Saturday, March 9, 2013

Caterpillar Updates: Days 5 - 10

Here are some more notes on what it's like to live with our unexpected houseguest. In case you missed the first few days, you can check out the previous updates on Sara, the caterpillar.

Day 5: First I note that there is lots of frass in the jar today. Our caterpillar is supremely good at pooping. Sara began doing laps again this morning. I watched her worm her way over the skewer, seeming to completely disregard it. Then, once I lifted the tulle from her jar and was getting ready to clean it and give her fresh lettuce, she immediately worked her way over to the skewer. SURPRISE! She started climbing and continued until her head was at the tip. So, Sara is a bit on the spunky side. This is the second day in a row she has tried to pull a Houdini act on me. I very carefully removed the old lettuce and as much of the frass as possible, and then I dropped in a new piece of Romaine, doing my best to not jostle the skewer. Those Chopsticks for Kids are certainly coming in handy, perhaps not the way the manufacturer intended, but handy just the same. I guess it was fortunate that Mia has a yucky cough and we decided to stay home from church, otherwise we would have missed the main event.

{Day 5: The Climb to the Top}
Sara remained at the top of the skewer for an hour and a half or so, and then she began to do some sort of caterpillar calisthenics by which she curled herself around the skewer, contorted her body so that she was facing downward and then inched partway down the skewer. She remained in that position until mid-afternoon, when Mia reported that she had dropped to the bottom (and she swore that nobody had touched the jar to cause this to happen). She then did a few more laps and attacked her lettuce with so much gusto that I actually saw her head poking through a hole that she had chewed in the leaf, when prior to this she had only created pin-hole sized openings. Afterward, she crawled under her "leaf blanket" as Mia likes to call it, only this time she managed to get herself tucked away out of sight, burrito-fashion. I don't know how exactly. She must have taken quite a nice siesta since we didn't see her again until around dinnertime (for our family and for her, too, apparently). I am assuming that she is planning to get quite plump in preparation for the next stage of life.

Day 6: Sara started to climb onto the skewer right at jar cleaning time this morning, so I just used it to take her out, which actually made things easier for me. Once I put it back in, she declined any more climbing. She did her usual laps, of course, and after school when we checked on her, there were 2 large holes in the lettuce leaf. Considering there had been 1 yesterday, I wondered if she would chew through 3 tomorrow like The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Then, by bedtime, she had ravaged her leaf. Maybe she is even hungrier than we thought.

Day 7: While having strawberries with my breakfast, I decided to test my Very Hungry Caterpillar theory by offering Sara some strawberry hulls. As far as I can tell, she has not touched them, but she has gone to town on her Romaine lettuce leaf. So, we know she likes lettuce, but not celery leaves or strawberry leaves.

Day 8: We were impressed to see this in the morning: barely any leaf left, and FIVE good size balls of frass.
{Day 8: Check out the leaf destruction!}

Day 9: Then, we were really, really impressed to see almost double that amount, NINE balls of frass. This caterpillar has been busy, indeed. I check on her at noon, and Sara looks surprisingly BIG. Logan agrees with me that she seems to have grown. By bedtime, there are about 8 pieces of frass, no longer balls, but big chunks that are approximately the size of a whole body segment of the caterpillar's body. I'm talking bigger than her head, people. Can you even imagine? I wonder what tomorrow will bring? Maybe she is getting ready to split her skin? Or maybe it already happened and we missed it, but maybe she really is bigger.

Day 10: I should really stop being surprised by how much frass this caterpillar produces. Each day, there is more and more, and it's increasing in size, too. Today there were 17 big balls, although they aren't really balls any more. They're more like tube-shapes now. Mia informed me, "Now that's she's eating a lot, she's pooping a LOT!" Yep, that about sums it up. When I gave her some new lettuce, one piece got stuck partway down the jar, and Mia said, "Mommy, she has a leaf hammock!"

Brett is baffled as to why I am so obsessed with caterpillar poop. I tried to explain to him that I thought the caterpillar would be much harder to keep alive, and the greater and greater volumes of poop indicate that she is not only surviving, but that she is actually thriving and doing what she is supposed to do. It is seeming more and more probable that she will reach full maturity, which I wasn't necessarily expecting. I am really starting to see how having a bunch of these caterpillars could really be devastating to a garden. There is no doubt in my mind any longer that we are raising a "pest" and not a butterfly. I hope there is actually something fresh for this one to eat when it comes time to release her. If she is looking for a garden to destroy, she came to the wrong house, although I am always hoping to create one...

{Day 10: You can see quite a difference in the frass -- in quantity and in size -- between this photo and the one from just two days prior.}

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