Monday, August 4, 2008
When Phoebe went to the garage to take out the trash not long ago, she was surprised to find this little character crawling on the can lid. Oh! what a marvelous little guy. She named him Fredward, and our quest to identify him began. He had to be the progenitor of something wonderful.
We turned to one of my favorite books, David L. Wagner's Caterpillars of Eastern North America: A Guide to Identification and Natural History.
Because I was in a hurry, I didn't have time to go through the whole book, and I failed to find him. Alas, my caterpillar classification skills are embryonic at best.
So when Martha Weiss, my dear college friend, came to visit recently, I described the little beast to her. "Did he have a head like an M&M?" she asked.
"Yes! An outsized ridiculous looking M&M wobbling around."
"Probably a skipper," she advised. So I ran to Wagner, turned to the section on skippers, and voila! there was Fredward. He is the larva of a silver-spotted skipper, and one of their brood plants is wisteria (among other legumes). Sadly, we are being devoured by the wisteria that was planted around the old farm place. But it is good for SSSK's, of which we have multitudes. Here is my painting of one, from Letters from Eden.
Reading further in Wagner, I found a citation regarding the anal comb of the silver-spotted skipper caterpillar, which enables it to shoot its feces quite a distance out of the little shelter it constructs in a glued-together wisteria leaf. The citation was for a scientist named Weiss.
It was one of those full-circle moments. Martha gave me the book a couple of Christmases ago, identified the caterpillar for me, and there she was in the text, telling us all how caterpillars keep their houses clean.
In a somewhat less-sublime lepidopteran moment, Phoebe spotted a pair of tiger swallowtails doing their thing. The male is yellow; the female often turns up in a black morph, especially in late summer. We happened to be having a band practice that afternoon, so when she sounded the alert, everyone came out of the garage to see this marvelous thing. Here's the money shot, female superior.
And, because these are my friends, I was not surprised but highly amused to find our bass player Clay launching into a beat-box porn soundtrack.
Chickawow chickawow wow wow chickawow.
Yes, that is my sweet Liam in the foreground, wondering what on earth these people could be doing. Well, honey, they are performing a porn music soundtrack for mating butterflies. I'll explain more when you're 21, but by then you'll have your own band, and you'll be goofing around just like us.