On Saturday afternoon I took a break from yard work to take pictures of a few bugs I’d found. One of them turned out to be a beautiful caterpillar striking a defensive pose. As I often do, I posted the pictures to Project Noah looking for an identification of the species. Then I collected all five caterpillars I found and made a home for them in a big container to watch them grow.
The caterpillar turned out to be a Cerura vinula caterpillar in its second instar. This means that the caterpillar hatched from its egg looking a certain way, and now it looks different. It will continue to change appearance from one instar to another until it is ready to go into a cocoon. The cocoon will be made up of silk produced by the caterpillar, and will incorporate bits of leaf and bark. There will be no change in the winter, and the caterpillar will remain in its cocoon until early spring, when it will emerge as a white moth with gray markings.
I always encourage teachers to share with other teachers, but most of my bug pictures are in places not easily accessible to educators. As these caterpillars grow and move from one instar to the next, and then into their cocoons, I will post the images and comments on a Google site where anyone teaching life cycles will have access to it. In the spring, I hope to create a time lapse video of the caterpillars emerging as moths after wintering in their cocoons.