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)

Happy Lizards

Last week while watering my plants, I came across a little group of lizards (Carolina Anoles) sunning in a patch of kudzu.

This is a pretty ordinary sight around my house, but the lizards were in absolute bliss in the warmth. They stretched and turned to get every inch of their skin in the light.

Luckily, I got my camera in time to capture the experience in 24 fps.

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I’m really grateful to live in a time where people can share these experiences so quickly and in high quality with one another.

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Cultivating a Relationship with the Natural World

 

The biggest mistake in the plight for the preservation of the natural world was to create an ideology around it. The well-being of our planet is not a political issue; it is a human one.

I have long theorized that people don’t care about the natural world because they don’t have a relationship with it.  Planting native species at your home is a great step that you can take to develop one. By simply planting species native to your area, you invite all sorts of wildlife to visit.

Green Anole
Carolina Anole (Anolis carolinensis)

 

eastern tent caterpillar
Eastern Tent Caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum)

 

Baby birds

Volunteering with citizen science projects is a great way to help in a meaningful way and learn from seasoned professionals. A lot of conservation work is done entirely by volunteers so they need your help!

Indigo Bunting
Bird Banding

On Spring and the Seasons

Although Spring officially occurred for us on March 20th, the effects of Spring are just now being felt here in Georgia. Spring and Summer are kind of melded into one season here and that “season” is my favorite time of year.

It is as if the whole world took a hot bath, so that everything would arise fresh and new. Birds are migrating, butterflies are drinking, and lizards are basking in sunlight everywhere. We do not have a particularly harsh Winter, but I do miss having some of the wildlife that leaves each fall. When I see the first Eastern Tiger Swallowtail hover over the front yard, it is like an old friend coming to visit for awhile.

Even Natasha likes to watch the insects fly by.

I like using the Four Seasons as a metaphor for life. Traditionally it used to as a metaphor for aging, but I believe it can be used in a different way. Life is rather cyclical like the Seasons and we all have different internal “weather” from day to day.

Spring could be starting a new a job or going to a new school, Summer could be the period where you try to obtain your goal, Autumn is a change in plans, and Winter could be a rut of some sort.

I think this metaphor works because successes and setbacks are temporary in life, much like the weather. If it is a sunny Spring day, appreciate it; it will not last forever. If it is a cold winter night and you can’t sleep, endure it; it will not last forever.