caterpillars

The Joy of Caterpillars

One summer my mother had broken her foot and I was tasked with watering her tomatoes. I hauled the hose to the backyard and stood for what felt like hours pouring water on the plants. It was hot and humid and I just wanted it to be over. However, tiny visitors changed my perspective.

Tobacco Hornworm (Manduca sexta)

These charming little worms enraptured my attention. Luckily, my overindulgent parents let them live as long as I kept them away from the tomatoes.

Moth (Manduca sexta)

Ever since that moment I have been obsessed with these little guys. I have kept Wagner’s guide close and have sought out as many species as possible. Recently, I have been trying to culitvate more species of caterpillars by planting host plants.

Early instar of Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus)

The relationships between the caterpillars and their host plants are some of the most fascinating to study. The plants influence their developement to such an extreme degree that the life cycle insect cannot be separated from the plant.

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

These little worms are an indispensable part of the ecosystem. For example, 96% of terrestial birds rear their young on insects.  Breeding season for the birds conicides with the emrgences of caterpillars making them a primary food source for breeding pairs.

Caterpillars come in so many shapes, sizes, and colors that their beauty and interesting behavior is inexhaustible.

Monkey Slug (Phobetron pithecium)
Puss Caterpilllar (Megalopyge opercularis)
Saddled Prominent (Heterocampa guttivitta)