Is everycreepingthing still a blog? Gee whizz, you could have fooled me, I guess it is!
Although historically experiencing a degree of hibernation each winter, recent inactive seasons may have led to some uncertainty about whether Instagram has fully replaced this outlet. Well, rest assured we are awakening from our slumber, earlier than ever before, and we are ready to learn!
Yesterday was almost 70 degrees here in Maryland. It is kind of nuts, and no guarantee that we won’t yet have a blizzard, but I am so relieved. I had forgotten how wonderful it smells to sleep with the window open, and feel sunshine on my skin.
I am also happy to report that despite growing knowledge about our natural world, this time of year is still filled with eternal rites of passage that I somehow have never even noticed happening before my eyes. Continue reading
Did you ever wonder?
The Woolly Bear Caterpillar, the larval stage of the Isabella Tiger Moth, can be spotted all over the place on the East Coast this time of year. Like most insects except the Monarch, they will spend the winter here in a hibernation-like state called diapause. Many species of butterfly and moth actually spend the winter tucked into their chrysalis. The Woolly Bear is spotted out a bit later in the season perhaps in part because it actually spends the winter in caterpillar form, with a special anti-freeze inside of it that will keep it from forming ice crystals inside its body. Continue reading
Three Polyphemus Eggs hatched on June 13th.
My oh my how the time has flown, because just yesterday the first emerged from her cocoon! Here is the tiny caterpillar that almost escaped but that I finally found, after a lot of searching, clinging to my own hair.
So furry! So big! How can those two photos be of the same creature sitting on my hand? Continue reading
Wow. When I guessed that I would post less in my blog once I had a full-time job I was not mistaken. As it is I am barely doing all of the things I once adored, like getting enough sleep, going birding frequently, exercising infrequently, hand-shaking my whipped cream in a Mason Jar, working on Wild Peace Farm…
But I have nevertheless done all of those things some, and also joined two book clubs, learned a lot about infectious disease, and continued to rescue caterpillars (#whorescuedwho?). Guys if you do one thing as a result of reading this blog post, I profoundly hope that it is click on that #link which is to an Amy Schumer clip.
But seriously, who rescued who?
Winter is truly over. A butterfly decided.
Last fall I brought home an early instar Black Swallowtail caterpillar from Wild Peace Farm. Continue reading
I took this photo in mid-late October at Sugarloaf Mountain while on a field trip with my Eastern Forests class. I cannot take credit for spotting this creeper, nor full credit for its identification as a Polyphemus Moth. Someone else found it, and Stephanie immediately knew it was a member of the Giant Silk Moth (Saturniidae) family that includes the Luna Moth. In this family, the Greek god Saturn’s children and the planet Saturn’s moons and other mythological Greek creatures are represented. The Luna Moth is an astonishingly beautiful insect, and the other giants (this was at least 1.5x the length of a Monarch) are just as remarkable although less well known and less often seen. Saturniids overwinter in a silk cocoon and emerge as an adult moth in the spring, flying, in the Luna’s case, at night. The adults have no working mouths. Since eating is out, their only goal is to find another loving mouthless adult in the dark to lose their virginity to. They find each other using pheromones (I am basing this claim loosely on my memory of Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer). They mate, and the female lays eggs, and they die. The next generation, the caterpillars, grow up over the summer. Seemingly reliable internet sources tell me that Polyphemus Moths often have two generations a year, with some caterpillars maturing in mid-summer to produce more caterpillars that will overwinter and mature in the following spring. This guy was at the end of the larval period, surely on the brink of cocoon season. Interestingly all of the images of Polyphemus caterpillars that I’ve found on Google show them curled up and hanging in a manner similar to this one. This rock, next to the parking lot, did not seem like a choice spot for avoiding the all-too-well-known-to-this-blog dangers of being eaten as an overwintering chrysalis or cocoon. Birds will go wild for that kind of protein in the cold months. So it was unclear what this friend was up to: taking a strange break or choosing a poor spot to pupate, or dying, or maybe something else beyond my mammalian imagining.
I was delighted though, in any case. Two of the Luna Moths I have seen made deep wrinkles in my brain where I can revisit them again and again.
Polyphemus was the son of Poseidon, and he was a Cyclops. SEE why this is the moth named for him? (I mean not totally since there are pairs of eyes, but one per wing, right?)
(I WISH this photo was mine. It is from GOOGLE).
One time, in the fennel…
There were many many many caterpillars. The time was July. And also August. And September. AND also NOW! That is to say, the very very end of October. Yes, the time change and the first frost are nearly upon us. And yes the Monarch caterpillars seem to all actually be grown up and going/gone now. But the Black Swallowtail larvae are with us in force!! No, this blog has not yet lived up to the promise of moving on to other topics. Not yet!
Because on a recent lovely day at Wild Peace Farm, under the blue sky and the puffy clouds and surrounded by bird calls and the most delicious so fresh it’s still alive food, the Farmer, or I, who can remember, spotted a bright green Black Swallowtail caterpillar. Of course at everycreepingthing this is a familiar creature. I have even posted a video of one making a chrysalis in my bedroom. But I did not know that they were as abundant this time of year as the Woolly Bear. The Woolly Bear actually overwinters as a caterpillar– but I am guessing that like their cousin the Spicebush Swallowtail, these Black Swallowtails will be spending the cold dark days to come inside their comfy chrysali. So when do they start making it? Will they survive this weekend’s predicted frost? And also, in addition, what are all these different instars they’ve got going on?
A caterpillar is an insect after all, Continue reading
It has been a really special butterfly season. I am thankful for all the fruits Wild Peace Farm has brought into local lives, and particularly for the Monarchs that have touched hearts and souls and eyeballs. The first Monarch friend I made came out of his egg before my eyes in July. This, the last friend, snuck into my house on some Milkweed and surprised me as a 4th instar a week later! He made his chrysalis on my laundry basket while I was in Oregon. And he came out of his chrysalis October 21st, while I was holding the twig I taped him to in my hand, a more beautiful exit than I could have asked for.
DON’T PARTY TOO HARD IN MEXICO GUYS!!!
last clear Monarch chrysalis
Last Monarch 2014
That one time, when I said that butterfly season was over and I was ready to write about other things? Yeah…. about that.
There are still Monarchs coming out of their chrysalises around here, and after my excitement over a late season butterfly last October I feel really lucky to have seen the late season lifecycle up close and personal… I have noted a pupation length of 14 days in a friend who emerged just this morning. That compares with 8 days in July/August, when temperatures were hot hot hot and day length was long. Science guys… they said temperature and length of daylight influence rate of growth and length of pupation and this has proven anecdotally accurate.
This Monarch is a male- the first I predicted in chrysalis (I learned how to sex a Monarch chrysalis here). On this butterfly you can just barely see the sexy sexing dot through his hindwing, bulging off a black vein, where his lovely smelly pheromones will be produced. He is also rescued; the last 5th instar caterpillar found in the tomato plants when it was nearing time to take them down. They are gone now, but he is here.
I have lived a number of childhood nature dreams involving Monarchs this summer. Thank you very much Wild Peace Farm for making it all possible. I saw a wild Chrysalis (in the tomatoes!), I saw multiple caterpillars molting, I saw a Monarch form its chrysalis, I saw a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis, I saw a Monarch egg hatch. I mean come on! But one thing just got checked off my list, and after so many spoils I wasn’t in any way expecting it.
This butterfly flew around me while I picked Sweet Peppers on Wednesday, and it is not a Monarch. Can you spot the differences?
Viceroy ButterflyMonarch Butterfly (female)