Well today was a full day of hunting caterpillars at Honey Island Swamp near Pearl River. We saw and collected A LOT!
We are all out here trying to collect as many caterpillars as we can so we can study them to see how many are infected by Parasites (such as flies). Did you know parasites can lay their eggs inside or outside of a caterpillar? When the eggs hatch, they eat the caterpillar for food... yum!
Now before we get to the good stuff, it's always important to be prepared so here is a list of things I needed to bring with me on my expedition:
-20-gallon zip lock bags
-2 sharpies, scissors
-Notepad and pencil
-hat and rain boots
-Bright orange vest (so hunters DO NOT mistaken Ms. Shin for a deer!)
We found a lot of interesting caterpillars and other bugs! However, guess what Ms. Shin spent most of her day doing?... other than collecting caterpillars.
I spent most of my day ESTIMATING how many leaves were on a tree!!! That's right! Let me tell you, it was NOT easy!!! There are thousands of leaves on a tree. You all get to estimate marbles, I had to estimate leaves on a variety of trees and shrubs (oak, maple, and more).
You see, what you learn in school IS IMPORTANT!!!
Now, I continue...
First, our expedition team had to find a spot to "plot," that means we only looked for caterpillars within a circular area (diameter) of 10 meters using plot tape (yellow string).
Second, we labeled and estimated all the trees and shrubs within that area. This took awhile.
Finally, we bagged and tagged the caterpillars within that site in a large, gallon, zip lock bag. There were seven important things we needed to write on these bags:
2-Plot site number
4-Instar Number (the stage of their life... usually there are five)
6-The name of the plant it was found on
7-How many caterpillars (of the same species) were in the bag
O.k. now here is what you have been waiting for... the caterpillars.
This one is in the family Lymantriidae. Caterpillars in this family usually have three types of hair: 1) long and silky hair, 2) "hair pencils", and 3) "hair tufts." This combination of traits make the caterpillar look more like a punk rocker than an insect. This species is called Orgyia leucostigma. Can you find out what it looks like when it becomes a moth?
This one is in the family Saturniidae; this one will become the Polyphemus moth. Can you find out what it looks like when it becomes a moth? Caterpillars in this family are usually large enormous, and robust. The also have smooth and shiny heads.
Now comes the gold medal winners; we found these beauties while kayaking down Pearl River.
These HUGE caterpillars are called the "Banded Sphinx," they belong in the Hornworm family. These caterpillar can be found on the Primrose-Willow plant family. Although they come in a variety of colors (I even found a pink one), most if them have black spiracles edged with white, and diagonal white stripes pointing towards the head. Can you find out what these pupate (turn out) to be?
Well this is already a very long post, so that's all for now.
Till next time...
P.S. Did you know that caterpillar poop is called Frass!
P.P.S. I also saw a 15 foot alligator while I was kayaking. It's name is El Guapo (which means handsome in Spanish). He likes to eat marshmallows. I couldn't take a picture for you though, sorry. I was too busy paddling in the opposite direction! Ms. Shin did not have any marshmallows. So, maybe next time... maybe not.