Monday, May 2, 2011

unidentified caterpillar ~ 05/02/11 ~ at home

unidentified woollybear caterpillar
possible Hypercombe, Grammia, or Spilosoma sp.

You're going to get sick of seeing caterpillars and moths; but I've been homebound, and that's what I have available for Nature ID. Click here to see my initial pictures on 04/01/11 of this unidentified woollybear that I'm raising. Now, you can actually see little brown nubs (for lack of a better term) where the hairs originate on each abdominal segment. Instead of being soft and fuzzy like it was when I found it in the Carmel Highlands last month, those hairs are rather pokey and irritating now.

It's grown quite a bit in the past month, yet I haven't noticed it molt. I'm hoping it's in the final instar, because, quite frankly, I'm tired of feeding it daily. After an initial non-eating period for about a week, I discovered it chows down at night and rests either on a stick or tucked under whatever is available during the day, which is opposite of the diurnal Lophocampa sp. that I'm also raising. This all black caterpillar likes to eat young dandelion shoots, radish tops, spinach, iceberg lettuce, and green leaf lettuce (pretty much whatever is leafy in my fridge or growing in my compost = easy, daily access for me). It does not like oak leaves, pine needles, carrot stems, cilantro stems, nor older dandelion leaves. I don't know what it would prefer to eat if it were out in the wild.

See those two olive green pellets in the first photo? That's poop, aka frass, and is a good indication the caterpillar is doing well by being the feeding machine it is. Many years ago, I had a grad student contact me while I was raising gypsy moths (yes, I had a permit for research purposes) and asked if I could send her gypsy moth frass, both dried and fresh. Yep, my claim to fame is mailing caterpillar poop - this was a couple years before Amerithrax and before postal workers started wearing rubber gloves to handle the mail. She was studying whether one could identify certain Lepidoptera based on examining the microscopic shape of the frass. I never heard back about her findings.

5 comments:

Joe said...

Like the caterpillars.

Imperfect and tense said...

I hope you're able to be out and about again soon, Katie. It must be very frustrating for you.

That grad student must've been a dedicated follower of frassing.

Best Wishes from the Tense Team

texwisgirl said...

i'm sorry you got so sick. hoping the insurance co. comes thru for you too! in the meantime, keep feeding these lovely little woolies!

Janet said...

Love wooly bears!

Nature ID (Katie) said...

Woollybears should be the mascots of the caterpillar world. This little fella is still eating me out of salad material. I sure hope it pupates soon!

Graeme, that's pupate, not poop-ate ;)