Friday, September 19, 2008


YESTERDAY Alexander had his first introduction to our Waldorf Homeschoolers group, as we went on a guided children's hike at Autrey Mill Nature Center. With the group of eight children ranging from 3 to 8 (excluding Alexander, who was tucked into a sling), the resident naturalist managed to capture the attention of each and every one of them. Soon he had them scurrying after him to see what was under the log ahead, who could spot the next tulip tree, and what would come out of the hole at the top of the dead pine tree if we shook the base a little. We learned about different habitats as we walked through the hickory forest and looked down onto wetlands and into the creek bed.

Then, as we looked at leaf types, someone spotted a ferocious-looking insect! Anyone familiar with the exceptionally bad Tremors movies might agree that this caterpillar bears a striking resemblance (albeit on a thankfully miniature scale) to the subterranean worm-like creatures that terrorize a small town in Nevada. With a couple of pairs of long curving horns, orange spikes and an impressive five-inch length, we had every reason to be taken aback. However I've since found out that this bug's bark is worse than its bite. It was a Hickory Horned Devil, calmly munching its way through a hickory leaf, and is quite harmless to humans. Body colours can range from deep blue-green to tan, depending on its instar, or developmental stage. Similar to the way a snake sheds its skin when its body has outgrown the skin, a caterpillar does the same. The one we found was brown, not green like in this photo. Unlike most caterpillars that spin a cocoon or chrysalis, this one burrows into the ground then overwinters in the pupal stage, emerging in the spring as a beautiful orange Royal Walnut Moth, also known as the Regal Moth. Was this not a cool find?
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