Recently, I responded to a colleague’s call for caterpillar kit orders, since she needed 50 orders for the farm to make delivery to one location. Figured that since I passed on an earlier separate opportunity to rear tadpoles, it’d be fun to let K and B witness this. So I ordered 2 kits, which contained 2 caterpillars each.
In container #1, there was one obese caterpillar, who was Very Hungry indeed and would chomp through most of one big leaf in an hour (was supposed to last it 12 hours). The other caterpillar looked anorexic, but still alive by Day 5. I placed a delectable looking, fresh soft leaf near its mouth, but it just disinterestedly crawled away. Oh well.
On Day 7, it was pronounced dead (didn’t respond to some prods of the stick) and quite summarily disposed of (tossed into the bin with the base paper and poo). The bright-markings on the caterpillars (called aposematic colouration) are meant for them to look toxic to birds. Apparently they taste awful (the research site says “distasteful” both in caterpillar and butterfly form).
In container #2, one had already become a Pupa, suspended from the cover of the container instead of on the stick that was included for that purpose. Hurrah, no more feeding required. I was quite fascinated by the four “gold” dots in the lower portion of the pupa.
Proud owner of caterpillars
When I brought them home, K (almost 4 yrs) was quite excited, and could relate, since her class was putting up Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar at their preschool’s year-end open house day (she’s the chocolate cake – don’t ask). I explained that we’d have to feed the caterpillars a new leaf every morning and night, and change the base paper and clear out the poo once a day. Then after the caterpillar comes out of the pupa stage and becomes a butterfly, we’ll release it to the garden and it’ll fly away.
She was quite interested in watching me do all that, but being a bit of a scaredy cat, didn’t quite want to touch the bristly caterpillar (at least I offered). She said “After it flies away, then it’ll fly back to us right?” Urm, no, not quite, sweetie. B (1.5 years) just wanted to grab the containers and traumatise the larva/pupa. So all she got to do was peek from afar.
On Day 7, Mr obese decided to crawl to the top of the container and hang horizontally upside down (not to die, I hoped, since he had become uncharacteristically un-hungry, and moved very little). Thankfully, on the morning of Day 8, he hung vertically and started moulting! He was transforming into a pupa (chrysalis), though for some reason it looked like I had dipped him into tempura batter and did some deep frying. (No I did NOT.)
This whole caterpillar rearing experience gave me a renewed sense of awe at the intricacy and ingenuity of God’s creation, as well as the magical processes of growth and change that we take so much for granted. Even the budding and unfurling of a simple leaf is truly amazing if you pause and think about it.
So much more when a caterpillar dries up into an unmoving “husk”, looks like its “head” has dropped off (actually just part of the moulting), then bursts forth in a riot of wing and colour. It just makes your soul want to magnify the Lord! Who graciously gives us all things. Who orders the seasons, the stars in their courses, the beating of every heart.
On Day 12, container #2’s pupa had become a butterfly! (It had pupated for 9 days.) Since I had no inkling of what the butterfly would look like, its gorgeous orange wings with amazingly intricate underside patterns were a wonderful surprise! I thought the caterpillar might have been the larvae of the common black-and-white Lime Butterfly which I read about in another blog, but it turned out to be (after some google research)… *drumroll* the male Leopard Lacewing (!), which was only first sighted and recorded in Singapore during an “official biodiversity survey” on 13 Dec 2005. Well, it’s obviously been “farmed” since (seems that all 100 caterpillars delivered to the office looked similar).
Ta-DAH! Mr Lacewing emerges.
Empty chrysalis – eclosure exit near bottom
This was the empty chrysalis it left behind. We didn’t get to witness the eclosion process which involves some pretty cool stuff like how gravity helps to pump Butterfly Blood (haemolymph) into the wings, forcing them to unfold.
Thereafter, we brought Mr Lacewing Unfurled to the neighbourhood garden, and released it much to the amusement of our neighbours.
It was nice having you with us! Have a happy (rest of your short) life! (Check out those bug-eyes glaring back).
Gorgeous underwing pattern
After the same exact 9 days, Mr Obese emerged from his pupa, now a lithe, fancy Lacewing butterfly!
All that remains – so beautiful in its own way
|A final photo before releasing our friend.|
Dressed B up for the occasion, and when we opened the container, Mr once-obese-now-so-lithe astounded us by flying up, up, up, beyond 11 stories!! I never even knew butterflies could fly that high! He must have felt so cooped up, being left overnight, in the ta-pao bowl. We didn’t want him to take his chances with predators in the dark, you see. Oh well, hopefully he wises up and gets near some food (flower nectar) soon! It was fun having you too! Tata, high flyer!!
|Our totally gorgeous Lacewing|