Tuesday, September 16, 2014

hooded owlet ~ 09/16/14 ~ at home

That's George above.  I introduced him in a post from 2 days ago.  I mentioned he was mobile. Very mobile.  I provided him and his cohort Charlotte rather tall flax-leaved horseweed (Erigeron bonariensis) stalks (the same kind I brought them home on), because I was hoping to avoid the daily chore of obtaining smaller, quick-to-wilt clippings from down the street.  This is all to say, I did not have them in a container.  I simply stuck the trimmed stalks in a heavy-bottomed vase with water and a cotton topper to prevent accidental drowning.  Yep, the larvae were loose and fancy free at home, in my home.

And, George made a run for it today.  Twice.  Argh!  At first, I thought he was just searching for fresher food.  He somehow managed to get off the table and onto the floor, but that was about as far as he got.  The second time he disappeared, with a plethora of just-the-right-sized leaves to munch on, it dawned on me he must be looking for a cozy place to pupate.  It took me an hour of carefully searching every nook and cranny (man, I have some serious dust bunnies behind the furniture) until I finally found him nestled in a silty groove of our sliding glass door rail.  Phew!  I worried that if he had found a way to get into my houseplant containers, he'd be lost for good.  Plus, I had vivid images of settling in on the couch to discover something smooshy stuck to my bottom.  Yuck.  Good thing I found George.

If I hadn't dug up the large yellow underwing pupa in my compost a few years back, I don't think I would have known to simply provide a little loose dirt.  I quickly cleaned out a couple containers (another for Charlotte) and dumped in a couple inches of slightly moist compost.  I inserted a crawling stick for later and then set George down on top of the dirt.  After a few minutes of playing dead from the traumatic handling, he started wiggling himself in short spurts and then pauses, head first into the soil.  Shown above was about halfway through.  Within 10-15 minutes, he had dug himself completely under.  I was kinda surprised at how quick he was, because I had never witnessed how this happens before.

While the colors are a bit washed out in my photo, George had already started changing colors, loosing the bright yellow center dorsal stripe and gaining a reddish-brown tailend that looks a lot like a sclerotized head.  Doesn't he look a bit like a millipede here?  Very cool.