! i need a quick id on this guy! Found in North texas, i think he’s a vine sphinx moth and i’ve given him some beauty berry, but I’m not sure. I found him on the ground, not looking the greatest. Its really chilly and wet, so i brought him in.
Hi! Sorry, I didn’t even get a notification about your submission (UGH) and I can’t tell how long ago you sent this. You have a Polyphemus Moth caterpillar. Very similar in size to the sphinx moths, but the pattern and texture on the body is different. Most sphinx moths also have a tail, but the Vine Sphinx drops their tail as they grow, so they are easily confused with other large caterpillars.
Left: Vine Sphinx caterpillar / Right: Polyphemus Moth caterpillar. Note the color of the face and the stripes on the side of the body
Regarding food: you’re right that it’s important to know what species a caterpillar is to figure out what they eat. Some species will eat just about anything, and some are a lot pickier. The Vine Sphinx caterpillars will eat (guess!) vines! Mine were eating Sorrelvine (aka Possum Grape), and I read that they will also eat grape vines. Polyphemus moths will eat leaves from many types of woody trees and shrubs, including oak, rose, and elm.
There is a sphinx moth caterpillar that eats Beauty Berry: the Rustic Sphinx moth:
Some good resources for identification and host plant information are:
iNaturalist [link]: There is a tool that will identify what you took a photo of, and it’s pretty good! Worldwide
The Natural History Museum’s HOSTS database [link]: A massive searchable database for caterpillars and host plants. You can search by caterpillar OR plant, for if you know the caterpillar but not the plant, OR if you know the plant the caterpillar is eating, but you don’t know the caterpillar. Worldwide.
ALSO: feel free to send me a direct message anytime. Even if I’m not actively posting, I typically check tumblr at least once a day, and I try to respond to direct messages as soon as I can. My inbox has a tendency to … build up a bit.
I hope your caterpillar is okay! I know our weather has been pretty horrible lately (Central Texas has been FLOODING), but the bugs in Austin appear to be doing okay.