Caterpillar bloom!

The uninvited caterpillar ..

The uninvited caterpillar ..

We had an uninvited guest a couple of weeks ago. Before long the entire family moved into our patio!

Mr. Caterpillar was so small and frail when we first noticed him nibbling on our plant in the patio. Some quick online research and I concluded this was the Oleander Hawk Moth Caterpillar. Its most distinguishing features are these alien-like fake eye-spots which grow larger to scare predators away if he feels threatened. The caterpillars natural protective coloring makes it practically blend into its surroundings.

Caterpillars fake eyes

Caterpillars fake eyes

Within a day, two more who joined in, feasting on this little plant with much fervor! It’s a small plant with white flowers that bloom pretty much all year around. Judge me all you want for my botany skills (rather the lack of!), I have no idea what plant this is.

Caterpillar family

Caterpillar family

The kids were thoroughly enjoying this caterpillar invasion, we talked about the food chain and about camouflage, we wondered if cats eat caterpillars or if the rain bothers them.

Oleander Hawk Moth Caterpillar

Oleander Hawk Moth Caterpillar

Caterpiller KitWe’ve had a lone visitor on this exact plant once before. We unsuccessfully tried to create our own caterpillar kit, making a home for him in a large bread dispenser. We even got tips from the very ‘reliable’ eHow.com on what to put inside his little home to make him comfortable. The idea was to watch them go through the complete life cycle of feeding, growing and transforming into a butterfly.

This particular caterpillar, however had no interest in providing the kids with this exciting learning opportunity! In a state of shock, he paced unremittingly all along the edge of the bread dispenser for hours! He refused to do the one thing he should have really have been doing – eating, and even lost some weight! It reminded me of the stereotypic behaviour of polar bears in captivity. Of course we let him go, he ran for his life and was never seen again.

Caterpillars

Caterpillars

This time though, the final count was seven! They nibbled through relentlessly and as the leaves disappeared, they bodies inflated. Before long they were fighting for space and clinging on firmly to the frail branches. The only proof of their intrusion (other than the missing leaves) was the caterpillar poop! They dropped these tiny poop pellets every now and then to the delight of my children, who couldn’t stop talking about it!

Lone Caterpillar

Lone Caterpillar

Bare Plant

Bare Plant

I knew the caterpillars would leave as soon as they were ready to spin their silky cocoons, to find a safer and more concealed place. They were in a big hurry, and were surprisingly sprightly considering their newly added girth! There was a lone flower left on the plant, the rest of it stripped completely bare. Admittedly, despite the unauthorized trespass, we throughly enjoyed ‘hosting’ these little critters and watching them grow. My kids have loved Eric Carle’s The Hungry Caterpillar book and this was great live example of a ballooning hungry green caterpillar. THe little plant who served silently as their food source has now started getting its leaves back. Occasionally we see a butterfly hovering above it and wonder if it’s the caterpillar visiting its first home.

Follow this link to see more interesting-looking caterpillars.

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