Category: responses

mikelikesscience: Computer Science Is A Lot!I…

mikelikesscience:

Computer Science Is A Lot!

In case you didn’t know, I went back to college for a Master’s in Computer Science. My original degree is Fine Arts. 

But before I can start the Master’s Program, I have to do a bunch of Math and Computer Science Undergrad courses. Calculus, Data Structures, Object Oriented Programming, and so on.

How hard could it be? I’ve made so many Science Raps and watched so many Education Channels–it should be a piece of Cake!

OMG. I was so wrong! Studying Computer Science is so difficult! For me it was not Cake. It was more like Brussels Sprouts.

And just like my experience with vegetables, the discipline for Computer Science is an acquired taste. I had to dedicate a lot of time to studying and doing homework. I got help from tutors, mentors, peers, and professors. I had to make a lot of mistakes in order to succeed.

Now I’m about ¾ of the way done with the Undergrad requirements. I’ll be starting the Master’s Program in the fall!

So if you were wondering what the context and inspiration for my latest video was–now you know!

Hi Mike! I was in your shoes, too! I had a BA in Psychology, but it was really hard to keep finding contracts at Microsoft during the recession (I graduated in 2005) when I was competing with people who had computer science degrees and way more experience.

So I went back for a BS in engineering (I studied chemical) and eventually continued on to a masters in biomedical engineering. But that first term back in school, I had to retake Calculus I, since the last time I took it had been 10 years ago—it had been so long since I had taken a math class that I had to relearn algebra at the same time!

This stuff is HARD, and it’s important for people considering STEM majors to know that if they are struggling, it’s not just them! So thank you for posting this! Before I graduated, one of my undergraduate professors would half jokingly introduce me as the best student in the department, and I often felt like a total idiot in some of my classes.

It’s rare for scientists and engineers to also be effective science communicators, so I’m looking forward to seeing what direction you take as your education progresses!

April 14, 2019

Regular

timberwolf-manstab:

nanonaturalist:

underthehedge:

dogpuppy:

dogpuppy:

Is clickhole ok?

When did I get drunk and start writing lists for clickhole????
Where’s my check????

April 8, 2019

How much of a big weird nerd am I if I desperately want to mention that numbers 3 and 10 are not, in fact, krill?

For the astute observation of the shrimps masquerading as krill, I bestow upon you, @timberwolf-manstab​, one (1) photograph of a copepod:

Stolen from iNaturalist, naturally [link to source]

April 9, 2019

Regular

pterygota:

oh man oh man this is bad

some people in my neighborhood have a passionvine and it often hosts gulf fritillaries and zebra longwings

just the other day my mom told me she saw tons of caterpillars on it

and today it smelled awful over there and theres dead and dying caterpillars all over the sidewalk, it looked like some were trying to evacuate. some were convulsing. there was stuff on the passionvine. i think they poisoned it. not only were all the caterpillars dying, but there were some ants convulsing from eating poisoned caterpillars. i cant feed them, so i was just trying to transfer all i could (including an egg i found) to these little vine sprouts in the grass away from the main plant, knowing full well its not enough to feed them but knowing its their only hope

i also took one of the vine sprouts that i found further away from where i was dumping the rescues and pulled it out since (and this is another terrible thing) that grass gets mowed and the sprouts get cut down

i rolled the root in rooting powder and put it in wet paper towels, does this sound good for getting the plant ready for transplant? im hoping i can eventually get my own passion vine growing, and we will never ever poison it, because its FOR THE BABIES DAMN IT!!!

any advice would be great, but thats mostly about the vine i took, im pretty sure all those caterpillars are a lost cause 🙁

So so so sorry, that’s horrible 🙁

Passion vine grows like a weed. The growth can be a little slow earlier in the season, but in Texas at least, by later spring the things are exploding with how fast they grow. Towards the end of the summer, the vines were practically invasive all over the back of my yard. I don’t know about transplanting it, but I recently pulled a root out of my garden and transplanted it into a hanging pot (no rooting powder because I don’t have any, I just water frequently). The paper towel sounds good, just make sure it doesn’t end up molding. If you water frequently, you might be find just putting it directly into a well-drained pot. I’ve had success doing this with random plants I’ve found throughout my yard when I replanted them in other locations. Just water frequently!

