Sunday, May 3, 2009

White Marked Tussock Moth

About three weeks ago we went over to my grandparents house just to stop by for a visit.  My grandma had been to a yard sale earlier in the week and found this cool little bug habitat for children.  It was clear on three of the four sides and had a neat little magnifying glass that  you could look at anything in the cage.  While we were there we just happened to find a caterpillar and thought we would put it in the bug habitat.  This is what it looked like:


We watched it munch through a ton of leaves.  Then we watched it climb to the top of the cage and cocoon. It was pretty cool to see since it was an acrylic cage we could see straight into the cocoon. Two weeks and it was emerging…but not as a butterfly which is what we were expecting…instead it looked like a moth with no wings.  We watched it and had great intentions on looking up what it was but was also quite busy.  About three days after it emerged, it died…we found this kind of strange and then when we looked closer we found a bunch of, what looked like, little white non pareil sprinkles all over the cocoon and some that had fallen.  Our moth that never had wings was dead! 

Saddened by this it forced me to look up what kind of caterpillar we had been watching.  Then I found out it was a moth not a butterfly.  And believe it or not, the female White Marked Tussock Moth lives just to reproduce and then dies.  They spend the first four to six weeks of their life munch on trees, about two weeks in the transformation process and then they emerge either as a male or a female….the females have no wings, they lay the eggs and then die.  That is totally amazing to me.  Can you imagine living long enough to give birth and then dying?  They say that because they reproduce so rapidly that you could see as many three generations in one year and that if you get too many generations together they literally have the ability to eat all the leaves off a tree.  It is amazing what you find just looking around your own environment.  It will be interesting to see if the eggs hatch and we get to watch the process all over again!


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