Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Squirming Mass.

(Click on the image for full effect).

From a distance the food looks like some indeterminate lump of something green, but on closer inspection it is possible to see that the lump is, in fact, covered with a mass of constantly moving tiny brown hairy caterpillars. Underneath I can see that they are each eating away a small furrow and this is giving the mass a spongy texture.

As I move in closer it seems like the larvae are hovering in mid-air as if already they are spinning silk. Perhaps they are. They already move as their parents moved when searching for a place to spin: their hind quarters locked into position and their black heads, outlined by a paler thorax, circling the air, presumably sniffing for food. Perhaps they have chemical receptors that will react to only one thing: mulberry leaf.

Anyway, the whole effect is slightly revolting, so I just had to share it...

Added Later.

Looking at the photograph I can see now why the eggs grow darker. I'd thought it was just that the egg-case hardens and darkens as a consequence. But on closer study I think the darkening is due to the black caterpillar forming inside. The indentation in the surface is because it is curled around itself in a ring. The case of the egg, I think, remains translucent, and as the caterpillar grows it becomes more darkly pigmented.

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Blogger Debra Hamel said...

Okay, this is truly becoming disgusting.

Tue Feb 24, 11:34:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Heh, heh - yeah, even I think so. I have to steel myself to fed them. It'll be okay once they've become a bit larger, but just at the moment - ugh.

Wed Feb 25, 12:03:00 am  
Blogger Debra Hamel said...

So, how far are you going to take this? If these guys mate, you understand, there will be even *more* of them.

Wed Feb 25, 01:30:00 am  
Anonymous Mary said...

If you picked up one of the masses, would it feel all fuzzy, or prickly?

Wed Feb 25, 02:29:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Good question, Debra. I woke this morning thinking, 'What am I doing?' Though that was more to do with the kilogram of food I'd ordered (somewhat expensively). So far I've paid my money but not heard a squeak from the firm.

But, yes, good question....I would like to see an entire life-cycle, because they shed their skins and change in character as they do so - and investigate them a little more. Then, whatever I have left I thought I'd donate to the local zoo.

Mary - I suspect they might feel quite soft. I would like to pick one up but I can't - they are too small - any attempt and I think I'd squash them.

Wed Feb 25, 08:08:00 am  
Blogger jem said...

OK - can I revise my previous comment - they are no longer cute. They are scary. I've always felt that too many of anything becomes terrifying. Imagine an army of jelly babies!

Still I hope their food arrives. A mass famine would be sad. But if they all survive and grow and so on... one day you're blog might just stop, because they've silked you into the house!

Wed Feb 25, 02:39:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Ha, I like the idea of being 'silked out', Jem! Sounds like a good Sci-fi film.

Wed Feb 25, 09:28:00 pm  

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