Wonderful News

Small Tortoiseshell LarvaIsn’t he the cutest little thing ever?

Small Tortoiseshell Larva Small Tortoiseshell LarvaLook at that little face.

Small Tortoiseshell LarvaI knew his mum.

Her name was Marmalade and she lived in my flat from November until March.

Small TortoiseshellHe is going to be the handsomest little fellow.

Just look at him go, He is a natural born jungle explorer. I think it was all of those stories that I used to tell his mum when I was trying to get her to go back to sleep.

Small Tortoiseshell Larva Small Tortoiseshell Larva Small Tortoiseshell Larva Small Tortoiseshell LarvaAs I found him on his own I am guessing that he is in his final instar and will soon be ready to pupate.

Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars go through four moults before they are fully grown and each stage between moults is called an instar. By moult I mean that the caterpillar sheds it’s skin and inside there is a bigger caterpillar, well a bigger skin that the animal can grow into.

Initially they live together. They spin a web amongst their food plant which is nettle and live within the safety of that web. It is only during the final instar that they separate and wander off to find a suitable place to pupate. So this is a fifth instar caterpillar.

He is not that far off becoming a beautiful butterfly.

Small TortoiseshellFirst his brains have to turn to mush. Well all of him has to turn to mush. A butterfly isn’t a caterpillar with wings on.

Our caterpillar will attach himself to a leaf with silk, hang upside down and his skin will split. Inside there will be not another caterpillar but a chrysalis, a hard case. Inside the chrysalis the caterpillar then releases enzymes which dissolve all of it’s tissue.The only part of the old caterpillar that remains are small groups of cells called “imaginal discs.” The caterpillar has one disc for each body part that it is going to need as a butterfly, one for each leg, eye, wing and so on. From these small groups of cells a whole new animal grows and it is a cracker. Just like his mum.

Small Tortoiseshell

So you are going to have wings and flight.. You will have compound eyes with seventeen thousand lenses. You will have 360 degree vision and you will be able to see everything at the same time. You will have radar like antennae covered in thousands of scent detecting sensors that will give you an understanding of your surroundings that mere humans cannot comprehend. You will be amazing.

It will be a bit different from being just a big fat eating tube won’t it?

Let’s have a look at you now.

Caterpillars really are just eating tubes.

Small Tortoiseshell LarvaThey have the usual  insect parts, a head, a thorax and an abdomen but it is a bit difficult to see where one part finishes and another part begins.

The knobbly bit on the end is his head and the next three sections are his thorax. He doesn’t really have a waist but under each section of his thorax he has a pair of legs called “Thoracic legs” and the rest of him is abdomen.

Show the nice people your thoracic legs.

Small Tortoiseshell Larva Small Tortoiseshell LarvaGood caterpillar.

Those thoracic legs help him to move obviously but their primary function is to grasp and manipulate the food that he is eating. Stinging Nettles.

At the back end he has five pairs of what are called “prolegs” and each proleg ends in a suction cup.These are not considered to be real legs because they don’t have joints and the caterpillar is a six legged animal.

Fortunately he doesn’t know that they are not real legs and he has absolute faith in them.

Small Tortoiseshell Larva Small Tortoiseshell Larva

Inside he has an itty bitty silk gland and the rest of him is just intestines. He is just an eating tube but he is destined to become so much more.

I kinda wish now that I had taken him home as a pet, so that I could photograph the pupation. I might just have a look for another one.

I can barely wait for the newly emerged butterflies they are perfect.

Catch you later.

Small Tortoiseshell Larva

 

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2 thoughts on “Wonderful News”

    1. Thanks for the nice comment. I Don’t mean for my posts to sound pedantic. Learning this stuff and actually writing it down is just the best way to fix it in my mind. Any way nuff said thanks for the comment. I have been out today and caught myself a pet Small Tortoiseshell and built it an enclosure. I am going to try and photograph the whole process. I will blog about it later.

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