Wednesday, February 27, 2013

An Unexpected Houseguest

{This unknown variety of caterpillar was found in the snow today.}

On this snow day, we had a surprise to go along with our snowmen. I was completely caught off guard to find this fellow curled up in a ball on top of the snow at the base of our play structure in the backyard. My first instinct was to pick him up and show the kids because they are intrigued by all things nature-related. I immediately regretted that decision, however, because Mia wanted to save him.

My thoughts ran along the lines of Who knows where he came from? Perhaps he was hibernating and we happened to unearth him? Maybe he is better off left where he is? And then, What could possibly be alive in the snow in Michigan in February?! Surely nothing good. His unfortunate brownish-gray coloring plus the implausibility of finding him alive in the first place made me think that it had to be something truly vile that we wouldn't even want to try to keep alive. Still I wondered, Is this going to turn into a moth or a butterfly? Then the niggling part of my brain kicked in again, suggesting, It's probably something awful like a larval parasite ... Better not take the chance.

Then, thinking my mind was made up, I set the caterpillar back down in the snow. Mia seemed very sad at the thought that he would die there. Cue the mom guilt here. I decided that I would rather my kids remember "the time we tried to save the caterpillar we found in the snow" instead of "the time that Mom left that caterpillar to die in the snow."

You can probably guess what happened next. I am not sure exactly what sort of caterpillar this is, or how well it will fair at our house. I do know that he has a lovely new residence: a glass jar with some tulle netting held on with a rubber band. (It turns out that a lid punched with holes not only provides inadequate ventilation, but it can also injure the caterpillar, according to my quick Google search "how to keep a caterpillar alive in a jar." Also, I now have a lid with holes punched in it, so this jar may not have too many future uses.)

The same Google search informed me that our new caterpillar was likely doomed since they are reportedly picky eaters. This site claimed they would sooner starve than eat the wrong food, and suggested that we offer the plant it was found on since that is the preferred food. Great idea, except that this guy was in the snow. He had no food anywhere nearby that I could see. Even though I tried to find pictures that even remotely resembled our new caterpillar, I had little luck identifying him. This meant that he was offered the leaves from some celery and some romaine lettuce since those were the only leafy items available at our house. It turns out that our caterpillar is not a picky eater, after all. Romaine lettuce suited his tastes just fine, at least for now.

That just reinforces my belief that he is a mutant who is going to turn into something gross if given the chance. Thankfully, he has no name. Yet. He is currently burrowing in the lettuce leaves, which Mia says are his blanket. She is getting attached, so I hope that he at least makes it through the night. I'm reminding myself that this will be a good childhood memory: "Remember that time Mom let us keep the caterpillar and it turned into a gorgeous butterfly..."

{See, Wikipedia, you're wrong. Our mutant is quite fond of Romaine lettuce. Maybe he senses that I went against my better judgment to keep him around. Or, maybe I'm just that awesome at caring for wild things. Handy for a mom, don't you think?}

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