From Caterpillars to Cocoons: Ms. Jeannie’s Nature Show

Oh the butterflies did not prove to disappoint, dear readers! Three little caterpillars built their nests in Ms. Jeannie’s garden, and they did it, so kindly, right where she could see them!

On Tuesday, she went out to water and noticed that all the caterpillars had vanished. Well, all except one who was still hanging out on the parsley. He had been in that same spot for quite a few days although this day, Ms. Jeannie saw two little spider web like threads projecting from each side of his bright little body.  When she checked on him in the evening, this is what she found…

A cocoon!

A cocoon!

If she hadn’t known exactly the spot to look for the caterpillar she would have missed him completely. He has built a cocoon which totally blends in with his surroundings –  an overturned parsley sprig – so he matches the pale underside exactly. Here’s another view…

Would you have noticed him in a passing glance?

Would you have noticed him in a passing glance?

You can see the little threads here too that keep him anchored to the stalk. This sort of reminds Ms. Jeannie of rock climbers who propel mountains with their thin little safety ropes.

Knowing that all the other caterpillars might have gone on their search for long grasses or house foundations or dead tree limbs to find their nesting site, she looked in all the areas around the pots. Not sure how far a caterpillar could travel or would travel for such a task, she just looked a few yards around each pot. Guess where she found caterpillar number 2?

On the back of her spinach sign!

On the back of her spinach sign!

Ms. Jeannie thinks this one might be the Einstein of the bunch. That was a pretty good place to nest as it backs up to the side of the house.  Here he is…

Check out his color!

Check out his color!

Notice how he has completely camouflaged himself to match the wood grain. There are even little striations in his cocoon that match the light and dark veins of the wood. Even more amazing is that from an aerial viewpoint, the “belly” of his cocoon matches the green leaves of the gerber daisies down below, so again if you were passing by quickly you would just think it was a leaf or something similar.

From a different angle.

From a different angle.

Caterpillars build their cocoons to protect themselves during the chrysalis stage. Sometimes the cocoon shells are hard and sometimes they are soft (Ms. Jeannie is afraid to poke at her three in case she breaks the threads, so she hasn’t investigated this aspect further)  but they are all made out of silk produced by the caterpillars.

Now knowing that they are such good camouflagers, Ms. Jeannie made one last careful check of the pots to see if she could find any others. That’s when she found this last one…

The prettiest spot!

The prettiest spot!

If Ms. Jeannie was a caterpillar she would have picked this spot too – right underneath the flower petals. Clearly, this little one was all about having a lovely view! She gets an “A” in the camouflage department too…

Notice the sun stripes!

Notice the sun stripes!

They create cases that blend in to their surroundings so that hopefully they can go unnoticed by predators such as birds and lizards. It’s amazing to think that they will live in these cocoons for a couple of weeks when all that tethers them are those two thin strings. Hardly, it seems, they would be able to stand up to a wind storm or even a summer rain storm. Ms. Jeannie has even taken to watering her containers down at the base, just so her sprinkler wand won’t interfere! Of course they must be strong little threads, just like the webs of spiders, but still, Ms. Jeannie would hate to be the cause of their demise.

So the next step in the butterfly cycle, if all goes well, will be the emergence of each butterfly in the next 10 days or so.  According to research, most butterflies like to emerge in the early morning to give their wings a chance to dry out in the weaker light of the morning sun before flying off. Ms. Jeannie would love to capture that moment on camera so she is crossing her fingers (yet again!) for that experience.

Stay tuned for Part Three of this mini-series!

5 thoughts on “From Caterpillars to Cocoons: Ms. Jeannie’s Nature Show

  1. What beautiful photography, lovely story…nature is such a marvel and you have captured it all where others may just have passed it by… missing what is about to unfold…..here’s hoping you capture the next chapter.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Announcing the Butterflies: One, Two and Three | msjeannieology

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