Monday, July 19, 2010

Caterpillar Rescue Society

Total members of my new club: 1.  Maybe 1 1/2.  Jack is on the fence about whether or not he wanted to rescue the caterpillars or play with them to... uh... "sleep".

Back on Mother's Day, family and I planted potted herbs, including parsley.  Recently, while I was watering said parsley, I noticed this little face staring back at me:

Super cute, huh?  Well, he and two buddies had taken up residence in my parsley.  Jack and I were overjoyed by their presence (...and Justin just rolled his eyes.  I didn't tell the girls because they eat things.) and spent a bunch of time watching them crawl amongst the leaves. 

One little fella was perched up high on a stalk munching away on a leaf and let Jack pet him a couple of times:
See?  See how delightfully plump and... stripey they are?  Love them.  In attempts to get a good shot of the third of the bunch, I noticed this weird little thing...

See those orange things coming out of its head?  Apparently they pop out and squirt stinky stuff into the air when the caterpillar feels threatened.  I didn't not know this until later.  Nor do I know why it felt threatened when I put my hand near it and Jack could pet one with no problems.  Apparently he has a "way" with caterpillars.

These, by the way, are black swallowtail caterpillars.

Anyway, after we took our pictures of them, Jack and I left them alone, hoping they'd do their pupate thing.  When I went back later to check on them, I realized that the one Jack had been petting wasn't around.  My guess is that he made some birdie a very delicious breakfast.  Womp, womp.  Well, I wasn't about to let my new-found buddies (even if they DID want to squirt stink at me) meet with the same fate as their companion, so I snatched the parsley pot and took it inside, much to Justin's chagrin. I placed the pot on a stool near our front door so it could get plenty of sunlight but the 'pillars would be safe from predators.  And Jack.

The accommodations apparently didn't suffice because they kept trying to escape the pot.  In search of what, I don't know.
Each escape attempt necessitated I gingerly pluck the caterpillar off of whatever surface onto which he'd wandered (door jab, door knob, wall, stool, pot, floor) and place him carefully back on the parsley.  Each time, I got sprayed with those annoying orange things.  And it really really smells foul.  I didn't even notice the smell outside, but indoors, it's very potent.  And it lingers on your skin.  It's pretty gross. 

I was annoyed.  I was just trying to help them and all they could do is spray me with stink.

Finally, I got smart and put my (slightly) higher functioning brain and opposable thumbs to work for me and built an enclosure out of pantyhose, kebob skewers and a mesh laundry bag.  I had cleverly thwarted their plans and that night, they attached themselves to a skewer and a parsley stalk and went about forming chrysalises.  So, there they remain for the next couple of weeks.

I can't figure out how to photograph them through the mesh, and I'm worried that attempting to move the mesh might damage them, so I'll post pictures of the butterflies when they eclose!  Stay tuned!


blunoz said...

Oh my gosh how incredible! I've never seen such gorgeous catepillars before.

Sherri said...

OK, you just won my admiration for how hard you tried to make this work for your kids (and the caterpillars, but we know it's all about the kids).

I'm picturing your pantyhose/skewer contraption and what a conversation piece it will make next time you have company!

Julie said...

What a stinker! ha ha

Great pictures though, they really are beautiful!

Kate said...

Ok, just a few things.

1) I haven't seen a caterpillar in YEARS

2) I used to called them "callipidders"

3) Jack shall forevermore be named The Caterpillar Whisperer

4) I am LMBO at you getting sprayed "with stink"

5) Your vocabulary impresses me very much. Now knock it off or I'll have to buy a thesaurus

6) I love me some Melis


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