Sunday, January 21, 2018

Tiny x 8... um, 9

If you are a regular follower of our adventures then you are all too familiar with the fact that Nicole likes to look at and photograph tiny things. In more recent times, butterfly and moth eggs have become quite the fascination. 

There is a section of bushes on our way to work that Darlene has named the Oleander Farm.  Since discovering the lifecycle of the Oleander Caterpillar which becomes the Polka Dot Wasp Moth, Nicole has taken to visiting The Farm quite frequently to watch and try to photograph the cycle.

What she has witnessed is amazing.

Polka dot wasp moths laying eggs right in front of her eyes.

So MANY eggs!

Around a week later....  the cats emerge.

When little, their mouths cannot handle the thickness of the leaf so they eat only the first layer.

Lots of eating and several growth stages later... they are ready to pupate and begin the cycle again.

Looking so intently for the tiniest of things requires some up close glasses and some up close proximity.  Occasionally, surprises happen...

           Like the spotting of this unusual egg of which we still don't know the identity.

Sometimes, the sightings are just a little too close for comfort. 

                     Like when Nicole happened upon this beautiful Tropical Orb Weaver

                                      and this Spotless Lady Beetle.  Both new finds.

While turning over leaves looking for the white eggs she had seen the Polka Dot Wasp Moth laying

            Nicole discovered these five beautiful orange ones.  Oh, something different!

Shortly after she caught sight of this Spotted Oleander Moth and held it in her hand for a brief moment before it flew away.

The Spotted Oleander Moth produces another (more rare) caterpillar that loves Oleander bushes called the Spotted Oleander Caterpillar.  Although still orange its coloring is lighter, it possesses beautiful silver / white spots and not so much of the prominent black hair that the regular Oleander Caterpillar has.

We have never seen this caterpillar.  A few days later, Darlene found that one had begun to pupate on her bicycle cover. 

We brought it upstairs hoping to witness the emergence of the Spotted Oleander Wasp Moth but alas it was not meant to be.

This got Nicole thinking about those orange eggs and wondering if they needed a safe place to grow.  When she returned the next day to inspect them..

there were three more perfect little orange eggs on the topside of the same leaf.

Her mind was made up... she was going to adopt these eggs. 

She carefully plucked the leaf from its plant and put it in a safe container for the trip home. 

They remained on the back porch where she checked on them a few times a day every day.  Last night, they started looking dark and she feared they had been taken over by parasites.

But yesterday morning when she checked on them she saw this...

a newly hatched baby cat, one in the process of hatching and a still intact egg.

Before breakfast we had seven baby caterpillars moving about in their container.

Number eight sure looked ready.  You could start to see the orange body color and the black of the hairs.

While Nicole was out gathering more food from the Oleander Farm, the eighth one emerged

and began the process of eating its egg shell

a process which is also known as the caterpillars first official meal.

Oh and upon waking up today we checked in our our day old babies to discover not eight but nine???!!!  There were only eight eggs and caterpillars reportedly cannot be twins but several re-counts later and it is what it is...  NINE BABIES!