Friday, August 19, 2011

A peek at our nature table.

During the summer months, we often put away our nature table decorations and our nature table becomes more of a living table. Earlier this year, we had an aquarium set up and watched tadpoles and salamander larvae hatch from eggs and develop into frogs and salamanders. We released them back into the creek this spring.
Then a few weeks ago we set up the aquarium again, but this time as a caterpillar nursery.

While gardening i found a tomato hornworm munching away in my tomatoes. i was just about to feed it the chickens, when my daughter became upset and asked if we could raise it inside. i've never raised a hornworm, but after a bit research decided we could. Hornworms pupate underground. So we put a couple inches of soil in a container, and in the morning our hornworm had buried himself around July 26th.

Early this morning, i noticed movement in the aquarium. Our hornworm had emerged into a 5 spotted hawkmoth.

i took this first picture before the sun came up, so it's a bit dark. We are going to release him this evening at dusk...far away from garden. lol.

We also found a black swallow tail caterpillar not long after, and brought it inside too. We watched it transform into it's chrysalis (that will be it's own post once it emerges).

Around this time of year we hike up and down our road looking for monarch eggs and caterpillars on the milkweed that grows everywhere. We've gone a few times since the beginning of August, but haven't found any yet. Last week when we went looking we found a mystery egg on the backside of a milkweed leaf.

If you click the picture, you can see the tiny orange/pink egg a little more than half way down. This is not a monarch egg. Monarch eggs are yellow and conical in shape. There are only a few insects known to eat milkweed so i have no idea what this egg might be.

i am fairly certain that it's a butterfly egg.

This is how it looked on 8-12.

On 8-16 the egg is now translucent and you can clearly see something inside there.

What can it be??

Took this one today, 8-19. You can click the picture to see it better. There is definitely something in there! We are super excited to see what hatches out, and hope that we can identify it quickly so we can provide the proper food for it. i've been placing a variety of different common host foods in the aquarium with it, in case i miss it's hatching. The kids have been fascinated by the pictures, and trying to guess what it may be. Any ideas??

We are still waiting for the monarchs to arrive, as with everything this year they seem to be running a bit behind. We've only spotted one monarch butterfly so far this year. Last year we began finding the caterpillar at the end of July/beginging of August.

Our swallowtail butterfly should be emerging any day now. We've been checking our dill,fennel and carrots daily for new caterpillars, but haven't found any yet. The kids ask daily to look for monach eggs, so hopefully we will find some and our nature table will become a temporary home to some munchin' crunchin' caterpillars. :)


  1. Your blog is so inspiring and beautiful, think we might need to have an aquarium for caterpillars here - Victoria Australia. We do see plenty and it's just getting to the right time of year. Any tips?

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