Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Cecropia Caterpillar

 Last September, as I was getting water from our rain barrel at the side of our house, I saw this huge (4-5") caterpillar crawling up the wall.  This was no ordinary caterpillar and definitely none I had seen before.  As a teacher I get to see and house many different kinds through the year. When a new one comes in, we research it and try to accommodate it to see it through its cycle.

This cecropia caterpillar, as research verified, is rarely seen in our area, and if it finishes its cycle, happens to be the largest moth in North America.  It had a beautiful rainbow of colours down its back.

Luckily I found this the Saturday before school begins - perfect for an intro activity.  Once I had it securely in a container I carried it to school.  Fortunately, on the way there I passed a group of my students who got to see this beauty.  I put it into a butterfly cage, along with a clover stalk.  I hoped to do some research later and see exactly what it needs.  Well... coming to school the next day, what I saw was not the caterpillar but a stunning cocoon, white and silky.  It had made use of the clover and spun its cocoon around it.  

What luck that the kids got to see it and I got pictures taken, as this thing didn't give us much time to observe itself.

Further research stated that the cocoon can be over-wintered in the vegetable compartment of a fridge which is what we did.  

A few weeks ago we brought it out and put it in a fish tank to observe.  I hardly hoped that the thing survived.

Yesterday evening as I sat at my desk with our classroom cat on my lap, she suddenly sat straight up, leapt down and quietly stalked to the shelf that housed the tank.  All alert, she stood and intently gazed at something.  I had to go and see what she noticed and there, fluttering around in the tank, was a magnificent moth!


The butterfly counts not months but moments and has time enough.
Rabindranath Tagore

This moth, once emerged, is almost at the end of its life.  It never even eats as an adult!  Its sole purpose is now to mate.  Then it dies.  



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