I have always enjoyed the book by Jack Kent, The Caterpillar and the Polliwog. In it, the caterpillar brags throughout the book, “When I grow up, I am going to turn into something else!” Little did I know that through a close colleague, Laurie Fisher, my child care setting would be able to witness a similar experience.
The setting in our story takes place in Laurie’s back yard. Specifically, on her Virginia Ivy. There she found Hummingbird Moth Caterpillars.
The Hummingbird Moth Caterpillars start out as eggs. They are laid by the moths on host plants such as honeysuckle, virginia ivy, hawthorns, viburnum, and Black Cherry.
The small caterpillars immerge light green in color and then quickly turn into other colors: yellow, orange, and red. They also become very large much to our amazement. (Photograph by Laurie Fisher.)
A YouTube video of a caterpillar digging in the dirt to make his cocoon. It was produced by Laurie Fisher. You can view it above or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_K4gkxj9jYA&feature=youtu.be.
There is an eye spot located on the end opposite of their head to confuse birds that may like to eat big, juicy caterpillars.
A YouTube video of a caterpillar eating that was produced by Laurie Fisher. Notice the vertical pattern they use when eating. You can view it above or on YouTube at http://youtu.be/XYoMuk9SRZA.
Here we have a Hummingbird Moth caterpillar and a caterpillar that has formed a cocoon or is in the “pupa” stage. The caterpillars climb down their host plant into the dirt when fully grown. There they form a cocoon. Notice there is no dirt in this photo. When the second caterpillar was ready to form a cocoon, it wandered my container aimlessly for a day without eating. It was looking for the dirt that wasn’t available in the environment I was providing.
When both caterpillars were done forming their cocoons, I ended up with two distinctly different looking cocoons. The one on the right looks more like the cocoons I’ve seen in the research I’ve done on Hummingbird Moth cocoons.
Laurie’s caterpillar has the right idea, “When I turn into a cocoon, I am going to be a rainbow.” (Hint, Jack Kent.)
These photos were taken by Laurie Fisher. She is demonstrating that the dimensions of the cocoon to the actual moth are very similar. She goes on to say, “It is like he is in a blanket.”
Laurie and I have our moth homes ready to meet our new arrivals. At first we thought the wait would be a few weeks. The website resource I provided above indicates that, like the field of family child care, we may be caring for our coccons much longer. When cocoons are formed late in the fall, the moths may not immerge till the following spring.
So …… We waited. And waited! Come April the following spring we discovered an empty cocoon.
Looking further against the mesh of their winter home, we discovered…
… an immerged Hummingbird Moth.
Seven months we waited for the moths to immerge.
It was well worth the wait and experience!
Pamela J. Stefanich, CDA
Family Child Care Professional