Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Very Hairy Caterpillar

There was a bit too much chaos going on during lunchtime for my sleep-deprived and stress-fried brain to handle, so Tom waved me out the door to get some fresh air with Mia for a few minutes. I exited the kitchen door and walked out to the front of the house, still feeling harassed and unsure exactly where I was supposed to go or what I was supposed to do while half-dressed, shoe-less, and holding a baby.

Then I saw it- a very hairy caterpillar.

I suddenly flashed back to my childhood, when almost every year at the end of summer I would run across a cute and furry many-legged specimen to scoop up and keep a metamorphosing vigil for. I always hoped for a butterfly and always got a moth, but I've recently realized that had a lot to do with the time of year that I always ended up bringing home my new friends. Judging by the community of butterflies I've got hanging out around a bush in our backyard, the butterfly cocooning season passed us by already. Those guys were probably re-entering the world at around the time that many moth caterpillars were being born.

At any rate, I figured Abby would be just as excited to have a moth as a butterfly, and at the very least she would get a kick out of the caterpillar itself. I found a small stick and coaxed the caterpillar onto it before depositing it in an empty glass jar. Then I brought my discovery inside.

Abby was predictably excited, however lunchtime was ending and nap time was scheduled to begin. I promised her she'd see her buddy again when she woke up.

Once she and her brother were sleeping, and Tom had a few minutes to take Mia, I did some quick research. It appears that I've brought home a Pale Tussock Moth caterpillar. Though, thanks to the internet I now know that he prefers oaks, willows, poplars, and hickories, I'm a little unsure where I'll find any around here. I suppose the first step is familiarizing myself with their leaf shapes, but then I'll also have to find some sufficiently low-hanging branches. I discovered, with some amazement, that neither of our two big trees have branches that I can actually reach. I had to settle for pulling the leaves off of what I hope was a seedling tree, and not a weed, along the side of our driveway, though my furry friend has not appeared to be too excited about the selection I've offered thus far.

I laid some dirt along the bottom and put a couple of layers of cheesecloth over the top of the jar. Though I'd hoped to find something a little bigger, this was the best I could do.

Unsurprisingly, I had forgotten all about the caterpillar when I woke Abby from her nap, and so had she. However, he was waiting for us on the dining room table when we sat down to dinner, so I pulled him- all snug in his new home- in front of Abby for her to see.

This was the reaction:

Terribly out-of-focus and overexposed, but gloriously honest, nonetheless.

Abby asked what his name should be and I told her that she should pick one.

"Leaf," she said (or perhaps Leif?).

Pretty perfect, huh?

Looks like Abby's got her first "pet."

Now, I just hope I can keep the little guy alive, or I'll end up having to teach an entirely different lesson than I set out to do...