Friday, August 22, 2008

more caterpillar tale

... or, how dumb could I be?

So the little (but growing) green guy, after a week of feeding on three meals a day and a snack, was suddenly uninterested in his tomato leaf fare. I thought, oh good, he's going to do his metamorphosing thing soon, maybe hang himself from the netting of his cage and spin a cocoon or ooze himself a shiny pupa coat. It was time.
For hours into a day he roamed the walls of his small bug hotel making a distinct chewing noise, so loud that Herb even noticed it from his breakfast table. The cat stood on her hind paws, listening, watching.

I began to worry, thinking maybe his color wasn't looking so healthy green? maybe he was thirsty? Do caterpillars need water? I didn't know...
(duh) So as last resort, or as they say, when all else fails LOOK IT UP.

The photo above is of my very handy Peterson First Guides Caterpillars (by Amy Bartlett Wright) field guide. See the little brown pupa case? Now where have I seen those little brown pupa cases before? Yes, while digging in the garden. The light bulb above my head when on.
I looked in the section on rearing caterpillars, and there was the answer to my caterpillar's unhappy wandering ... if you are rearing a caterpillar that pupates in the soil, you must keep him in something with an inch or so of soil for him to dig down into! Who knew.

My new dilemma: not wanting to be the one responsible for bringing a tomato pest into Herb's garden, I couldn't let the little guy loose in the backyard, could I? So I plopped him out of the bug hotel onto the bedding of my worm bin.

Oh Happy Day! As soon as he hit soil, he started digging and within three minutes he was buried in the worm bedding. You can just see in the photo his green little horned tail sticking up as he worms his way down to finish his transformation in the dark privacy of the underground.
I dug down the next day to see what shape he was in, but I haven't found him yet. I don't know what the timing is for this part of his life cycle and the book didn't say. If he succeeds in pupating to a moth I'll let you know.

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