Gulf Fritillary butterflies are also EPIC egg-layers. They will be back. I don’t even know how they all found my passion vine, but they found it, and they covered it in eggs, and I had butterflies for a solid 9 months. I’m sorry you lost your early season babies, but there will be more. You’re right about those ones being a lost cause. The poisons will destroy their GI tract, so once they ingest it, that’s it. It’s too bad, they probably spray any wasp nests that pop up in their yard, too. I never had any caterpillars mature outside because the wasps took all the young caterpillars to feed their young, Why do humans keep messing things up?

April 8, 2019

Regular

slytherfriends:

nanonaturalist:

thelepidopteragirl:

zoologicallyobsessed:

Anyways where’s my lgbt scientists at? Let’s talk about how we’re queer + scientists.

yoo

Y’all I am so queer but the last time I tried to date it was a disaster (she lied about being interested in bugs to initially catch my attention–then literally screamed when I booped a spider in my yard and asked what I use for pest control… um), so I’ll stick to kissing caterpillars and moths until I run into another hot mess crawling through the bushes with a camera.

April 7, 2019

i’m not a biologist (i wish! i should’ve become a herpetologist tbh) but i’m a lesbian working in STEM! (r&d engineering)

‘Sup. I’m a chemical engineer and worked in polymer/advanced materials R&D before my company moved out of Texas and left me unemployed. I did my masters in Biomedical Engineering, but otherwise have no formal education in biology besides my Texas Master Naturalist training (it’s a volunteer-based service organization). I talk about biology for fun cuz why not?

You can still go chasing herps on the weekends! Hobbies are a thing! I met up with other people interested in nature during bioblitzes (some are professional wildlife biologists, some are just in it for fun like me), and it was a great way to learn more and visit new places. City Nature Challenge is coming up (last weekend of April), and a lot of places will have these kinds of events if you’re interested!

citynaturechallenge.org

April 8, 2019

Regular

zoologicallyobsessed:

nanonaturalist:

thelepidopteragirl:

zoologicallyobsessed:

Anyways where’s my lgbt scientists at? Let’s talk about how we’re queer + scientists.

yoo

Y’all I am so queer but the last time I tried to date it was a disaster (she lied about being interested in bugs to initially catch my attention–then literally screamed when I booped a spider in my yard and asked what I use for pest control… um), so I’ll stick to kissing caterpillars and moths until I run into another hot mess crawling through the bushes with a camera.

April 7, 2019

Dating when your an entomologist is so hard. Just need me a cute boy that isn’t going to freak out when I bring home a specimen jar of dead honeybees or when he opens the freezer and sees a bunch of dead insects.

Ah yes, the “freezer full of insects” issue

Someday I’ll deal with this mess.

April 8, 2019

Regular

theredshirtwholived:

systlin:

the-awkward-turt:

nanonaturalist:

starcults:

a-wandering-intern:

terrible-tentacle-theatre:

nanonaturalist:

thegreatpigeonking:

nanonaturalist:

nanonaturalist:

nanonaturalist:

alwayshere195:

fireheartedkaratepup:

thebeeblogger:

foxthebeekeeper:

jumpingjacktrash:

libertarirynn:

bollytolly:

l0veyu:

viva-la-bees:

fat-gold-fish:

how do u actually save bees?

  • Plant bee-friendly flowers
  • Support your local beekeepers
  • Set up bee hotels for solitary bees
  • If you see a lethargic bee feed it sugar water
  • Spread awareness of the importance off bees

+Don’t eat honey✌🏻

NO.

That will not help save the bees at all. They need the excess honey removed from their hives. That’s the beekeepers entire livelihood.

