The 'pillars are still trucking along. It always takes me so long to find them that I start to worry that something has happened to them. The shrub isn't that large, about my height, but they're incredibly well-camouflaged. I'd name them, since I like to weigh things down with silly human constructs, but I'm not sure that I can tell them apart. I would like to see the caterpillars walking about, though, because whenever I watch them, they're just hanging around by a few pairs of legs, usually head down. I did see one of them munching on a leaf once, but they've not otherwise been active at all. The silkworms I've met in the past were always running around, and they ate constantly. Perhaps the lethargy of the hornworms is due to their much larger size. I wonder for how long they pupate (i.e. how long I must wait before I pull up the shrub, once they've gone underground).

And despite the suspicions of [livejournal.com profile] threetimes, I am not obsessed with caterpillars now. I do continue to find these guys interesting, and I'm enjoying the opportunity to observe them in a natural setting. What better laboratory than my backyard?

We visited Geo's parents on Saturday. They don't mess around; apparently his dad asked him about the nature of our relationship with Dennis within the first fifteen minutes. This is in stark contrast with my family, who, in the decade that I lived with Dennis and B, never asked once. I've generally done well with OPP (Other People's Parents); it has something to do with the schoolgirl-cum-Kindergarten teacher thing, no doubt. Geo's father seems to have survived the shocking (but in reality quite mundane) revelation, anyway.

Well, my new backyard pets are really very cool. I went out to check on them as soon as I got home from work; they'd obviously moved about on the plant, and were not expired, as we'd suspected yesterday. [livejournal.com profile] threetimes arrived soon after me, and we watched one of the caterpillars hoover down a substantial portion of a leaf. They have these neat spiracles (sort of like prolegs) with which they hold the leaf and direct it into their mouth-parts. The actual legs, meanwhile, are holding on to the branch/stem of the plant. I can't get over their size, but they're really are sort of attractive, as the above link claims. The lavender stripes are pretty, and they somehow blend in without making the caterpillar stand out on the plant at all. I mean, I couldn't find the second one without seeking for a good while (and it was just a few inches away from the first one the whole time). The horns on their rumps are delicately curved, and a striking magenta color. Apparently, they're supposed to thrash violently and regurgitate on their would-be captors when disturbed, but the horns are harmless. I don't aim to disturb them, myself. The shrub is staying for the time being.

I'm pleased with the trajectory of my feelings regarding the 'pillars. At first I was disturbed and more than a little weirded out by their size (!) and presence in "my" flower bed. This gave way to curiosity, and after some research, I became more than a little impressed by the critters. In fact, I was reading about some caterpillar parasites, and started to feel quite protective!

I just found in my backyard the largest caterpillar that I've ever seen. Some weird berry-like shrub had volunteered in one of my beds next to the azaleas and impatiens. I just let it be, interested to see what it might become. But it didn't seem to become anything of note except an eyesore. Today, I'd had enough and proceeded to try unseat the now largish plant in order to add it to our green waste bin which is picked up on Tuesdays. The attempt was aborted when I noticed the caterpillar. Originally, I thought it was some sort of seed pod, but when I noticed that there were no others on the rest of the plant, I became suspicious and looked more closely. About four inches long, fatter than my thumb, smooth-skinned and horny, the green larva held on to a branch of the shrub with many pairs of little feet in a rather unsettling way. Upon further inspection (from about two feet way, mind you), I noted another such creature nearby on the same plant. By the time I'd summoned [livejournal.com profile] threetimes and [livejournal.com profile] tutordennis outside to corroborate my amazement and concern, and we'd stood around for a bit, regarding and discussing the caterpillars, their state of aliveness, and possible paths of action regarding the plant, it had become too dark for any further gardening.

For someone who routinely picks up worms, spiders, snails, and other buggy critters regularly (usually in order to move said critter to a safer location), this is perhaps an odd reaction. But I've never been too keen on larval-type critters, large slugs, unidentifiable critters, or really large worms. They just give me a funny feeling. I'm okay with their existence and all, and feel no need to deprive them of life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness, but I'd much prefer that they pursued it elsewhere.

[Edit: Fear of the unknown being what it is, I find that learning more about someone often has a mitigating effect; I've so far narrowed this beastie down to the Sphingidae family. I still feel like I need to go take a shower though.]

Crossposted to [livejournal.com profile] gothgardener.
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