Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Spunky Sulphur

Mariel found a caterpillar on our nature walk today! She named it Spunky.

We think it is some kind of sulphur caterpillar. We saw several pretty sulphur butterflies in the meadow as we walked, and the species enjoys feeding on cassia plants and flowers. This one was on a kind of cassia called a partridge pea.

Another picture of the host plant:

An interesting fact: if the little sulphur larvae eat the leaves of the cassia, they are green caterpillars. If they eat the flowers, they are yellow.

Mariel brought Spunky home, along with his stalk of cassia, and we fixed him up with a jar. We debated about whether to put the lid on (with proper ventilation, of course) or not, and finally decided to leave the lid off. But when we came home from church this evening, Spunky was on the table, having rather adventurously bridged the gap between the twig of cassia and the jar rim, and slipped off. Thankfully, he is still alive, and the lid is on now.

We read a little on how to take care of caterpillars, and can see that we are going to have to make trips to the meadow every two days. There is not a partridge pea in sight of our house. This site tells us a caterpillar is far more likely to survive in captivity than in the wild:

Remember that if nature is in balance, then every pair of moths will produce only 2 more viable moths in the next generation. So if the female lays 1,000 eggs which hatch into 1,000 caterpillars, only 2 on average will survive to become adult butterflies or moths. So the chances of your caterpillar surviving in the wild are much slimmer than if you rear it carefully in captivity.


Jubilee said...

Is that Mariel's lovely green thumb in the picture! Ha! Get it - Green Thumb? Because she's holding the plant, see? Get it?

I'm so funny.

Seriously, love the green nail polish. :0)

Katie said...

Oh, yeah. I forgot about that. It's actually green with yellow dots. Cornflower currently has nails that are yellow with green dots. So I guess they match Spunky, too!

Javamom said...

I recognize that green thumb! LOL

School for Us said...

How interesting about the yellow vs. green caterpillars! We've raised both Painted Ladies (by ordering a kit) and lots of Monarchs (we have milkweed in the backyard) and really enjoy watching them grow and change. Have fun!!!