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Backyard Nature Notes: Collecting and Studying Caterpillars

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Studying caterpillars

 

Caterpillars are one of those childhood pleasures that still make us giddy as adults.

Just me?

I didn’t think so.

So, when Hubster brought this fine fuzzy fellow to me, I had a gut reaction to say “can we keep him?”

 

Ctenucha Virginica caterpillar

 

We love keeping and learning about critters in this household. I always feel like the more we learn about nature, the more alive it becomes.

The more we understand nature, the more magical it seems.

We live in the country, so we’re surrounded by more natural wonders than we ever have before. In fact, we’re actively trying to cultivate a magical backyard. But with caterpillars, there’s not much we have to do. They’re just always around.

So, we try to learn about whatever we can. We’ve bought books to study bits and pieces of nature. And I don’t mean dry textbook types of study. I mean the “everything is coming alive” types of study.

 

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A few of our recent favorites from Amazon:

This really brings nature to life with the most beautiful pictures and page spreads.

Since we live in the Midwest, this book is helping us tune in to our own environment, identifying animal tracks, trees, wildflowers and butterflies.

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My Field Guide didn’t seem to show the caterpillar we found though.

So, whenever we come across something we don’t know about, we turn to our friend, Google. Like you do.

So, we used our good friend to figure out that this is the Ctenucha Virginica. I searched something like “fuzzy yellow and black caterpillar WI” and figured it out from there.

Then, we did some digging to learn more about the caterpillar. What does it eat? Where does it live? What does it look like when it changes into a moth?

Well, to answer those questions: grass, grasses and sedges, a black hornet with an iridescent underbelly.

Since the Ctenucha Virginica caterpillar has a yellow and black fuzzy pattern like a bee and will turn into a hornet-looking moth, we named him Sting.

We decided to give Sting a home in our house. We used a Chinese egg drop soup take-out container for him with holes in the lid.

 

simple caterpillar home

 

After three days of not eating, we considered sending Sting back off into the great outdoors to do his own thing. I started to question our competence in keeping him.

But then…

He created a cocoon! Out of his own freaking fuzzy hairs!

Ctenucha Virginica Cocoon

Ctenucha Virginica caterpillar cocoon

And now, I can see the black moth he’ll turn into through the fuzzy hairs!

And our home has now become his temporary home! The place his transformation will take place!

I feel like a proud momma!

Well, to turn this entire thing into a learning experience for my kids (and pretty much anyone who walks in our door–or clicks on my site–that I can show), I made a journal page for Sting and everything we could find about him. Because I love a good visual as a visual person.

 

Ctenucha Virginica journal page

Ctenucha Virginica nature journal page

 

So, using our own experience as a guide, here is a simple caterpillar study guide you can use with your own kids:

kids caterpillar study guide

 

This.

This is exactly what brings me alive!

To play in, learn about, nurture, get involved in, get excited about, study, touch, appreciate…nature!

Does it do that for you too?

Or haven’t you explored it yet?

Today I encourage you to get outside, study something, and then look it up and journal about it.

Then, report back here or tag me on Instagram (@Jess_Flashfit) with your pictures!