Nicodemus Wilderness Project
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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Roseville, Minnesota, USA

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Roseville, Minnesota, USA
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Registered: December 2010
City/Town/Province: Roseville
Posts: 1
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I remember finding my first Monarch caterpillar. I was in the 5th grade, adventuring at my brother’s baseball game. I brought it home, put it into a plastic container, gave it some milkweed, and watched it grow. That single caterpillar changed my life forever. After that experience I gathered as many books on butterflies and moths I could get my hands on. I spent most of my free time raising them, and researching them. I had discovered a new passion of mine, a passion for nature.

I had read in my books about giant silk moths. With a gorgeous wingspan of 5 inches, I wanted nothing more than to raise some. I searched for them in all seasons. In the spring I’d go out at night with a light to see if I could attract the moths. I would stare into the trees in the summer looking for caterpillars, and look in leaf piles in the fall for cocoons, but I never had any luck. I wouldn’t give up; I was determined to find a giant silk moth. In May of the 8th grade year, my dad came home with a giant silk moth he had found. I determined it was a female. I did what I learned from all my studying. I put the moth in a brown paper bag where she laid over 60 eggs. I put the eggs in an airtight container to prevent them from drying out and waited. This was a chance for me to finally witness what I’ve been searching for.

Twelve days later I stared into my container and found tiny pin sized caterpillars, 60 of them, they were all perfect. I had to get two aquariums to house them all. They grew at a ridiculous rate, they molted 5 times when they were caterpillars. Every day I would have to go cut more branches off our oak tree. By the time they were full grown (4 inches long) they were devouring whole branches a day. As they crawled around the branches, chowing down leaves, I noticed there was a difference in the color of their spots. They had either orange-red or yellow spots. I was curious if the color of the spots had to go with their gender. Months went by, and one august day I saw one of my caterpillars sewing leaves together. It was making its cocoon. They were masters at building cocoons. They would slowly disappear beneath layers of silk they’ve created, making a milky white shelter as sturdy as metal. I marked their cocoon with a color code depending on the color of the spots.

When winter came they were all sitting comfortably in my garage transforming. I waited patiently, excited to what spring would bring. When May came around I put the aquariums outside so they could warm up and arise from their deep sleep. I waited anxiously for weeks. I remember coming home from school freshman year and running into my backyard. I witness one of the most incredible things. In my aquarium, there sat a freshly opened Polyphemus moth. My research showed there was no relationship between the spots on the caterpillars and the gender of the moths. Their 5 inch wings are guarded with large eye spots to warn off predators if they are confronted. I watched all 60 of my cocoons open that spring. To me that was one of the most magical things I had seen. They would only live for a week since they have no mouth parts, only enough time for them to reproduce. Females would send out her pheromones to attract a male. After she was mated she’d lay eggs and die. I collected 50 eggs that year; twelve days later I had another 50 some caterpillars, and started yet another year long project.

After the second year, (the spring of my sophomore year) I had no luck in mating any females. None of the eggs I collected were fertile. All my moths flew away into the night. I remember that summer I was outside and my neighbor came up to me, he said he had found something. When I looked at what he was pointing at, it was a Polyphemus caterpillar. I smiled a little; I had never seen any wild Polyphemus caterpillars in my neighborhood. I wondered if it was an offspring of the moths I had raised. Over those four years I had raised over 200 butterflies and moths of 10 different species. I put in endless hours, and was extremely determined to successfully raise them all. I didn’t only watch caterpillars go through metamorphosis, I watched myself go through metamorphosis as well. I grew as a person, I learned who I was, what I loved, and I found what I am deeply passionate about. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else then something in nature, that’s why my intended major is Biology. Nature has brought some of the most amazing experiences into my life. I have a whole new appreciation for nature, and the outdoors. I will always remember the accomplished feeling I felt, while watching the butterflies and moths I have raised fly away.
Date: December 29, 2010 Views: 5855 File size: 29.3kb, 3727.9kb : 4000 x 3000
Hours Volunteered: 10
Volunteers: 1
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 17
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