Tuesday, 5 December 2006

Look, ma! No hands!

A few weeks ago, I caught a geometrid moth inside the house and released it into the garden that night. In the meantime, the moth laid a clutch of bright green eggs in the jar. When they hatched, I made an educated guess about a suitable food plant and let the tiny, cotton-thin caterpillars crawl onto a firewheel tree (Stenocarpus sinuatus).

This morning, I spotted a geometrid caterpillar, hale and hearty and chewing its way through my once beautiful but now increasingly tatty plant. I'm not sure that it's one of the specimen jar cohort because all geometrids look the same to me. If any geometrid fancier can identify mother moth and/or caterpillar, let me know.

On being surprised by a camera-wielding lepidopterazzi, the caterpillar adopted a characteristic geometrid pose. Moments before, it has been nibbling its way through a leaf. Then it extended its body to resemble a twig, letting go with its true legs, holding on with its ventral and anal prolegs and winding out a silk thread from its mouth as it straightened up. Had it not been rather too bold with its daytime feeding and the sloppy disposal of its poo, I would never have seen it. As long as it doesn't destroy the Stenocarpus, I wish it luck.

4 comments:

Duncan said...

It'll let you see the flowers better!

Igorant said...

The term anal proleg has such a wonderful feel to it. 'Bastard says he's got an AP, bullshit ask me. Wanker.'

Snail said...

The caterpillars on notice, Duncan. The leaves are expendable but if it goes for any flower buds, that's it. Wattlebird food.

Igor, I like your thinking. It could catch on. 'Napoleon' has become a bit of a catch phrase at work after one of our students wrote an essay about a visit behind the scenes at the museum. She was disturbed by the smell in the insect collection, describing it as 'Napoleon'. It was only much later that we realised she was referring to naphthalene. We now use the term 'a bit Napoleon' to cover all things on the nose, including dodgy behaviour.

This was the student who also described a cheetah's gait as 'coit-like' and believed that the animosity between India and Pakistan was the result of continental drift. Presumably, India's encroachment on Pakistan caused the problems. If anything's a bit Napoleon, it's that idea.

jj said...

:)
Not only am I learning all sorts (in a licoricey kind of way) but having a good laugh as I read.

My favourite student explanation of natural phenomena is the one who thought days are longer in summer than winter because they get progressively warmer ...











and ...












expand.

I have a certain sympathy with that.

:)

All the best snail and thankyou for your consistently amusing and educational writing.