Thursday, May 14, 2009

Art and Nature

Anyone who knows me well knows how fond I am of butterflies, moths, and other flying things (see above). My fondness is all about metaphor, though, as I've found the "lived experience" of winged creatures to be another matter entirely. The way that moths hurl themselves at lights; the creepy delicacy of butterflies; the obliviousness of the dragonfly: while I would call myself "outdoorsy", bugs are bugs. So the situation I now find myself in is one that is fraught with contradictions. In short, I'm raising moths.

It all started when David found one, two, three, four caterpillars in the back yard. The first one got smooshed but the remaining three made it inside and into the gallon jar seen here. I should mention that these caterpillars are a long way from the Eric Carle ideal. This is the Eastern Tent caterpillar, a generally reviled little beast that destroys flowering trees (like the redbuds we found them on). They are destined to become small red-brown moths, or so the literature tells me.
It's a habit of mine (some would surely call it a coping mechanism) to philosophize about ickiness and thereby turn lemons into lemonade. But let me tell you something about Fuzzy, Mrs. Fuzzy, and Cousin Fuzzy: they poop a LOT. I supplied them daily with fresh redbud leaves, lovingly arrayed in an old spice jar. And daily the leaves were devoured, the cotton balls placed at the mouth of the jar to prevent death by drowning covered in caterpillar waste. I really should have gotten a picture. Fortunately that all stopped when they began to spin their wispy little cocoons. They worked slow and steady building a cottony fog around themselves, then turned and turned until they were mummified. I'm full of questions. How long will they stay like this? Do they need anything special? What happens when they emerge? I'm sure the internet has all the answers. Until then I'll just watch, a bit horrified, as nature performs one of its little miracles.


  1. who is most enthralled: you or David?

  2. Well, I'm the one who watched Cousin Fuzzy spin his cocoon for an hour, but David is in it for the long term. And he's utterly delighted by how much they poop.

  3. A delightful set of reflections, and close to my heart, too: yesterday Gigi and I went walking at a nature prserve near Lowell and in order to pass onto a causeway across a pond we had to walk through a frenzy of midges. I've occasionally imagined myself an explorer in the line of those great Victorians Richard Burton and John Speke; and then a few little bugs make me scream and flail and take cowering cover in my car. Ah, well. A lovely blog!

  4. So you're an explorer in the line of those great Victorians who wore skirts instead of trousers. Well, that's fine.


  5. Thank goodness he looks good in a skirt! Loved your post, Nancy.