Seriously refusing to eat honey is one of those well-meaning but ultimately terrible ideas. The bees make way too much honey and need it out in order to thrive (not being funny but that was literally a side effect in Bee Movie). Plus that’s the only way for the beekeepers to make the money they need to keep the bees healthy. Do not stop eating honey because somebody on Tumblr told you too.

excess honey, if not removed, can ferment and poison the bees. even if it doesn’t, it attracts animals and other insects which can hurt the bees or even damage the hive. why vegans think letting bees stew in their own drippings is ‘cruelty-free’ is beyond me. >:[

the fact that we find honey yummy and nutritious is part of why we keep bees, true, but the truth is we mostly keep them to pollinate our crops. the vegetable crops you seem to imagine would still magically sustain us if we stopped cultivating bees.

and when you get right down to it… domestic bees aren’t confined in any way. if they wanted to fly away, they could, and would. they come back to the wood frame hives humans build because those are nice places to nest.

so pretending domestic bees have it worse than wild bees is just the most childish kind of anthropomorphizing.

If anything, man-made hives are MORE suitable for bees to live in because we have mathematically determined their optimal living space and conditions, and can control them better in our hives. We also can treat them for diseases and pests much easier than we could if they were living in, say, a tree.

Tl;dr for all of this: eating honey saves the bees from themselves, and keeping them in man-made hives is good for them.

✌️✌️✌️

Plus, buying honey supports bee owners, which helps them maintain the hives, and if they get more money they can buy more hives, which means more bees!

I tell people this. About the honey and what to do to save bees. I also have two large bottles of honey in my cabinet currently. Trying to get some flowers for them to thrive on. Support your bees guys

… uh guys… the whole “Save the Bees!” thing is not about honeybees. It’s about the decline of native bees almost to the point of extinction. Native bees do not make honey. Honeybees are domesticated. Taking measures to protect honeybees is as irrelevant to helping the environment as protecting Farmer John’s chickens.

To help save native bees, yes, plant NATIVE flowers (what naturally grows where you live? That’s what your bees eat!), set up “bee hotels,” which can be something as simple as a partially buried jar or flower pot for carpenter bees, and don’t use pesticides. Having a source of water (like a bird bath or “puddles” you frequently refresh) is also good for a variety of wildlife.

Want to know more about bees that are not honeybees?

Dark Bee Tumblr is here to help [link to post chain about forbidden bees]

ALSO also also

Every place has different types of bees. Every place has different types of plants/flowers. Those hyped-up “save the bees” seed packets that are distributed across North America are garbage because none of those flowers are native in every habitat. Don’t look up “how to make a bee hotel” and make something that only bees from the great plains areas would use if you live on the west coast.

Look up what bees you have in your home! Here’s a great (excellent) resource: https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/630955-Anthophila

This is every bee that has been observed and uploaded to the citizen science network of iNaturalist. You can filter by location (anywhere in the world! This is not restricted to the US!), and you can view photos of every species people have added. Here’s the page for all bees, sorted by taxonomy, not filtered to any specific location [link]. Have you seen a bee and want to know more about it, but you don’t know what kind of bee it is? Take a picture, upload it to iNat, and people like me will help you identify it–and it will also become part of the database other people will use to learn about nature!

Some native Texan bees I’ve met!

A sweat bee! [link to iNat]. These flowers are tiny, no larger than a dime.

A ligated furrow bee! [link to iNat] They burrow and nest underground.

A longhorn bee! [link to iNat] I don’t know where they nest, but I often find them sleeping on the tips of flowers at night (so cute!)

Meet your local bees! Befriend them! Feed them! Make them homes! Love them!

This is one of the native bees I met in Arizona! This handsome man is a male Melissodes sp., AKA a type of long-horned bee. I saved him when he was drowning in a puddle.

I love him

This is a great post all in all but I’d just like to note that colony collapse syndrome is definitely a thing, so domestic honeybees are absolutely in danger as well

Europen Honey Bees are an invasive species in the US and compete with native bees.

