Friday, September 16, 2011

Mystery Caterpillar

My family has been nurturing a small section of milkweed in our perennial garden (that is slowly taking over the garden) hoping to attract Monarch Butterflies. Year after year, we search the plants looking for caterpillars we can watch go through the magical process of metamorphosis. Sunday, my kids and I went in search again. We found lots of leaves that had clearly been eaten. Yes, we thought,  maybe this is the year! We searched and searched. We found ladybugs. We found beetles. We found Dragonflies. No Monarch caterpillars.

Then, on a terrifically eaten plant that had nearly no leaves left, we found a caterpillar!
That's no Monarch caterpillar, but I think it's pretty cool. So do my kids. My son said, "It looks like a bottle brush!" After more thought he said, "Or a pipe cleaner!" Quite a colorful bottle brush, don't you think?

 After a more searching we found another, and another. So off we went to get our butterfly house.We carefully placed two caterpillars in the house along with lots of fresh milkweed leaves. We'll replenish those leaves daily until the caterpillars make their chrysalids.

I'm sure you're all wondering, "What kind of caterpillar is it?" We don't know! My kids weren't terribly motivated to find out so I didn't look. As I mentioned in last Friday's post about Birds of Prey, we learn so much just by observing, we don't necessarily need an ID. I'm sure they'll want to know at some point, then our field guides will come out and more investigations will ensue. For now, we'll watch and wait.

Take a walk around your yard our neighborhood with your kids this weekend. See what you can find. In my neck of the woods, there's loads of insect activity this time of year that's easily visible. Dragonflies zip about. Grasshoppers spring everywhere. Katydids croak their end of summer song. See what's happening in your piece of the world. Then come and share what you saw. Also, let me know if you take any photos you'd like to share. 

Related Posts:
Teachable moment: Caterpillar Investigation
Caterpillar Investigation, part 2
Caterpillar Investigation, part 3
Caterpillar Investigation, part 4
Top 10 Ways to Promote Science Inquiry


  1. Thanks for the link! When you do decide you want an ID, a great resource online is If you have trouble finding the right critter in your field guides, you can post a photo on Bug Guide and the insect enthusiasts who hang out there will point you in the right direction.

  2. Thanks for dropping by, Rebecca. I love your blog. I'm a subscriber, so your posts conveniently come to my inbox. I never miss a new sighting! Readers, pop over and check out "Rebecca in the Roods." Rebecca and I don't know each other- the internet brought us together.

    Thanks for the great resource, too. Someone told me about it once before and I had forgotten about it.