Monday, August 8, 2011

Getting Caterpillars for the Tent

You've seen the caterpillars' safe tent. We mentioned that the tent keeps out predators like wasps and ladybugs but also keeps away the monarch butterflies.

Since the adult butterflies can't lay eggs on the plants in the tent, we have to help out. Here are some pictures of how we get the caterpillars into the tent.
The leaves in the picture are from milkweed plants around the garden. If we notice an egg, we take the whole leaf from the plant, and bring it inside. We have a container with a damp paper towel, which keeps the leaf from wilting and drying up too quickly.

After a few days, the eggs have been hatching (two of the three we brought in, so far).

Out crawl the tiny caterpillars. Do you remember what they're called when they first emerge from their eggs? They're called "first instars." The number tells how many times they have shed their skins as they grow bigger. As you probably remember, monarch caterpillars shed their skins four times before they "J" and become pupas.

The caterpillar in these pictures is actually a second instar. He's already crawled around, eaten some small holes in the leaf, and shed once.

We think he's big enough, so we played the Pomp & Circumstances March, and took him out into the tent. We'll let you know how he does!

(you can click on any of the pictures to make them larger)

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