Saturday, October 11, 2008

Ayden Finds a Caterpillar

I'll give you three guesses to figure out what this is... A green alien from planet glob? No. A hairy monster from under my bed? No. A Polyphemus Silkmoth - Antheraea polyphemus?

How did you know?

I received a panicky plea for help from a fellow teacher Friday afternoon. "Ellen", she said, "you have to come by the school and see what Ayden found on the playground. I didn't know what to do with it so I put it in one of your tanks. It’s really strange looking!" This is the kind of thing I hear from teachers and students when they really don't know what to do with whatever they find but they can't bear to let it go or kill it. So they call me. Saturday I went off to the school in search of the "scary monster" lurking in my classroom. I was not prepared for what I saw :) Ayden had really found something interesting.

Truely, this is a face only a mother... could love...

This is a picture I found on the internet (click here) that shows the face of this lovely creature.

I took these pictures with my favorite QE5 microscope.
Just look at those gorgeous hairy leggs and face! And that beautiful jade green color. What an amazing creature. Ayden you are very brave!
No need to worry. These caterpillars are not poisonous, just big and hairy...Here is a picture of our friend taken with the microscope at 10x power. I flipped him upside down to get a good view of his beautiful hairy legs (there are six of course) and his mandible (mouthparts). I doubt that he likes me very much. I believe Ayden found a Polyphemus Silkmoth - Antheraea polyphemus in the last of five instars before he pupates.

Can you guess what this is? Gorgeous mandibles (aka chomping machines) at 60x. At this stage these guys can eat like crazy. Ayden found him under the oak tree on the playground.

Mothers, don't let your kids go on the playground!! (Just kidding)

Here you can see at 60x power some of his silver-spotted scoli which is at the base of the hairs. It was hard to tell if the spots were silver or gold but the literature indicates that the spots are supposed to be silver. Here is a picture I wish I had taken but its still very good and shows what these guys look like at their best. I thought I would include it so you can see what they look like on a good hair day when kindergarteners don't get a hold of them.

When Ayden's caterpillar pupates we will take him outside and place him in a covered container. We want to keep him outside (the pupa not Ayden) so that he won't emerge at the wrong time of year. Indoors, moths can emerge from their cacoons way too early and there is no source of food. I found out about this with some mantid cacoons that I kept indoors.

I will spare you that gruesome story for another day. When our caterpillar emerges this is what we will see!

If its a female we use it to try to lure some males. This is how to do it. Leave the female moth ouside in a netted butterfly cage. When it's dark and the males come around...


I will snatch the visiting unsuspecting male suitor with a butterfly net. Hopefully the moths will produce some eggs and then we can start the whole process again.

Now that sounds like an exciting evening of fun for the whole family!

On another note, the Anderson Independant Mail wrote an article about the Monarchs who happen to be passing through right now. Click Here to read the article.

1 comment:

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