Tommy the Caterpillar

Saturday, May 06, 2017 Hiba Moeen 1 Comments


If you happen to have Citrus plants (lemon plants in my case) then you would have had an experience with caterpillars, not to mention that this comes with mixed feelings since they eat away most of the leaves. AND, they eat a lot! But they evolve into butterflies so then we're even. Well,here I am, sharing what I had decided to do - document their life cycle from my garden of plant pots several feet above land.

Butterflies in my experience come out of no where as lay their eggs and tiny, microscopic caterpillars appear, you won't realise they are there until you see your lemon plant being terrorised by them and leaves seem appear around the edges. They eat non-stop and expand in size quite rapidly. I decided to house them into a jar and cover it with breathable net, this is when I realised that a large caterpillar eats about two fully grown lemon leaves, given the gluttons they are. Here's a picture I snapped of one of the caterpillars. This particular plant is the Bishop's Weed Plant or the Carom plant as the caterpillar seemed to have lost its way from its lemon home and dropped on it. Surprisingly this is the image result of my phone camera, one of the reasons I love Samsung.
Below is a picture of the caterpillar on another plant, its vine that flourishes in summer and appears barren in winter:

This is when I decided to pick the caterpillar, let's call it Tommy. So I picked Tommy up and placed him in a jar until further notice (read: until it morphed into a pupa, its chrysalis stage and evolved into a butterfly). Everyday until its chrysalis stage it munched on leaves, like I said before; at least 2 leaves a day.This is what the chrysalis looked like:


And then it starts happening, the pupa takes about 8 to 9 days and turns black when finally it withers off and the butterfly wiggles its way out. And yesterday when I got up to go to work, my nephew told me that Tommy has finally grown into a handsome Lime Butterfly. Yes, he was a male butterfly as can be seen from some distinguishing features. There is an orange spot on the hind wing in both sexes; in case of a male butterfly, a blue lunule with a narrow intervening black gap caps this spot. In contract, a female butterfly has a large black spot in between the blue lunule and the orange spot



I let Tommy out of the jar and it flew outside the window into our mini garden that when I gently lowered my hand and it crawled its way on my skin. Here's a video, in fact ... two videos:
video 

Tommy making friends with the orchid plants:

video

We then finally decided to take Tommy where he originally belonged ... the lemon plant where he was happy to discover the still preserved habitat considering its Karachi and rapid construction and uninterested provincial government entail chopping down of trees and a destruction of flora and fauna. In conclusion, Tommy seemed happy and that's it ...

So here was a happy ending, I don't know where Tommy went next. However, I know where I went next; I sweated my way to work to later accost my TGIF moment - weekend!

These caterpillars reminded of my third grade class mate, he used to have a lot of caterpillars and started selling them to peers at the rate of Rs. 10 each. What a business mind this little man used to have as at that tender age he started marketing and selling caterpillars, thus monetising the very presence of these insects. I still remember his name. Danish Barlas, where ever you are, I'm sure you have become a successful entrepreneur! :)

If you want caterpillars, grow Citrus plants, have lemon plants around you, see butterflies sway across and birds chirp as dawn lights up the land with its glow, grow trees and don't cut them down, PLEASE! Plant fruit trees and preserve the bird habitat. Have you noticed the growing population of crows, these are opportunistic birds and still survive but we want those parakeets and sun birds and what not again. So please preserve nature, play your part, and if you want caterpillars you can come to me as well. But grow your own lemon plants at the same time. :)

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