Caterpillar Envy

30 Aug

Last week one day, one of the blogs I frequent (The Old Nichols Farm) featured a post about a Monarch caterpillar. Jess, the brain behind the blog, is one of those people I met in cyberspace (aka the people in my computer) that I could totally hang out with. She’s funny. She loves taking pictures. She’s got three really cute kids. And a gun. She kills chickens. She likes bugs. And she’s got a great sense of humor about it all. I know I already said she’s funny. But having a sense of humor about life and being able to poke fun at oneself without being self-deprecating in a truly negative fashion is different than just being funny. It’s an art.

Anyway, Jess’s oldest child started school this year. On the first day, to keep the younger two occupied, she decided to go looking for a caterpillar. And they found one!

Later that day, she reported to me that it was already or in the process of becoming a chrysalis. I honestly don’t know much about the Monarch life-cycle, so I went looking for information. That’s where I learned that in only about 10 days, a Monarch butterfly would emerge from the chrysalis.

How cool for she and her kids to be able to see that!

I thought it was so cool, in fact, that I looked at the yellow plants those very friendly soldier beetles frequent to see if I saw a Monarch caterpillar. I did not. I didn’t really think I would. But one never knows.

Oddly enough though, as I was walking down Turkey Hollow Road under one very large pine tree, look what just happened to catch my eye…

The biggest caterpillar I have ever seen. It was at least four inches long!

That is not exactly what it looked like when I first saw it. That’s what it looked like when I returned. I love the way the sun is lighting up its hair.

This is what it looked like when I noticed it for the first time.

Caterpillar dangling from pine tree.

It was dangling pretty low. I walk under this tree every time I walk the dogs to the end of the road. The caterpillar was low enough that I could easily reach the branch it was hanging from.

How could I NOT take it home?

Hubby, who usually thinks my interest in critters is weird, was even impressed. Here’s a picture of it in front of Hubby’s hand to give you a better idea as to the size of the thing.

Hubby showing off our caterpillar.

It actually looks shorter in that picture than it did at time of capture. Here it’s a bit contracted . Can you blame the thing?

At first glance, I thought it was a Luna Moth. The only really big moth I knew about. So I looked it up on the Internet. It is actually an Imperial Moth caterpillar. One reference I read said it could get as big as a 6 7/8-inch wingspan. That’s bird-sized!

Unfortunately, I also learned that when it’s time for this one to make its little cocoon, it burrows underground. AND, even worse, it doesn’t re-emerge until June. No watching that metamorphosis. My luck, I’d put the thing in a jar, under some dirt, and forget about it. Then next summer we’d have a house full of bird-sized moths. No. Thank. You!

So I set the thing free.

Newly-liberated Imperial Moth caterpillar.

I released it in this little pine tree at the edge of our driveway.

Our Charlie Brown pine tree.

When I stopped by later to check on it, I got this really cool picture.

Imperial Moth Caterpillar (upside-down and facing camera)

Click on the picture if you want a full-screen view.

Speaking of really cool pictures, I also had to share this one I got of a grasshopper. Of course there’s also a soldier beetle in the picture. Those things are everywhere.

Grasshopper

I can’t wait to return to the WV place to see what other critters I can find.

2 thoughts on “Caterpillar Envy

  1. First, you are too kind. You made my day!

    Second, I nearly fainted when you mentioned that you thought it could be a Luna moth. I knew it HAD to be one of the giant moths but I’ll take your word that it’s an Imperial.

    Third, you know I am jealous… and I can’t believe you released it! Crazy lady! But you sure got some amazing photos of it, what an incredible creature.

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