Advice from a Caterpillar

I have a confession to make.

I’m not sure I entirely understand the egg to caterpillar to butterfly life cycle.

I mean I do. Of course I do. But I’m a little confused. Because I thought caterpillars were a spring thing, but maybe they’re not? Because I see butterflies in the spring too. However…I also see them All. Year. Long. The more I ponder, the more I’m befuddled. Here it is…

The two weeks we were at camp, we were kept company by friends of the small, fuzzy and galumping kind. Not just one kind either. Many, many varieties. So, ok. A butterfly or moth laid eggs. The eggs hatched out into caterpillars. Which will then turn into butterflies or moths, just in time for…winter? Granted, Maine winters are not what they used to be (Helloooo climate change) and maybe it doesn’t get down to 10 below anymore. But it still freezes and snows and winter is LONG. So what the heck is the advantage to being a caterpillar in the fall?

I could probably look this up and appear all smart, but I thought I’d show the chink in my naturalist armor and ask YOU. How do butterfly eggs survive cold winters? Do caterpillars overwinter in their cocoons and then come out in the spring? And here’s my main confusion…Wouldn’t an egg or caterpillar in a cocoon freeze it’s tookus off? Stick that hookah in your mouth and be all vague and haughty and answer my question as you slink away.

Or, be like Alice and wonder which side will make you large or small.


There were so many varieties of Amanita (Red! Yellow! Brown! Orange!), that my head spun trying to imagine the webs of mycelia criss crossing underneath the forest floor.


Tent caterpillars. They were hatching out (and dropping down) by the hundreds. You could stand under the Elms and Beeches and literally hear the munching. “Something is crawling on me” became a frequent statement.


The Ghost Plant…Indian Pipe.


I saw this bubba marching down the road and he stopped me in my tracks. Four to five inches long, this is by far the biggest caterpillar I’ve ever seen. After some research, we discovered it’s the larvae of the Polyphemus Moth. We also found out they like Beech trees, so we found a proper home.


We started calling these Cinnamon Toast.


It rained so frequently (thunderstorms every other day) that going mushroom hunting became a morning ritual. Spreading out through the woods, you would hear calls of “I found one!” and “Here’s another one!”. Fern, being somewhat mushroom sized and caterpillarish herself, was of course the best finder.

Bye friends, we’re heading out for the long weekend. I’ll be back in this space next Wednesday. I need a break too, I’ve been pedal to the metal in posting lately. It’s also been necessary, helping me to take in and integrate all the wonderosity that was our time away. I would be concerned I was wearing you all out, with all my Maine-ia, except y’all have been egging me on! Good thing too…there’s about two more posts worth of our vacation and then it’s back to the ol’ grind.

Oh, and be sure to check out these Alice in Wonderland themed photos by Annie Leibovitz.

Have a good long weekend friends!

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4 thoughts on “Advice from a Caterpillar

  1. I feel that way about most natural world successions. The more I think about it, the more confused I feel. Tides is a good example of this. In theory I know how they work, but in reality, they confuse me. Same with phosphorescence…
    Speaking of mysteries: I love Indian Pipes. I’ve only ever seen one once, before I know how rare and special they are. Lucky, blessed you.

    Love you, happy break. Thank you for Maine.

  2. What amazing creatures and mushies you found! A treasure trove of the weird and wonderful. I’m totally enjoying your Maine-ia – and also delighted to hear about your engagement (I don’t think I managed to comment at the time)! My sister just got engaged (not the one with the new baby) and I’m chief bridesmaid so I’m all about weddings at the moment. I’ll be so interested to see what you guys do! Comhghairdeas! (that’s congratulations in Gaelic!)

  3. AGH I commented on this post when you posted it but from my phone, and then it didn’t work and I was mad and didn’t re-comment. Dumb smart phone. Anyway…

    I was saying that we used to hatch silkworms in my class and the eggs that the moths laid could be refrigerated and used the next spring (almost a year!) to hatch new moths in the life cycle. It was pretty cool. I think the natural course for caterpillars is whatever their favorite food may be…they hatch and eat when the pickins are ripe. So fall caterpillars are probably around because of the food supply. Does that make ANY sense? Probably not. It sounds right in my head though.

    Maybe the eggs and caterpillars survive the cold because their nervous, blood and whatever systems slow down so much. Like cryogenics? 🙂 Miracles. Just miracles.

  4. These are AMAZING!! I so want to find wild amanitas.

    Okay and Fern? So big. So cute.

    And the SF rainbow- I so loved seeing a steady stream on Facebook and Instagram shots of that in real time. What a treat for you all!

    Okay have I missed anything about the exchange thingy? What is it called? It’s been present in the back of my mind daily, but I’ve been very out of the loop.

    XOXO

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