Today was an extraordinary adventure. As you can see, we headed out in the field on kayaks for another plot search. We marked off a 10 meter diameter area and searched for EVERY caterpillar we could find. Today 3 of us searched the plot while two made a vegetation assessment. We searched for approximately 3 + hours. The good news was I only saw a few small spiders and was only alarmed once while in the kayak (a spider dropped down from its web right in front of my face! I nearly tipped my kayak!) After searching with our eyes, we used "beat sheets" to hit down caterpillars and other life (yes, spiders too!) I really loved doing this. :o) We found unusual species that we were unable to identify, so far.
You might be wondering why we're searching for caterpillars or what's the purpose of this research. Yesterday, we were visited by Dr. Lee Dyer who is the chief investigator of this project. As he explained in a lecture, we are studying the effects of weather on the population of caterpillars and the diversity of plant life and their relationship to parasitoids.
Most people have heard of parasites, but we're actually looking for parasitoids which are different. The difference between a parasitoid and a parasite is that a parasitoid kills their host in one generation. For example, if a wasp were to lay its eggs in a caterpillar, the eggs would hatch, but the caterpillar would not survive. The wasp is the parasitoid because only one life cycle of the wasp would come from killing the caterpillar. A parasite lives in its host but does not kill the host.
Watch this video from our lead scientist, Rebecca Hazen for further information about the research:
Can you identify this caterpillar?
The picture shows a caterpillar from the psychidae family, commonly known as the bagworm. How or why do you think he got his name?
Here is another caterpillar we found in the field in the geometridae family. They are also called "loopers" or "inchworms" since they make a distinctive loop shape when moving. (So inch worms aren't actually worms) The one in the picture looks normal, but watch this video of another geometridae that probably won't live too much longer.
Please write these vocabulary words in your journal: frass, pupate, larvae, chrysalis, parasitoid, parasite, oscillation, aggregate. Draw a picture to illustrate each if possible.