Natural Perspectives: Little ones fascinated with caterpillars

May 25, 2011|By Vic Leipzig and Lou Murray
(Courtesy Lou Murray )

I was awakened one morning last week with three little hands thrust into my face, each with a large white caterpillar on it. Good thing I'm a biologist and not fazed by such things.

I had gone down to San Diego to babysit our three granddaughters while Vic stayed home to teach his classes.

I arrived in the evening after the girls had gone to bed. I was to take care of them all the next day while their parents were at work. As soon as the girls awakened in the morning, they retrieved their pet silkworms from the shoebox where they had been happily munching on mulberry leaves. With a silkworm apiece, they dashed to where I was still sleeping.

"Wook, Nana Woo," the three exclaimed in unison. "We have silkwohms!"

Fortunately, our daughter-in-law, Nicole, had warned me about the silkworms. Five-year-old twins Allison and Lauren had been given four silkworms by their preschool teacher. Along with the caterpillars came a bag of mulberry leaves, which are the only things that silkworms eat. The girls were to feed mulberry leaves to the silkworms until they began to spin their cocoons. Then the girls will have to wait three weeks until the silkmoths hatch from the cocoons. After that, the girls will get to watch the silkmoths mate and lay eggs.


Three-year-old Megan was terribly excited about the presence of silkworms in the house. The smooth white caterpillars were thicker than her fingers and just as long. She had learned to pick them up very gently and place them on her finger until their little sucker feet attached. She would have carried them around all day if I had let her. I told her that the caterpillars needed to eat. She reluctantly put her caterpillar back into the shoebox, also provided by the preschool teacher.

Next to picking the silkworms up and carrying them around, Megan's favorite activity was feeding them mulberry leaves. Soon she had placed all the remaining mulberry leaves into the shoebox with the four silkworms. I had to keep taking the leaves out and putting them back into a glass of water so they would stay fresh until needed.

I certainly had arrived at an auspicious time. By 10 a.m., the first caterpillar began spinning its cocoon. I thought that we should call Papa Vic and let him know what the silkworms were doing. Megan wanted to talk to him first.

"Papa Bic, the silkwohms are making a ta-toon!" she shouted into the phone. Then she ran back to the shoebox to watch.

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