Tag Archives: caterpillar

Raising Butterflies: Grey Hairstreak Hatching

Let’s play: is that a random spec of dirt, or the precious caterpillar you collected?

Well, it twitched. I guess it’s a caterpillar.

It’s been three days since I collected the grey hairstreak eggs, and they both hatched. The folks at BAMONA say that grey hairstreak caterpillars eat the flowers, not the leaves. I put both flowers and leaves in with the hatchlings. I’m hoping they don’t wander away from their food. The containers are big enough they could walk off and starve. It also says the caterpillar can be cannibalistic – caterpillar cannibalism doesn’t seem to be a conscious thing so much as they won’t stop eating a leaf just because there’s another caterpillar on it. Either way, the two caterpillars are in separate containers.

At this stage, they’re smaller than ants, so I have to use a fine paintbrush if I want to move them. Speaking of ants, in the wild, hairstreak caterpillars are attended by ants. The ants tend to them, and in exchange the hairstreak produces a nectary substance for them. No ants here, unless you count in the kitchen.

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!

Fiery Skipper Pupation

I’ve been raising Fiery Skippers from eggs I collected on the lawn. Since they eat grass they’re easy to feed and keep. I managed to catch one turning into the pupal stage, despite its best efforts to wait until I wasn’t looking. The cup and bad lighting got in the way of the pictures, which is too bad, but the sequence of events is clear enough.

You can just barely see the top of it starting to split, near the head.

It would raise and lower its tail. I suppose that is how it wiggles loose.

The face split open and the pupa emerged. It wiggled until the caterpillar face and skin had slid down to the end of it.

Once it had the skin most of the way off, it began to gyrate like it had a hula hoop on it, to shed the skin the rest of the way.

When it first wiggles free, it’s still very long, and looks a lot like a green version of the caterpillar. The head can clearly be seen, but the wings cannot. Once it’s done shedding, it starts to wiggle and scrunch itself up, turning into a much fatter butterfly pupa.

Below is a picture of the new pupa side by side with one that had undergone metamorphosis the day before. The new pupa is much greener, and is still trying to scrunch itself into shape.

The older pupa. You can clearly see the eyes, and can barely make out the wings. The pupae seem very clear, the segmented abdomen is easy to see even now. Interestingly enough, both pupae have little fuzzy hairs all over.

This is the newer pupa. It kind of looks like a cartoon frog. There are little markings over its eyes that make it look like its eyes are shut – from my experience with moths, I suspect the eyes haven’t even developed yet. You can sort of make out the lines where the wings are.