Metamorphosis! The many forms of an insect!

Sometimes you have to hang around awhile to get the whole story. Insects have different forms as they go through their life cycles. We don't often get to see all the stages in their development, but I did this week and want to share my observations. Earlier in the season, we found a brown, fuzzy caterpillar under a piece of plywood. It was not very active, and I suspected it might be ready to go into the resting stage - you know, a pupa! I kept it in a container, along with the food (clover) that I read was favored by the caterpillar we tentatively identified as a Ornate Tiger Moth. Sure enough, in a few days, it crawled out of its fuzzy caterpillar skin and formed a cloudy/blue pupa. I kept it, in hopes of an adult emerging. Today, a beautiful moth flipped open one end of the pupa and came out as an adult moth. It had a special surprise: The hind wings were hidden, but in flight are revealed as pink with designs. We let the moth free and it crawled under a ledge to await the nighttime when it will fly in search of a mate. Look for these lovely moths where they may be attracted to outside lights. As an added note, I did not see the moth attract a mate or lay eggs. The insect overwinters as a caterpillar, which is understandable since it has a fur coat!

There is another delightful insect now showing its stages of development, if not all of them. Look for the pink flowering Bindweed which looks like a Morning Glory. If there are chewed leaves, look for the tiny brown larva that looks like an animal dropping. Also scout around for the adult beetles, which may be shining like a gold coin! These are two stages of a Tortoise Beetle. The larvae are equipped with a tail-like fork. Upon this fork are heaped their excrement and castoff larval skins! The result is something that looks a bit of mud or bird dropping. Eventually the larva is transformed into a pupa which, after a period of time, opens up for the adult beetle to climb out. The beetles are quite beautiful, varying in color from an orange to a shiny gold! So, get out and look for these creatures now on our shores!

Our snorkeling outing turned up something I have been hoping to see for some time. We found many Moon Snails and two looked as if they were in the process of laying eggs in those sand collars! Now, all I have to observe is these snails mating. That must be quite a sight to see, but is a necessary prelude to the egg laying. In the picture to the right there is a piece of a sand collar below the shell.

Finally, I have to report the first sighting of a Monarch Butterfly! I was out in my garden, picking Sugar Snap Peas, when I lifted my eyes to check the flowering Milkweed nearby. Lo and behold, there was a female Monarch taking a drink of the flower's nectar. Maybe it will lay a few eggs in between the sips. So now, we can begin following the wonderful Monarch's life cycle. Its metamorphosis is speedier than that of the Ornate Tiger Moth, but involves a long migration, unique in the insect world.
7/25/03 Ronnie