Saturday, June 16, 2012

Caterpillars Have Personalities

Update 2 in butterfly raising 2012. In an earlier post we reported on three Black Swallowtail caterpillars that Spring brought to our tentatively named Rancho Mariposa. One became bird food. When we noticed its loss, we brought the other two inside. Very soon they began what is known in the business as the wandering phase. At this stage the caterpillars become very active. In part their incessant climbing, stretching, and exploration is intended to push what remaining wastes are in them out. In part they are trying to find the perfect perch to rest and form their hard pupae. One of our two survivors behaved with fitting decorum. It crawled about using the dill plants and multiple convenient sticks the Rancho provided for it. The other one?

Well, the other one was insistently adventurous. It managed to reach the rim of the pot several times—and twice it dropped down to the table below. Each time Brigitte returned it to the pot again. Then we were out of the house for a while. On returning, Extrovert had entirely disappeared. A great search ensued, but we couldn’t find it. A day later we discovered it hanging from the screen of a sunroom window. It had managed to overcome endless obstacles and to travel a long distances, ever heading, evidently, for more light. It was so firmly attached to the screen, we couldn’t remove it. And then, two days later, both Introvert and Extrovert turned into pupae over-night. Caterpillars must have personalities.

Clicking on the images enlarges them, Esc returns to the post. In the first image the fine tendrils these creatures use to suspend themselves from the branch that holds them are sharply visible.

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