Then Again, Maybe Ignorance Was Bliss

June 12, 2006 @ 11:03 am | Filed under: Nature Study

If you haven’t read Part One of our caterpillar mystery, you’ll want to go here first. Just don’t get too attached to Homer. Someone else has already beaten you to it.

Of all the caterpillars in all the world, you had to lay an egg in mine.

I know this is a lousy image, but believe me, it’s the best of the fifty I snapped. It is clear why ClubMom didn’t hire me to be the photo blogger. Lucky for me they had a need for a children’s-book-author-slash-homeschooling-mom-who-unwittingly-invites-flesh-eating-monsters-into-her-home blogger.

If you click to enlarge that photo and then squint really hard while sticking out your tongue and holding your breath, you can see The Creature at the left end of the caterpillar, next to the twig. See the pointy thing on its head? That would be one of the little feelers it waves around when pausing to survey its licorice-scented domain between bites. BITES. Of caterpillar. Or rather, of pupa. Alas, poor Homer. Never shall he spread his blue-black wings and flit from blossom to blossom. He was doomed before we even met him, though we didn’t know it.

The Mystery Creature’s disappearing act? It seems the reason we kept losing track of him was because he was hiding inside Homer’s body. ::::::can’t stop shuddering:::::: We don’t know for sure that he, the Monster, is the larva of an ichneumonid wasp, but it seems likely. The adult wasp, armed with a pointy flesh-piercing tube called an ovipositor, lays its eggs in the bodies of poor unsuspecting Homers. When the eggs hatch, they munch their way out, merrily feasting on their hosts. Wasp larva: Thanks for the lift. Caterpillar: No problem. And hey, dinner’s on me!

I was all for chucking The Creature right out the door, but my gentle maidens are fascinated by Nature in all her gory splendor. So (gack) It remains a houseguest, still lunching on poor old Homer. You can bet its hours are numbered, though. I don’t know how long its own pupa stage lasts, and there’s no way we’re letting that thing turn into a wasp. We’ve got Herodotus to think about.

Herodotus says: Helllllp!

The story continues here.


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Comments

11 Responses | | Comments Feed

  1. Awww, poor Homer! I’m always rooting for the underdog, and sorry to hear it’s too late for him. I’d always be on a butterfly’s side, too, especially over a wasp’s, that’s for sure. Sorry to hear it! Maybe your girls will let you “preserve” the wasp for future generations by PINNING him to a BOARD or something. Dratted laws of survival! At least the kids are taking it well. Better than I am, I only knew Homer in pictures…

  2. This is just too fascinating!!! We had an ichneumonid wasp in the house awhile back and did a nature study about it. Most of them won’t sting people, btw. But some do…
    Regardless, I do hope you let it pupate so we can all find out exactly what kind of wasp it turns out to be when it matures. Some of them are really cool looking as adults. Plus, now that you’ve got our curiosity piqued, you can’t just leave us hanging!! Just protect poor Herodotus, OK?

  3. Yes, it is fascinating but more than that it is creepy! Creepy enough to make me want to curl up into a ball and hide! Poor Homer.

  4. Oh Lissa I am laughing so hard! But, wow! And ick! I’m not sure which I mean more! Nature is so fascinating and brutal. Keep us posted! 🙂

  5. Eewwwww.

    Can’t bring myself to say “fascinating.”

    Just eeewwwww ….

  6. Just read this lovely story from beginning to end. I have to say that if I were you, I would be having nightmares. Actually, I probably will anyway….and as far as I know there are no pupa or larva in my house.

  7. We had a class on such a beast about two months ago. It’s called a ‘parasitoid’. The difference between a parasite and a parasitoid is that the parasite doesn’t kill the host every single time. The parasitoid depends on the host’s death to survive. Think “Alien”.

    Gosh, the guy who gave us the presentation had some very very ugly pictures. I couldn’t believe I took an 8yo to this adult conference!

  8. We have the exact same caterpillars munching down on our fennel and dill. I have placed 4 of them in an aquarium to wait for the metamorphosis to end. We started with 5 chrysalis but I gave one away.
    They are called anise swallowtails.
    Everyday a butterfly shows up and lays more eggs on the fennel and dill. I even went out to get more fennel plants just for them! So much for using any fennel or dill in the kitchen.
    They are beautiful caterpillars and they will become beautiful butterflies!

  9. All I can say: Ick, yuck, and ewwwwwww! First Elizabeth’s baby birds and now this…NATURE is not so sweet sometimes!

  10. Oy. Not a fun story to explain.

    We are going on our second dead bird in the yard in just a few months, but I guess I can be thankful that we didn’t watch their feathery demise in the comfort of our own home.

  11. […] think I’d have learned my lesson after what happened to poor old Homer and Herodotus. But nooo, I had to go and write about the happy little caterpillar who found its way to my kitchen […]