We homeschoolers are a curious bunch.
What a fun and exciting update today!
Last year on the college campus, in the Fall of 2009, we came across the biggest, most bright green caterpillar we had ever seen. We took it home with us to find out more about this unique critter as a potential science project. As Whimsy says, "We homeschoolers are a curious bunch." After researching on the internet, we discovered that the little guy we found was a Polyphemus Moth caterpillar. It is a type of silk moth, and in the same family as the Luna Moth (a family favorite).
In our research, we also found that the caterpillars of this type of moth go through 5 different molt stages (or instar), and our caterpillar was in its final stage! It must have been wandering around the campus looking for a place to build its cocoon. So we set up a terrarium for the little critter, and within hours it had created a cocoon.
Months later, it still hadn't hatched from its silk cocoon. We were beginning to think that perhaps it wouldn't hatch at all... until today.
We had nearly forgotten about the Polyphemus caterpillar when Whimsy pulled out the terrarium that it had been housed in. There it was, sitting in all its splendor, a full-fledged moth.
After refreshing our memories with a bit of additional research, we determined that our now grown moth is a female. (Males have "bushier" looking antennae, whereas females' are thinner; females also have larger abdomens.) Adult Polyphemus moths do not eat, and therefore only live less than a week, during which they find a mate and lay eggs.
Polyphemus moths are not an endangered species, but certainly are rare. We intend to return this beautiful girl to the campus where we found her as a caterpillar, so that she can hopefully attract a mate and carry on the "circle of life" as nature intended.
To learn more about the Polyphemus moth, check out the Wikipedia page: