Saturday, March 2, 2013

Caterpillar Updates

Our new friend is doing pretty well despite showing up on a snowy day, having to live in glass jar, and being cared for by people who generally have no clue whatsoever as to how to properly care for "her." I was referring the the caterpillar with the male pronoun "he," but as soon as I posted the story of finding the caterpillar, Mia came to me and informed me that it was now a "she" and her name is Sara. Oh, boy. Now, we are really in deep. The thing has a name.

{The cover of Mia's book}

Day 1: Before dinnertime, Mia made a cute book entitled, My Caterpillar, which she dictated to me after she had drawn all the pictures and had me staple it together. The first page says: "Caterpillars change. They first are a (sic) egg. Then, they change into a caterpillar. Then, they are hanging on a tree and they are in a chrysalis. And then they hatch and they are a butterfly." She drew a picture showing the life cycle of a butterfly. Page 2 is less factual, but pretty funny: "Caterpillars can grow 8 inches. Caterpillars are 5 pounds." (Sara, if you're reading this, please do not grow this big. We will have major issues, the least of which is that you will no longer fit in your jar.) Again, page 3 may not be scientifically accurate, but who knows, then again, maybe it is. I didn't follow up to prove or disprove it. "Caterpillars are different colors. Sometimes they are red and blue. And purple, orange, yellow, and green." So basically, according to Mia, caterpillars come in every color of her markers. The next page is about what caterpillars eat: "They eat grass and leaves. They think it is yummy." The following page reads: "They do not live in houses. They live outside." She illustrated this point by drawing a house and some grass. Then she made an arrow pointing to the house, which she crossed out with a "x" and made an arrow pointing to the grass. According to the next page, which I didn't argue with, "They do not come out in the winter. They come out in the spring." I figured there is no point in reminding her that it's still winter, and we found the caterpillar in the snow. The next two pages describe the type of weather that caterpillars prefer: "They do not come out when it rains." Also, "They come out when it's hot. They think it's very nice." Obviously, this is not always true, but again, why argue? The final page says, "Say 'hi' to Sara" and shows a picture of the caterpillar. Admittedly, after reading that, I am kind of attached to Sara, too, and I really hope she continues to do well.

{Gross, I know, but I thought it was worth noting.}
Day 2: As I mentioned on the first day, Sara seems to like Romaine lettuce. On the following morning, when I went to clean her jar and give her fresh lettuce, I found plenty of what I thought was dark green poop. There was actually a long string of it coming out of the caterpillar (ewww) which reminded me of when I used to keep goldfish. I wasn't sure what this was, but since it looked gross and it was attached to the caterpillar, I left it alone. Also, I learned a new fact courtesy of the Internet: caterpillar poop is known as "frass." This makes me wonder where the term sassafrass comes from, but I did not do any research on that.

Day 3: The caterpillar seems less active. I wonder if she is still liking the lettuce or if we need to try harder to determine her species so we can feed her more appealing greens. There is not nearly as much frass in the jar. Thankfully, the long string of goop is now detached, and I am relieved that I left it alone (and also that I didn't have to deal with it other than scooping it out with the plastic Chopsticks for Kids that I am using for tweezers to add and remove stuff as needed -- not the caterpillar, though. I wouldn't risk hurting her with those.) I decide she needs a stick to climb, and since everything outside is quite wet at the moment, I decide on a wooden skewer, which I have broken to fit in the jar, leaving out the sharp end. I don't want Sara to impale herself.

Day 4: This morning, when I look in the jar, there is a small dried out ball of frass. This time I am quite certain that is what it is. The runny stuff from the previous days didn't seem to match online descriptions. You can see it in the photo on the right of Sara, who is curled up. (Incidentally, she tried to make a break for it right after I snapped this photo.) I am also relieved to see that the lettuce has distinct holes where Sara has chewed through. She happily crawls under the fresh piece of lettuce that I give her, rears up, and begins eating. Sara was quite active today. She actually did wiggly laps around the jar and was attempting to scale the slippery walls. She has not once checked out the wooden skewer, however, so I think she is less than impressed with my counterfeit stick. I guess we will need to provide her with the real deal.

My curiosity is growing about what she is going to become. My best guesses, based on photos I have found online, are that Sara is either a European Yellow Underwing (this is a moth, but my fingers are still crossed for a butterfly) or a Cutworm, which isn't a worm, but the larval form of a moth. My money is on the moth larva, but I guess she could just as easily be some form of mutant, which was my original assessment. Let's hope I am wrong. I kind of like our caterpillar, and I would hate for her to turn out to something nasty.

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