Sunday, June 21, 2009

Unexpected Gifts

On a walk the eve of her birthday, Eliza and I found this little fellow munching on some milkweed...we've decided he reminds us of a cow, and is here-to-fore known as the Cowapillar.
Now this guy had been with us since October, when Anika and Olivia found two enormous caterpillars at the base of their maple tree.  We brought one home and within a day it had crawled out of its skin, so to speak (you might be able to see the molt at the right side of the photo), and formed this cocoon.  We looked it up online and found it was an Imperial Moth caterpillar, and was not due to emerge until the summer.  Wow, that is one long metamorphosis!  At one point I had decided that we had made a mistake by bringing it in, and I thought it had probably not made it, so I took the jar out to our backyard.  As I tipped it to send it into a leaf pile under one of our maples, it began to violently twitch back and forth (quickly disappearing under the leaves - a nice response to danger, and an effective way to bury itself).  I quickly gathered it back up, covered it in leaves and brought it back to live near the shady window in our chilly bathroom.
Friday night, as Dan and I were watching a movie (watching a movie! He's done!), we heard a scratching noise in the bathroom and went to investigate.  Charlie our cat was sitting and watching this moth tap at the foil on the top of the jar...
See that nice, juicy fat body? Adult Imperial moths don't eat anything - they live their 4 or so days as a grown-up trying to find a mate, not bothering with something as trivial as food, but living off of that gorgeous body fat.  In the photo above you can see the cocoon he crawled out of, and maybe the molt as well?  Here he is, letting his wings dry...
And this is how he looked the next morning, all spread out, having climbed to the very top of the "butterfly house" we moved his stick to.  He easily measured 4 inches across.  We think he is a male, but couldn't say for sure - the females just hang out and radiate their pheromones, hoping for Mr. Right, and this one was a little more active than that.  When Dan released him last night, he was fluttering quite a bit and then took off quickly into the night air, hopefully to find a mate and not the waiting maw of a bat. 
Eliza took both of these events - the finding of the Cowapillar and the emergence of Mr. Imperial - as her dearest birthday gifts, saying, "well, you know, mama, I am a nature girl!"

1 comment:

Lisa said...

How cool is that??? You guys are the caterpillar/cowapillar queens down there!

Lisa ;)