Native bee populations are specifically evolved to pollinate certain native plants. Most are unlikely to have a significant effect on the pollination of the non-native crops that people need to grow to survive. It’s true that honeybees will compete with native bees as well, and can be classified as an invasive species, but so long as native bees are supported and native flora is maintained, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be able to coexist. And while there’s a whole different argument to be had about the negative effects of growing nonnative crops at all, if they fail, as they likely would without the honeybees that a large percentage of farmers keep to pollinate their and other local crops, the effects on humanity will be catastrophic 

Lest people think I am anti-honeybee (no? I love honeybees?? They are precious??), the above is correct. Like it or not, the way we grow our food (much of which is not native to where it’s farmed) absolutely requires pollinators like honeybees. We would have a hugely massive food crisis on our hands without honeybees.

But, because so much $$$ is tied into the continued production of food, governments and food production companies will do whatever they can to mitigate the effects of colony collapse and other honeybee health issues. What can you do to help honeybees? Buy and eat food. Easy, right?

What is being done to protect native bees? Well,

1) Scientists and researchers are feverishly trying to get them listed as protected species and absolutely failing (see @thelepidopteragirl’s post about colleagues of hers: [link]).

2) Scientists and researchers are trying to get pesticides known to have devastating effects on bees and other pollinators banned and absolutely failing ([link]).

3) Scientists and science communicators (like me now, apparently) are trying to spread this information about native bees and their importance so more people can do little things like plant native flowers (lookup North American species for your zip code here: [link]), change how often they mow their lawns ([link]), and vote out the assholes who are profiting by destroying our environment ([link]). Success on this one: TBD, and by people like us.

As a gift to the honeybee lovers out there, please accept this photo of one making out with a stinkhorn mushroom:

^An excellent post on the complexities of the “Save the Bees” movement

To add, honeybees are also having problems in, you know, Europe and Asia, where they are native!

I feel like that gets forgotten by many, as Tumblr is very USA centered. 

@nanonaturalist don’t you mean bee-friend them?

*sigh* Please, allow me to introduce you to my roommate, Augochloropsis sp., a sweat bee (Austin, Texas):

Here is a close personal friend of mine, American Bumble Bee (Keller, Texas):

I traveled to Alberta last summer, and was able to meet up with an acquaintance, Cryptic Bumble Bee (Calgary, Alberta):

And the foreign exchange student staying with her, European Wool Carder Bee (Calgary, Alberta):

Flashback to the days before I dated my posts *shudders*
April 8, 2019

Regular

p01y3thy13n3:

nanonaturalist:

pterygota:

systlin:

witchyatwork:

systlin:

madamehearthwitch:

systlin:

systlin:

But seriously, when we got our property, it was all just…grass. A sterile grass moonscape, like a billion other yards. With two big old maple trees. Just grass and maples, that was it. 

But then I got my grubby little paws on it, and I immediately stopped fertilizing, spraying, and bagging up grass clippings and leaves. I ripped up sod and put in flowers and vegetables. I put down nice thick blankets of mulch around the flowers and vegetables. 

When I first was sweating my way through stripping sod, I saw a grand total of 1 worm and 0 ladybugs. The ground was compacted into something that would bend shovel blades. 

Now, six years later, I can’t dig a planting hole without turning up fourteen earthworms, and there are so many ladybugs here. Not the invasive asian lady beetles; native ladybugs. They winter over in the mulch and in the brush pile. I see thousands of them. 

The soil is soft and rich. There are birds that come to eat, and bees of many sorts.

Like this is something that you, yourself, can absolutely change. This is something that you, personally, can make a difference in.

Like, last year I watched no fewer than twenty-nine monarch caterpillars grow up on my milkweed and fly away as butterflies. I watched swallowtails and moths grow. There are hummingbirds fighting over flowers now.

I did that. Me. You can do the same.

I would like to learn how to do this. Sometimes it all seems so overwhelming. I just want to find someone who can come over for a cuppa, and we can wander the yard and they can make me a plan. 

Preferably a very easy to follow, doesn’t take too much time every day plan.

It’s not nearly so intimidating as it sounds.

You can do a whole lot of good just by not spraying your yard, not mowing it so often, and not raking up leaves and grass.

But as a certified Lazy Ass Gardener, I can tell you for 100% certain that this is attainable, and requires absolutely zero, none, nada, zilch expensive or complicated equipment.

I don’t even have a plan. I just do things.

