I was sitting at my kitchen table during Jackson’s nap on September 20. I looked out the patio door and saw this big green thing moving on the cover of our grill. I went outside and saw the BIGGEST caterpillar I have ever seen.
I decided to get the kids’ bug catcher so I could show him to Katie once she got off the bus. With him in the bug catcher, I got some different views and great photos. This one shows his little sucker feet. You can even see the tiny hairs on his legs. My response, again, is “Ewww. But cool!”
Katie came home from school and I showed the caterpillar to the kids. I kept it on the grill in the back yard overnight, kind of forgetting about him. The next morning, I checked on him and saw he had started throwing silk all over the bug catcher. I realized he was starting to build a cocoon! I kind of panicked, afraid to let him go in case his cocooning process would make him vulnerable to predators. I decided to keep him in the bug catcher in hopes of keeping him safe. I threw in a leaf, thinking he could eat it while he prepared to cocoon. As soon as the leaf was inside, I saw him start to grab it and thought he must be very hungry.
The caterpillar hadn’t eaten the leaf, he had used it for his cocoon! I now realized we had a beautiful example of God’s creation in our midst, and decided to research what kind of caterpillar he might be. That was a pretty hard job. I thought maybe he’s a Cecropia Silkmoth or a Luna Moth (Actias Luna), but then I saw a photo of an Antheraea Polyphemus and decided that’s my guy. (Of course, what do I know? I won’t know for sure until he emerges from his cocoon. And then I’m hoping I’ll be able to tell if it’s a HE or a SHE as well!)
Then I read up on how to grow caterpillar and/or cocoon. I found some good links like this one on raising giant silkmoths and this one on the lifecycle of polyphemus moths. It’s been so cool to learn and watch nature firsthand.
One of the websites I read said you should keep the cocoon outside (or at least in your garage) to protect it from animals. Also, keeping it outside will help it adapt so when it’s time to release, it will be acclimated to the weather. I put our bug catcher and cocoon in our garage on top of the refrigerator. I check it every day in case something changes; I thought I’d have to wait until spring to see it hatch. But last week (Oct. 4), I picked up the bug catcher to look at it and heard this rustling sound coming from inside the cocoon. I think maybe he’ll be ready to hatch soon!
I’ll keep you posted on his/her progress.