Today I was scheduled for the zoo in the morning and kayaking in the afternoon, however the morning crew ended up staying longer and did not return until too late for us to go. It was good though, because I worked in the "zoo" all day. It is a time consuming endeavor. You have to often take a lot of time to find caterpillars because they are so small. Some are the size of a grain of rice or maybe smaller. Some are leaf rollers and hide in a rolled up leaf. Some are leaf folders and they fold a leaf and seal it with their silk. Many are masters of disguise. Lots mimic parts of the plants they eat, so it is quite the challenge. We had several pupate and a few not survive. Today was the first day that a "baby" went into adulthood as a moth. The unusual part was we put him in the freezer to preserve him for studying. It seems ironic to raise them then once they emerge, to end their lives.
In the zoo today, we also found a geometridae who had pupae from a wasp. They were emerging from his flesh in preparation to pupate. Below you'll see a video where you can witness the caterpillar with what looks like 10 small eggs. These are the larvae of the wasp (a parasitoid).
My class ask the following: "The students want to know if you know the names of all of them. We don't know all the names. Some we only know the species.
Do caterpillars eat other insects or only plants? They are herbivores. Do you know what that means?
Can certain poisonious caterpillars hurt predators with their poison? Only if the predator eats it. For example, the monarch caterpillar eats milkweed which is toxic to humans, birds and other animals. So if a bird eats it, they get very ill and learn never to eat it again. Funny, but the viceroy mimics the looks of a monarch, but doesn't eat the milkweed, so he isn't poisonous, but because he looks like the monarch, predators stay clear! Pretty sneaky, huh?
Have you found any caterpillars with spines yet? We have found lots of the buck moth which have spines that sting.
Head horns? No, we haven't.
Knobs? We found some filament bearers that have hydrostatic projections that use hydrostatic pressure for movement.
Split tail? We have not found any split tails either.
Have you found any caterpillars in their pupa stage? Yes, we found several and today, like I said above, a month emerged from one of them!
Is your first caterpillar a pupa yet? YES!!! He was successful! I am interested in seeing if he makes it to adulthood as a definite tussock moth.
What is your job today? Are you still a zoo keeper or something else. I was a zoo keep again. I really like this job and was told by the lead scientist that it is a job that has to be done and as important as heading out to the field, though not as glamourous. Not everyone likes the zoo. I enjoying investigating progression.
Me swinging through the swamp (Ok, not really!)
I'm am officially in love with this little guy! He was the most curious, active little stinker around. Can you see his gorgeous hair? I really wanted to take him home, but like puppies, they grow up, well actually they go through metamorphosis.
Below is a short video of the zoo process. It is funny, at least to me, because I'm explaining how the process works and as I'm doing it, I realize there is a mistake. Ms. Coleman, who has been pretending to be the "Caterpillar Hunter" calls it the "caterpillar ooops."