Wait so, dont mow as much, dont pick up the grass when you mow, and dont pick up leaves and your grass is healthier? my dad likes to mow the lawn every one to 2 weeks in the summer💀 what other tips do you guys have?

Yup. Those grass and leaf clippings rot down and fertilize the soil.

Grass does BETTER when it’s not mown short, and gives more hiding places to all sorts of insects.

Don’t spray. Let the bugs and ‘weeds’ live.

i have a 10’x10’ piece of garden that i initially used to grow things, but i abandoned it completely and now its absolutely covered in “weeds” and i even have a volunteer shrub that makes berries! the amount of native bees and other insects i attract is incredible. and all i do to maintain it is nothing.

For reals. I have to mow my front yard (I live in an HOA… ugh), but I don’t bag my clippings. I never water my yard (and I live in Texas!), but my grass is green all year. The clippings and mulched leaves keep in moisture and they’re nature’s fertilizer! Lizards and frogs hide under the leaves and clippings, and when you remove those, you are removing their habitat. Bugs will show up and munch on the clippings, and their waste adds more nutrients as well. I don’t fertilize. I don’t spray. I let nature do its thing. Even just in the front, there are bugs everywhere. I’ve found the tiny green sweat bees nesting in the ground under my rose bush, and the giant cicada killer wasps had a nest somewhere in my front yard last year–I couldn’t find it, but they were pollinating the sorrelvine that randomly showed up and decided to climb up my oak tree (which was the host plant for the Vine Sphinx moths and the first batch of sawflies I raised!)

In the back? I planted a few things in a small garden area, and I intentionally planted three (3) trees, but I’m busy/lazy and the back yard became the paradise jungle it is when I was writing my Master’s thesis after moving into this house, and I never had the heart to start mowing it. A bunch more trees decided to start growing on their own and I constantly have to murder soapberry and hackberry and elm saplings. My yard is covered in a mix of native plants and invasive bunch grass, in addition to random grains and sunflowers growing under the bird feeders. They all serve as hosts for insects. 

In less than three years, I have documented almost 1000 species of plants, insects, birds, fungi, slime molds, and mammals. My yard is 0.10 acres. I have ladybugs crawling out of my ears. The larvae are pupating all over my horse skeleton!!!

So yeah. Want species diversity in your yard? Plant native plants. Are you a lazy ass like me and want species diversity? Then don’t do anything, congratulations, nature still wins (just look out for all those invasives, and have fun pulling out catchweed -_-

April 5, 2019

READ THE LAST PARAGRAPH OF THIS THREAD!!! YOU CAN JUST LET IT ALL GROW THE HELL OUT!!!!!!!!!!! REMEMBER THAT

plus catchweed, or cleavers, IS EDIBLE!!!!!! (but you must boil it for a some time so that the hooked hairs on it dont irritate your esophagus. The younger cleavers require less cooking.*)

*also some people are allergic to it, so do a skin test by rubbing on skin to see if you develop a reaction, and eat a small amount of it first

Funny Story!

I do not react to poison ivy (apparently). And I can’t tell the difference between the mature vines and boxelder maple (apparently):

^ that’s poison ivy

^ this is the same poison ivy

I had no idea until somebody on iNaturalist corrected my ID and asked me if I felt itchy. Pro-tip, maple doesn’t have berries, dummy.

But: I am so allergic to plants in general that I can’t eat most fruits and vegetables raw. I can’t carve a pumpkin for Halloween without wearing gloves. When I was a teenager and my allergies were a lot worse, I couldn’t sit in the grass if I was wearing shorts without getting a huge rash. When I had my first prick test at the allergist, I reacted to oregano. When the pollen count is high, I have to enter a Zen meditative state to keep from clawing my eyeballs out they’re so itchy (like right now, and this is after I’ve taken my allergy meds). One time I went for a short spring hike, and my allergies got so bad, my throat became so swollen, and my sneezing became so powerful, that I launched out a tonsil stone I didn’t even know I had (!!!). 

But I can manhandle poison ivy all I want, I guess.

