Thursday, March 3, 2011

How Eggciting!!!

Hey guys!

The most exciting thing! My butterfly eggs began hatching today! I've noticed them turning darker and darker in the past few weeks so I know they were soon due to hatch but I'd never imagined that I would be able to witness the actual process! (They're usually already emerged when I check up on them).
Butterfly eggs nursery
As you can see above, I usually store my butterfly eggs on the same leaf they are laid on in small plastic food containers. The containers are lined with wet cotton wool and lightly misted with water with holes poked on the top for ventillation. The cotton wool prevents the eggs from drying out but at the same time it helps absorb any excess moisture which may otherwise drown the young cats and I do like to keep my young ones  in a confined space until they grow much older and are allowed free run of the feeding tray. This is because young caterpillars are extremely tiny, think the size of a coma! And if that still doesn't give you an idea on how small they are,  take a good look at this picture. *Note, each leaf is about the size of a fingernail with the larger leaf being the size of the nail on my index finger, and the smaller one, the nail on my pinkie.
Can you see it???
Can you see the baby caterpillar? There it is, the little spec on the smaller leaf! Spot it? Now, let's take a closer look.
Now you see it!
This is a caterpillar of the common mormon (papillio polytes) swallowtail. As for what it is doing well, caterpillars, as we all know feed on leaves. However, when they've just only emerged and are still very small, a caterpillar is too weak and frail to do much crawling and/or munching. As such, the very first meal this caterpillar will have is its own egg-shell which, thanks to its mother, is packed with all sorts of nutritious goodness that the caterpillar can use to power itself as it scampers off to hide from would-be predators and feed as it transforms into an adult butterfly. In fact, eating and hiding is pretty much all a caterpillar does. Throughout its entire lifetime, a caterpillar can increase its weight more than ten-thousand fold. For example, this small guy in the picture above, will turn into this some 2-3 weeks later...
fourth instar of a common mormon.
Caterpillars grow through a process called molting. This involves the caterpillar shedding its old skin and growing into a new and larger one (sort of like a snake, if you think about it). Each stage of a caterpillar's molt is known as an instar. In some caterpillars, the appearance of the insect changes as it matures with each instar. For example. this common mormon caterpillar, while resembling a particularly spiky bird's dropping during its first through third instar, will eventually adopt a handsome green coloration after its fourth molt, or instar. Caterpillars generally do not go through more than 5 or 6 instars, after which the final molt will transform it into the chrysalis, and eventually a butterfly.

I see you driving downtown with the girl I love and I'm like FU-get YOU Oooh Oooh

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