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How I saved a caterpillar from certain doom May 22, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in pets, science, younger son.
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On Sunday evening, the family got together with the local astronomy club to watch the annular eclipse.  The younger boy stayed interested for about 10 minutes before deciding to go play with some other kids near the trees.  One of the girls found a caterpillar but wasn’t allowed to bring it with her, so the younger boy asked if he could bring it home.

“Sure,” I said.  I hoped this would give me a slight reprieve from his constantly begging for yet another pet.  (We have two cats and a dog…but I’m constantly fielding requests for birds, rodentia, fish…and even a gecko.)  I figured that, in terms of pets, a caterpillar was probably going to be fairly low on the required maintenance scale.  Also, the whole life cycle thing is interesting to watch.

Said caterpillar is now residing in a large plastic cup with a lid in younger boy’s room.  He’s been talking non-stop about caterpillars since he got it.  But this morning, he came out and the first thing he said was, “My caterpillar is dead.”  He then walked quite slowly over to the garbage in the kitchen and put the cup in there.  I asked what had happened, and he said it was broken into a bunch of little pieces.  Now, even if it had died immediately after we brought it home, it shouldn’t have desiccated that quickly.  I fished the cup out of the garbage and opened it up.  Sure enough, there was black stuff at the bottom, but the caterpillar was sitting there clinging to a stick.  I pulled it out and showed the younger son, who couldn’t see it at first because it was nearly the same color as the stick.  I also explained that the black stuff in the bottom was caterpillar feces.

“So caterpillars have privates like us?”  Well…sort of. They certainly have digestive systems and whatever they eat is going to have to come out.  Pretty soon the younger son was babbling about caterpillar poo.

Anyway, I felt pretty good about having a second look until I went online to find out what kind of caterpillar it is.  Chances are pretty good that it’s an eastern tent caterpillar…and it’s probably going to be a nasty looking moth.  Blech.  (Did I mention I don’t like moths?)

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