29 Jun 2014

This Week in Numbers #5 (with a twist!)

A few weeks ago my brother sent an application to Insect Lore about the possibility of being sent some stick insect eggs to breed and look after. They accepted and not only sent him the eggs but also sent some caterpillars to rear until they were butterflies. And guess who got them? Me of course! 

                So for that reason this post may be a little different from my normal ones (hence the twist part!) :

I received the 5 Pillars on 16th June. They were around 1cm- not that I measured them with my ruler or anything (I did!). They were so ugly that they were cute (a bit like a Pug) so I instantly fell in love with them. At first they were very active, munching on their vomit-looking-vomit-inducing food, climbing up the sides of the culture cup and wiggling across the bottom of the lid upside down like some kind of circus performer.

By the next few days they were very much at home, spinning lots of silk to create a hammock like contraption that they seemed to like sleeping in and producing 'frass' (the little black balls shown in picture below) also known as Caterpillar faeces. I like to think they were all friends and would have a little midnight party while I was asleep, but who knows!

I felt really bad leaving the Pillars last weekend when I went away to Norfolk as I posted about (*here) but I convinced myself that they would enjoy the peacefulness that came with an empty house. And when I got back late Sunday evening...MY GOODNESS, I couldn't believe the size of them! They were monsters, having grown a full 3 cm while I was away! I know it doesn't sound much but for a little thing, barley the size of your nail, to grow to the length of your middle finger...its pretty amazing. 

Then two days later on 24th June, I woke to find that all 5 caterpillars had climbed to the top of the cup and begun to hang upside down by their tails in a J shape, as the instruction booklet stated. 

Over the next couple of hours they shed their exoskeleton (insects like caterpillars have their skeletons on the outside of their body unlike us) and harden to form a chrysalis. Although they appear to be 'resting' they are actually undergoing an amazing change, developing wing, antennas and mouth parts. 

I transferred them to the hatching habitat after a few days and am just waiting for the butterflies to appear now. They should hatch within a week (just in time for my next This Week in Numbers) and I will let you know how they are getting on, hopefully with some beautiful pictures to go along with it! 

Have you ever done anything like this before? If not would you consider trying it? 

NB: In case you wanted some more science-y information on how caterpillars change to butterflies I found a helpful website (*here). Let me know what you think xxx 

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