Today at The Caterpillar Lab....

Today at The Caterpillar Lab Orgyia tussock caterpillars hatched and wandered across the tattered remains of their own mother's life cycle - her final shed caterpillar head capsule, a piece of her discarded pupal skin, and mats of her silk and severed defensive hairs. She left behind this evidence of her life as an offer of protection to this next generation. Below, an old essay describing the Orgyia's unique life cycle. --- For some species, it starts and ends with the caterpillar: We have been trained to think of cycles of growth and reproduction with a definite starting place and a definite end. Perhaps that is why caterpillars have historically received so little attention. They are the

Follow-the-leader

Eastern tent caterpillars playing a nightmarish game of follow-the-leader: Tent caterpillars are one of our favorite springtime species here at The Caterpillar Lab, but sometimes we just wish they would take better care of themselves for us! Somehow this group of caterpillars got stuck following each other around in an endless loop - we had to step in and rescue them by breaking a twig and pointing them towards home... This really shouldn't be in the job description guys ;) - Sam TCL Director

CATERPILLAR OF THE WEEK: IDIA PART 3: LURKING WITHIN

We estimate that our Idia litter moth caterpillars number in the hundreds, but we've only found a couple pupae and one adult moth so far. Why is that you ask? The age variation definitely plays a part, but our Idia are also sharing their home (and bodies) with some unwelcome house guests. There are at least TWO species of parasitoid that we've seen so far attacking the growing Idia on two fronts: 1.) Parasitoid wasps in the family Braconidae (pictured below) laid eggs in some of the caterpillars. A wasp larva will hatch INSIDE THE CATERPILLAR then eat it from the inside out, eventually emerging from the abdomen of the caterpillar to form its cocoon and pupate while still attached to the left

Meet the Staff: Jace Porter

Hello fellow caterpillar enthusiasts! Many of you might be wondering "Who's this cool new guy we've been seeing lately?" Well... My name is Jace, the new Rearing Specialist & Outreach Educator, and I'm wicked excited to be here! One of my main goals will be to make sure our caterpillars are able to feast like royalty every day and live a life of luxury at our lab. So I am basically caterpillar room service - which involves cleaning LOTS of frass (caterpillar poop). I will also be making appearances at some of our shows, helping to educate anyone that's willing to listen about the incredible diversity, biology, and natural history of our native caterpillars. I am a self-study with a backgroun

CATERPILLAR OF THE WEEK: IDIA PART 2: THE ECLOSION

CATERPILLAR OF THE WEEK - IDIA PART 2: THE ECLOSION This week we had some EXCITING developments with our nest of Idia caterpillars. Not only did we find a couple of Idia pupae, but we had an eclosion! With the adult moth shedding off the old pupa skin and drying its wings, we were able to more accurately identify this as the species Idia aemula, or the Common Idia. As if that wasn't cool enough, we also discovered a SECOND species of Idia, Idia americalis (The American Idia) sharing the nest with it's relatives! We could distinguish Idia americalis because it only has three pairs of abdominal prolegs as opposed to four in other species. So we've learned that there are many ages and at least

Unlocking Spring Viceroy Caterpillars

There are many little tricks to finding caterpillars and some of those tricks are specific to just a single species or a small group of species. For the Viceroy butterfly, Limenitis archippus, the method for searching for them also changes with the season. The first generation of Viceroy caterpillars that we see each spring (March to early May here in New England) emerge from their overwintering shelters, called hibernacula, as third instars and shed their skins within a day or two. The caterpillars grow remarkably quickly on their host of willow or poplar catkins and young leaves and I often find large final instar caterpillars before the chill of April in NH has passed. To begin your hunt,

CATERPILLAR OF THE WEEK: litter moth caterpillars!

CATERPILLAR OF THE WEEK: A surprising find in a local birds nest, hundreds of hungry Idia litter moth caterpillars! With spring in full swing, we're bringing back Caterpillar of the Week! Each week we'll feature an amazing native caterpillar being reared here at The Caterpillar Lab in Keene, NH! This week we'd like to introduce you to Idia caterpillars, also known as litter moth caterpillars. They are in the family Erebidae, and are one of the smaller "macro" moths (the group that includes everything from the giant luna and cecropia, right down to the gray geometrid inchworm moths and owlets) Smaller caterpillars tend to have their spotlight stolen by their more showy cousins (I'm looking at

New Open Hours

We're pleased to announce new open hours for The Caterpillar Lab! The short version: we're aiming for three times a week, starting in April with Sunday, Monday and Wednesday from 12-5pm. The doors will be open to you at 166 Emerald St. Keene NH 03431. The longer version: we're going to handle our open hours a little differently this year. Having times when visitors can come in and see what we do and how we do it is very important to us, but this sometimes conflicts with our outreach programs, leading to cancelled open hours. Our goal for this season is to maintain three days of open hours every week, on a regular schedule that may differ month to month. Starting today, we'll be open on Monda

The Caterpillar Lab's Biggest Fans

At a recent lecture someone remarked how fantastic it was that "even girls" might get excited about caterpillars through our programs. That comment stuck in my head. "EVEN GIRLS". I try not to divide our audience into different categories and rank their interactions - the interplay of all groups present is the highlight for me - but I must say, if there has been any pattern it is this: girls, young women, and old ladies alike, LOVE caterpillars, are EXCITED by the natural world, and have all the CURIOSITY and DRIVE to explore these critters and their biology as anybody else. In fact, I really believe that we experience more intense curiosity from our younger female visitors than ANY OTHER de

Coffee table / live silkworm exhibit

We are finishing up the new lab space with this coffee table / live silkworm exhibit. Need to work on the aesthetics a little, but the glass-topped drawers should provide the perfect mix of humidity and ventilation for them. Wonder how many unsuspecting visitors will be surprised to find they've placed down their drinks on top of writhing caterpillars and mating moths?

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The Caterpillar Lab fosters greater appreciation and care for the complexity and beauty of our local natural history through live caterpillar educational programs, research initiatives, and photography and film projects. We believe that an increased awareness of one’s local environment is the foundation on which healthy and responsible attitudes towards the broader natural systems of this world is built.

© 2015 CATERPILLAR LAB INC.  With original artwork by Heather Reid and Samuel Jaffe

 

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