I wear gloves when I go out on catchweed-killing missions (I’m not joking, my entire back yard is getting overtaken with that crap), but if I’m wearing short sleeves, and it touches my bare arms? I basically want to die for the next couple hours. My arms look like I got the worse chiggers ever. It’s all those damn hooks breaking my skin and letting all that pollen in!

Which reminds me, chigger season is coming! It’s not getting me three years in a row, I’m PREPARED! (*change/wash your clothes and take a hot shower ASAP after wandering around in tall grasses/vegetation!)

April 5, 2019

Regular

cablefucker69:

nanonaturalist:

nanonaturalist:

nanonaturalist:

nanonaturalist:

nanonaturalist:

The Official Cecropia Moth Life Cycle Post™

Buckle in kids, this one should be exciting and full of drama.

It all started with a text message. A friend out in Smithville (i.e. further out in the country than me) found some giant caterpillars:

I dropped everything to go see them. I lovingly adopted one caterpillar (who would turn out to be the female), and was also gifted with a cocoon (which held the male), one of many my friend found in her elderberry bush.

Winter came and went, the moths emerged, and got to business right away. They didn’t seem to mind that they were probably siblings.

The female laid eggs.

After about 20 days, they started to hatch:

They hatched three days ago.

Which brings us up to today. Most of them are out of their eggs by now. And they have started eating. I offered them a choice. Elm (good for me, I have lots of elm), or elderberry (please no it’s a baby I don’t have enough elderberry for 50 cecropias please no).

Here’s their little mini-home:

Elm (light green) vs elderberry (dark green)

Guess what the turds picked?

Of course.

My current plan is to grow the elderberry as much as I can (does the elderberry have favorite foods? Can I give it a ritual sacrifice? ???) and then return some of the caterpillars to the motherland when things get too ridiculous. I’m sure my friend will be super excited about that. And I can play with her bees when I visit, too!

Stay tuned (*sigh*)

March 19, 2019

Are they bigger?? They haven’t started Munchathon 2019 yet, but they are warming up, for sure.

March 21, 2019

They are bigger (and turning yellow)!

They finally turned their hungry on!

Not all my eggs hatched, so my “50” is greatly exaggerated. Looks like I have 13 if no more eggs hatch. A little more manageable. I can sneak them treats from my plum tree if I need to stretch the elderberry.

March 22/23, 2019

Baby’s First Molt

Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!

I just came home to find my first 2nd instar baby Cecropia! This was them this morning:

I had a feeling they were about to pop.

When they’re getting ready to molt, they will put down a silk mat to hold onto with their old skin (think velcro), while they crawl out of it. Then they hold real still for a few hours while their new head squeezes out of the old one so they have a hole to climb out of.

Here is the mat of one getting ready to molt:

In some species (and for older caterpillars), it can be more obvious, but you can usually see the silk when light shines on it. Here is the same caterpillar (side-view):

The silk mat is a little more obvious here. See how he looks like a fat sausage ready to pop?! (*whispers* it’s cuz he is).

March 26, 2019

So large!

I can’t believe how fast they grow! Elderberry bush is still holding out.

March 30, 2019

What region are you in? I’m in the midwest myself and my cecropias aren’t due to eclose until late April, and you already have third instar cats? Do you get two broods a year where you live?

Hello there! I am in central Texas (just outside Austin), and my caterpillars are still second instar. The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center’s eggs haven’t started hatching yet, so there is a variation in timing, even in my area. We do not get two broods a year, our cecropias make cocoons in late May/June and stay there until the next March.

I would like to share a great tool for tracking insect life cycles (especially if you don’t know if a species of interest has two broods a year!). iNaturalist! Check it out [link]:

That graph in the lower right corner? That’s a life cycle chart. Each color corresponds to a different life stage. Blue is adult moth, and orange is caterpillar. I have this graph filtered to just show data from Texas, because that’s where I am, and it’s clear that we only have one generation a year!

Compare that to the Polyphemus Moth [link]:

Look, two generations a year!

There is one issue with these charts, and it’s that they rely on people annotating their observations in iNaturalist with life cycle information (tagging their observations as “adult” or “larva,” etc). Anybody can tag observations, so when I want to know how many generations a species has, I’ll go through the observations from Texas and tag them, then check out the chart. It helped me figure out when to expect my Io moths to emerge!

