We're going to take a momentary detour from stamps and carving (although an exacto tutorial is in the works) and peek at another diversion the girls and I enjoy. Insects. Or to be specific, Butterflies. We have raised Monarch caterpillars for a number of years and that is something I will never get tired of. This year we thought we'd try something new: Mourning Cloaks. If we are successful, there should be 4 posts in this Saga.
A couple of nights ago, my In Laws next door brought me a specimen to identify (I have a bit of a bug lover reputation). Audubon helped a little and on plates 2/625 we found it to be a Mourning Cloak caterpillar. They feed on Willow, Ash and Poplar; sometimes in such large numbers that they can defoliate trees. As a borderline pest, they sometimes need to be "dealt with".
Since these were found on a Pussy Willow bush they have been trying to get rid of for years, they decided to selectively control some and leave a few. There were so many that you could hear them chewing from several feet away! I kept 5 of the larvae and the girls and I put them in our butterfly tent. I'm having trouble finding specific timing info on their life cycle, so I have no idea how long until they chrysalize (not sure that's a real word), or how long before they emerge. I'll let you know when it happens. I do know that it will take at least three weeks to emerge and the adults can live almost a year.
Here is a close up of one of them. Their barbed spikes make them look quite ferocious, don't they? If you are considering keeping caterpillars of any kind, I should probably give you a heads up. Anything that has a diet made up entirely of roughage is going to create a great deal of waste relative to size. That's a polite way of saying "You would not believe how much a caterpillar can poop!"
Some great insect identification sites:
What's That Bug?
And More Butterflies