Saturday, November 6, 2010


painted tiger moth
Arachnis picta

I'm setting the caterpillars free in one of my compost containers, because there's a nice supply of various young shoots. The 2nd instar caterpillars are now over 5mm in length and about ready to molt again. I turned the vinca over for the last pic to show how they seem to like a bit of overhead protection during the day. Here are my blog posts to when the mother laid eggs (10/17/10) and when they hatched (10/26/10).

ps 11/08/10 - They ate my 2 tomato shoots to the nub in one day. Good golly, they are little pigs!

pss 02/23/11 - Those small, heart-shaped leaves are hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta), a non-native wildflower in the Brassicaceae family. Thanks to a friend who pointed them out in her garden I now know what they are. Both of ours have grown enough to set seed with tiny, thin seed pods that pop when touched. Not wanting them to spread to my container plants, I pulled them all out. I hope the caterpillars, if any are left in this compost container, are okay.

6 comments:

texwisgirl said...

Just like growing boys at a buffet table! Eat eat EAT! :)

biobabbler said...

How delightful! a) setting little caterpillars free on a heaping pile of vegetation, and b) eating up the whole plant in a day and c) describing them as little pigs. CUTE. =)

I have a friend who studies moths and said when he'd be stressed in school, he'd just watch a caterpillar eat. You can't be stressed and what them zenfully munch their way through a leaf/stem. =)

Janet said...

...unless they are munching your vegies :-)

Nature ID (Katie) said...

twg, that's why I let them go. I just wasn't keeping up with enough fresh clippings to feed them. Plus, the cats poop a lot, which means more cleaning than I want to take on and I figured the frass would be good for the compost.

bb, it is kind of funny, eh? I got the "little pigs" description from Chris at The Skeptical Moth. I won't be turning this compost until next November and will be curious to see what grows in that time.

Janet, yeah, too bad caterpillars don't keep to one plant and leave the rest unblemished for the gardener.

Debbie Miller @HooootOwl said...

Wow that's a lot of caterpillars. Love the detail in that first shot.

Nature ID (Katie) said...

Thanks, Debbie, for the compliment.

I can only find a few caterpillars now after a mass exodus from the compost. They molted over the weekend and are fuzzier and cuter.