Good luck with your moths! 

March 30, 2019

samsbuggos: nanonaturalist: I drove four hou…

samsbuggos:

nanonaturalist:

I drove four hours to see a caterpillar. 

I had heard that Mother Neff State Park (which is halfway between Temple and Waco, TX) had cecropia moth caterpillars. These are the caterpillars of the largest native moth in North America (wingspans greater than 6 inches have been documented). And you know what you need to get a giant moth? A giant caterpillar. 

I only found one (hiding in the plum tree right outside the visitor’s center!), and a couple cocoons (bottom two photos), so it seems that I came just in time. Any later and this one would have been in a cocoon too. The fun part: the unripe plums in the tree were the same exact color and texture as the caterpillar (he felt like velvet!), so despite being enormous, they are very well camouflaged.

He was very shy. He kept pulling his little face into his rolls to hide. Everything about it was perfect. A highlight of my week, for sure. Even if I didn’t get home until 3 am!

June 10/11, 2017

Oof. Him big! I might need to hit that park in the future

I have since learned that MANY other places have these dudes! Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin (like, where I live?) has over 100 cocoons with moths that are emerging right now, and over 100 eggs that will be hatching soon. So, if you are in central Texas/Austin, and don’t want to drive 4 hours… maybe hit up the wildflower center! Their caterpillars should be getting nice and juicy around May/June, so contact them and make sure you are visiting during peak plumpness if you do decide to pay them a visit.

Alternatively, if I still haven’t found a job by then, I will definitely bring an armful of Cecropia caterpillars to a food truck in exchange for a milk shake or something, because I have 13 of them right now [link to most recent caterpillar livepost]. So, uh… just putting that out there.

March 27, 2019

Regular

scereyaha:

nanonaturalist:

nanonaturalist:

nanonaturalist:

nanonaturalist:

The Official Cecropia Moth Life Cycle Post™

Buckle in kids, this one should be exciting and full of drama.

It all started with a text message. A friend out in Smithville (i.e. further out in the country than me) found some giant caterpillars:

I dropped everything to go see them. I lovingly adopted one caterpillar (who would turn out to be the female), and was also gifted with a cocoon (which held the male), one of many my friend found in her elderberry bush.

Winter came and went, the moths emerged, and got to business right away. They didn’t seem to mind that they were probably siblings.

The female laid eggs.

After about 20 days, they started to hatch:

They hatched three days ago.

Which brings us up to today. Most of them are out of their eggs by now. And they have started eating. I offered them a choice. Elm (good for me, I have lots of elm), or elderberry (please no it’s a baby I don’t have enough elderberry for 50 cecropias please no).

Here’s their little mini-home:

Elm (light green) vs elderberry (dark green)

Guess what the turds picked?

Of course.

My current plan is to grow the elderberry as much as I can (does the elderberry have favorite foods? Can I give it a ritual sacrifice? ???) and then return some of the caterpillars to the motherland when things get too ridiculous. I’m sure my friend will be super excited about that. And I can play with her bees when I visit, too!

Stay tuned (*sigh*)

March 19, 2019

Are they bigger?? They haven’t started Munchathon 2019 yet, but they are warming up, for sure.

March 21, 2019

They are bigger (and turning yellow)!

They finally turned their hungry on!

Not all my eggs hatched, so my “50” is greatly exaggerated. Looks like I have 13 if no more eggs hatch. A little more manageable. I can sneak them treats from my plum tree if I need to stretch the elderberry.

March 22/23, 2019

Baby’s First Molt

Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!

I just came home to find my first 2nd instar baby Cecropia! This was them this morning:

I had a feeling they were about to pop.

When they’re getting ready to molt, they will put down a silk mat to hold onto with their old skin (think velcro), while they crawl out of it. Then they hold real still for a few hours while their new head squeezes out of the old one so they have a hole to climb out of.

