Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Caterpillar Updates: Days 11-21

Here is the continuing story of our unexpected houseguest, Sara the cutworm. If you are missing something, these are my notes from days 1-4 and days 5-10. What started off as something that I was sure was doomed to failure is now something I have a huge personal investment and interest in, which oddly enough, is the welfare of an ugly brown caterpillar. Several uneventful days passed before we made it to a very BIG event. By now, I am really rooting for Sara, so I hope her metamorphosis goes well.

Day 11: 22 balls of frass, a personal best for Sara. "Sara is in her cottage." ~ Mia

Day 12: 18 balls of frass. Up until now, the number has kept growing. I wonder what is up? Not as much activity as before.

Day 13: 18 balls of frass again, and not much activity.

Day 14: NO frass, but she ate plenty of her lettuce leaf. Seems to be inactive. Then, when I give her a fresh leaf of lettuce, she perks up, does a victory lap around the jar, and then climbs UP the leaf and back down again. That's a new one. The kids were pretty excited by that behavior. "Her has a roller coaster!" ~ Logan

Day 15: I'm not sure if Sara ate anything. NO frass. Curled in a ball and not moving.

Day 16: Definitely eating, but still NO frass. Sara is curled in a ball again, but moves slightly when I gently blow on her. Decides to move when I give her a fresh piece of Romaine. Good to know she still has motivation to do something.

Day 17: Little movement until a new leaf is offered. Still eating but NO frass. How long can this thing go without pooping?

Day 18: Most activity we have seen in days. Sara gets very interested in her fresh Romaine. She does curl-ups for a couple of minutes, then rears up to eat. After eating, she starts doing laps. "It's wiggling like a worm!" ~ Mia  There is NO frass, but I have given up expecting to see any. Sara seems to want to climb the jar. Once she determines that she will not succeed at this she retreats to what Mia refers to as her "leaf tent."

Day 19: Sara is "playing dead." I blow on her to determine that she is, in fact, alive. I figure she is getting ready to make a big change, but still I figure it doesn't hurt to check. NO frass, obviously.

Day 20: Sara gave up eating today. Around 9 pm, I noticed things looked different and on closer inspection, there was long dark stuff in the jar. Brett said, "That's a lot of poop." I replied, "I don't think it's frass. I think it's skin. I can kind of see the shape of the prolegs." Then, I realize that Sara is no longer looking at all like herself. She has made herself a fresh green chrysalis on the bottom of the jar. As I watch, she squirms her "tail" end a couple of times, and I randomly wonder if we will finally get to see a molt. Of course, that is silly. It already happened. Darn thing. She did her final skin shed and nobody ever got to see it happen a single time. I am lucky to have seen a small portion of the chrysalis transformation, and I feel a bit sad that it happened after the kids were in bed. When I check again a couple of hours later, the chrysalis -- there is no doubt now that this is what it is -- has turned to more of a brown color.

{Early stages of chrysalis formation. To the right, you can see the final molt.}

Day 21: The chrysalis is a much darker shade of brown and it appears harder. There is a small band of green, where it almost looked like it is dried out and peeking through. I worry that the moth's wings will be deformed or that it will even die because it's not hanging from my lovely skewer "stick." I wonder how long Sara will stay in her chrysalis.

{Chrysalis next morning -- darker brown and more "dried out" looking}

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