Skipper Update – July 13th

Despite having all hatched within a day of each other, the caterpillars are all over the place developmentally. I collected three eggs on June 5th and nine eggs on June 6th, for a grand total of thirteen. I quickly discovered two facts, however: first, that the caterpillars didn’t like to move off their comfy little grass stalks, even if they were dry; second, the first instar caterpillars are so small they’re near impossible to find. So I wound up with a bunch of tiny worms that I couldn’t find hiding on dried up grass. The most successful caterpillar (dubbed “Bigworm”) would crawl over to new leaves when he got the chance. The rest would happily eat dried out gunk, which meant they were slower to grow.

This is how I lost seven of the caterpillars – I honestly have no idea if they died, but I needed to clean out the dry grass and couldn’t manage to find them. I put the dead grass back outside, so who knows where they might be now. Next time I try this I’m going to try giving each worm an individual salsa cup or something, to better keep track of it.

It’s been four days since Bigworm changed. Another one changed the next day, and now three more have all started to change together. That leaves one more worm to go – I fondly dub it “Ninja worm” due to all the trouble he gave me trying to find him when he was smaller.

When starting to change, the caterpillars dump everything in their stomach, then scrunch up into that stiff position (see above). You can tell they’re starting to change because their six front legs are all sticking forward at the same angle. As they get ready to pupate, they shrink a great deal and lose the ability to move. The one on the right was less far along than the others – he could still flop around and wriggle. He’s annoyed because I took him out of his leaf nest. Skippers don’t completely surround themselves with silk, but they do use silk to make a nest out of leaves. Hopefully, he won’t try to spin himself another nest and waste valuable energy.

When they emerge, I’ll finally get to know what gender they are!

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