Archive for October, 2012

Caterpillar Pupates — on Film!

October 19, 2012

First, here’s the caterpillar from a couple of days ago (let’s call him “Caterpillar 1”). He was able to pupate successfully, in spite of my concerns (I guess these creatures know their business better than I do …):

Yesterday, one of the other caterpillars (let’s call him “Caterpillar 2”) began what I am calling the diaspora, smartly heading for the stucco fence, and having fewer problems navigating the rough stucco than his brother:

He settled in under the brick overhang at the top of the fence. Here he is after he attached himself:

I actually witnessed him forming the “J” after a couple of hours. The next three pictures were taken in quick succession as he let go, first with his middle feet, and then with his head, and dropped down suddenly:

He seemed kind of surprised and was waving his head around a bit.

He twisted around a bit and then settled in to a more compact “J” form:

Here’s the broader view of where he ended up:

That was yesterday. Today he pupated, and I caught it with my Galaxy Tab video camera … I wish I had a better video camera to get closer, but this is still pretty cool!

It starts with the process of shedding his skin by moving it up toward his tail (from which he is hanging) and ultimately flipping it off. At one point the skin seems to divide in two, and the shiny green chrysalis appears.

During and right after the pupation, you can still see his “caterpillar-ness” in the length and skinniness of the chrysalis, and its segmentation. Over the next couple of hours the chrysalis is considerably shortened and starts to develop the characteristic hard sheen.

Right after the pupation, about 1 PM.

About 20 minutes later.

A couple of hours later.

Congratulations, Caterpillar 2! Within a couple of weeks, we should have a butterfly … I’m going to try to get that on video as well!




Five New Caterpillars

October 17, 2012

Much to my surprise, given my unhappiness with the health of my milkweeds, a few days ago I discovered that there were no fewer than five good-sized caterpillars growing on my milkweed plants.  Four of them were on my set of three older plants, and one on my newer Silky Gold plant. I was amazed that these ratty-looking plants, with many aphids, yellowing leaves, and what looks to me like some sort of fungus, could support so many healthy-looking caterpillars.

Today one of the caterpillars on the old set began its diaspora, taking off on its great search for a pupating spot. Here’s its journey in a nutshell:

At first it started climbing the stucco fence near the milkweed plants, but seemed to be making slow progress. I’ve noticed in the past that many caterpillars seem to get waylaid by the rough texture of the wall, and rarely make it up to the top, where there are overhangs that would make appropriate attachment spots for them.

Ultimately, it ended up on the wall of my house, across from the fence, under a small ledge near the bottom of the wall:

After several hours of wandering and fiddling around, it attached itself thusly:

I worry, however, that it has not chosen an appropriate spot. It’s hard to tell for sure, but it looks to me as if its body is touching the stucco behind where it’s attached. I worry that it may not be able to pupate properly — time will tell. (Have I mentioned that I have a tendency to worry? If you are a regular reader, you have no doubt noticed!)

Here are the remaining caterpillars, first on the old set of milkweeds:

And on the newer plant:

I should say that these were the positions of the caterpillars a few hours ago. Several hours ago, I discovered a very disturbing thing. One of the caterpillars on the old plants had fallen to the ground, and was writhing around in some sort of distress. In fact, I just went out to check, and it is still writhing around. This has been going on for at least three hours!

I have no idea what happened. My guess is that either it ingested something dangerous on the unhealthy leaves (I think it was caterpillar #2, the one on the unhealthiest portion of the plant), or it was attacked by some sort of bug. It appears unhurt, but is obviously in deep distress and will likely die. It is not fun to watch.