Here is the mat of one getting ready to molt:

In some species (and for older caterpillars), it can be more obvious, but you can usually see the silk when light shines on it. Here is the same caterpillar (side-view):

The silk mat is a little more obvious here. See how he looks like a fat sausage ready to pop?! (*whispers* it’s cuz he is).

March 26, 2019

OMG THAT’s IT!

So when I was about 7-9 ish I found this HUGE bright green caterpillar, Like, I’m not sure the photos do it justice. I was Smol sure, but it was like… clearly the size of a pickle. and it had bright red, yellow and blue bumps on it with little black spikes sticking out of each [as you see pictured.] but when I tried to show it to my grandmother, in a big safe bucket. She freaked out and screamed about it and flung the whole thing outside and I never saw it again.

My mom came home from work, and I tried to describe this thing to her and how it wasn’t -normal- for our area… I had been playing with bugs in the yard for YEARS, like it’s all I had to do… Like we moved so much I barely knew another kid that wasn’t my sister… but I don’t even think she believed me.

Like a child says “It was huge and super bright green and it had all this coloured bumps in primary colours with black spikes!!!” and adults just -assume- they’re describing some fantasy, or a cartoon, or exaggerating and can’t understand why a child should care so much about trying to identify the species of a caterpillar…

And even years later when something would trigger the memory, I’d try to look it up… but “giant green caterpillar with coloured bumps” hadn’t googled up anything useful to me any time I tried, and I eventually stopped asking people about it and it faded from memory… 

Until now.

All of ONE person ever acknowledged that what I saw was probably even real and said they had heard of them and thought it might be some kind of moth.

… But like… I live in Northern Canada… and larvae are the kinds of things that are very sensitive to temperature and food sources no? and moths and butterflies often have set migratory patterns, if they migrate at all, no? So would it not have been super strange to see one of these in northern Canada in the 90s? Where are these from? I’ve never -ever- seen another, not with all my investigating bugs and looking through woods and being the person people call when they can’t identify a bug…

And listen, that’s SUPER it, like how the yellow spots slowly turn into red just at the very end, and how there’s one yellow one in the middle like an antenna, and the big blue suction feet like a cartoon, and the little black spikes in the nubs… Every little detail I tried to burn into my mind to identify it later. We had plum and apple trees in that yard too????

That is the quintessential caterpillar. Some awesomely caterpillar that people assume it’s description must be a caricature of what people think a cool caterpillar would be. 

Hello, Canadian Friend!

These moths DO INDEED OCCUR IN CANADA. I don’t know how far north you are, or which part of Canada (it’s big!) but BugGuide has records of this genus in the Northwest Territories. They are not migratory, and yes they are sensitive to temperature. What this means: in places farther north, the eggs hatch later in the year, and caterpillars eat FAST, grow FAST, and go into cocoons FAST, just in time for fall. This may be why nobody you know has seen them! They are also fairly uncommon!

They are very well camouflaged! My friend had an elderberry bush FULL OF THEM by her mailbox and had NO IDEA until they were already making cocoons. If you were a huge (delicious) juicy caterpillar, you would want to be invisible, too!

I had heard about these moths/caterpillars, but hadn’t seen them myself back in 2017. When I first heard about a state park that had them in the trees outside their visitor’s center, I dropped everything and drove there to see them. Even though it was a four hour drive. Even though it took me until midnight to get there. I only found one (the rest had started making cocoons), but oh boy I took PHOTOS of him. The fun part: the texture of the caterpillar’s skin was identical to the unripe plum fruits on the tree. Even though I was taking pictures of him and STARING at him, he kept disappearing!

Check out my post from that trip! [link] I got him onto a branch and he was the size of a corndog, I’m not joking. In that caterpillar, his front “knobs” are orange, though in some individuals they can be red. It varies!

There is more than one species, and they all look fairly similar. Which species you saw depends on where you are (also they haven’t really figured out how many species there are yet—it’s complicated!). Here is one with redder knobs, from Quebec (the knobs are also more elongated):

Photo stolen from BugGuide [link to source]

I’m glad your mystery caterpillar’s identity has been revealed, and I hope you can meet another one some day! They are very shy/silly babies.

March 26, 2019