Gardening for Butterflies, Birds and Bees forum: Please help -- what should I do with this caterpillar?

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Name: Dnd
SE Michigan (Zone 6a)
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DogsNDaylilies
Feb 24, 2016 3:12 PM CST
Insect/wildlife aficionados, I need your help. I need to know if this little guy will survive better indoors (with likely no food, since I don't know what it eats and there are no leaves outside yet) or outdoors (where it is freezing cold and snow covered, but there may be food out there I'm unaware of). Please let me know what you think I should do and what, exactly, he is. Is he a particular type of moth? Butterfly? Dragonfly? ....


Thumb of 2016-02-24/DogsNDaylilies/b91896 Thumb of 2016-02-24/DogsNDaylilies/7fb1a2

This little guy was crawling on top of a blanket of snow 5 inches deep, braving the sleet pelting down on him. I found him as I was going out to the mailbox; I have no idea where he was going, he was atleast 5 feet away from anything that wasnt snow-covered, I picked him up and put him by a tree.

Then, thinking that a poor choice, I ran back outside, warmed him in my hands for a minute or two and put him by a lavender bush with a coffee filter for additional protection over him to protect from the painful sleet.

Then, realizing it is supposed to warm up somewhat in several days, I ran back outside, spent a few heartbreaking moments trying to find him again...I did ( Hurray! )...and brought him inside, putting him and the coffee filter in a plastic container.

Right now he's just chilling (or warming, rather) in the container, but is there any point to keeping him indoors for a few days, or am I stealing away what little chance he has to find a food source and survive?
Name: Mika
Oxfordshire, England and Mento
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cliftoncat
Feb 24, 2016 3:25 PM CST
I'm afraid I don't know the answer to your question, but there is someone who might!

@mellielong

For years I had a similar conundrum in Cambridge, with hundreds of ladybirds that invaded my office every winter - should I eject them, when they were likely to die of cold, or should I keep them indoors, where there were no aphids for them to eat? I usually copped out and ejected some and kept others - since they always came back the following winter, one or other approach worked! I guess you can't do the same with your little caterpillar, barring cutting him in half... (joke!)
How did I eventually resolve my Cambridge dilemma? I moved to Oxford! Hilarious!
Name: Dnd
SE Michigan (Zone 6a)
Dog Lover Daylilies Organic Gardener Houseplants Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Level 1
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DogsNDaylilies
Feb 24, 2016 4:15 PM CST
Lol, Mika, you have a good sense of humor. I like that. Thank you for tagging someone who might know.

The little guy is safe and warm for now, but my concern at the moment is him starving. I wish I knew what to feed him that won't harm him.
[Last edited by DogsNDaylilies - Feb 24, 2016 4:25 PM (+)]
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Name: Mika
Oxfordshire, England and Mento
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Critters Allowed Daylilies Irises Roses Hostas
Birds Multi-Region Gardener Cat Lover Dog Lover Ponds Foliage Fan
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cliftoncat
Feb 24, 2016 4:28 PM CST
Have a look here, it seems to have most of the answers:

http://www.wikihow.com/Care-for-a-Caterpillar

It seems to suggest giving it a range of leaves and watching to see what it eats. Melanie may well be able to tell you exactly what it is, though.

I hope you keep posting so we know how the two of you are getting along! Smiling
Name: Mika
Oxfordshire, England and Mento
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Critters Allowed Daylilies Irises Roses Hostas
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cliftoncat
Feb 24, 2016 4:29 PM CST
PS you'd better give him a name Big Grin
Name: Dnd
SE Michigan (Zone 6a)
Dog Lover Daylilies Organic Gardener Houseplants Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Level 1
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DogsNDaylilies
Feb 24, 2016 4:32 PM CST
cliftoncat said:Have a look here, it seems to have most of the answers:

http://www.wikihow.com/Care-for-a-Caterpillar

It seems to suggest giving it a range of leaves and watching to see what it eats. Melanie may well be able to tell you exactly what it is, though.

I hope you keep posting so we know how the two of you are getting along! Smiling


I'll look at the article. I wish I could give it a range of leaves, but all we have right now are pine needles. No leaves here short of going out and buying a salad mix.
Name: Dnd
SE Michigan (Zone 6a)
Dog Lover Daylilies Organic Gardener Houseplants Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Level 1
I helped beta test the first seed swap
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DogsNDaylilies
Feb 24, 2016 4:35 PM CST
cliftoncat said:PS you'd better give him a name Big Grin


Haha, what if it's a girl? I might give it a complex!

Hehe! Kidding.

...then again, maybe a gender neutral name isn't a bad idea... Rolling my eyes.
Name: Dnd
SE Michigan (Zone 6a)
Dog Lover Daylilies Organic Gardener Houseplants Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Level 1
I helped beta test the first seed swap
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DogsNDaylilies
Feb 24, 2016 8:04 PM CST
Maybe I should call him "Ski", because he was trekking across the snow.

Or "Bobby", short for bobsled Hilarious!
Name: Susan Johnston
OKC, OK (Zone 7a)
Susanlynne48
Feb 24, 2016 8:12 PM CST
How big is the caterpillar? I'm thinking he is a species of cutworm - in which case, if it survives, it will love cutting down your new spring plants when they emerge. Oh, no!!

Susan
Susanlynne48
Name: Melanie Long
Lutz, Florida (Zone 9b)
Larva tested, Pupa approved!
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mellielong
Feb 24, 2016 11:41 PM CST

Moderator

Yeah, I was thinking Armyworm or something else not so pleasant. I mean, everything has its place in the circle of life. If he was wandering that far away from anything looking like food, it might be that it's ready to pupate, in which case it won't be eating anymore. Doesn't look like any butterfly, though, if that makes you feel better.
Moderator of the best forum on ATP, the Butterflies, Bees, and Birds forum!
Name: Mika
Oxfordshire, England and Mento
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Critters Allowed Daylilies Irises Roses Hostas
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cliftoncat
Feb 25, 2016 1:48 AM CST
Oh no! Poor Bobski! DnD, perhaps you should wait until he pupates and then drive him far away - perhaps leave him somewhere that has a problem with persistent weeds, so Bobski can be helping out by eating the shoots of weeds? I'm sure if he'd had a choice he would have been a Monarch butterfly! Big Grin
Name: Dnd
SE Michigan (Zone 6a)
Dog Lover Daylilies Organic Gardener Houseplants Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Level 1
I helped beta test the first seed swap
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DogsNDaylilies
Feb 25, 2016 6:53 AM CST
I have no idea what a cutworm is, but it doesn't sound good. :-/ (sounds like something I should look up, though)

I can't bring myself to put him somewhere I know he'll die, but maybe I will drive him somewhere this weekend once the weather warms up. In the meantime, he likes spinach!


Thumb of 2016-02-25/DogsNDaylilies/d5b707

Name: Mika
Oxfordshire, England and Mento
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Critters Allowed Daylilies Irises Roses Hostas
Birds Multi-Region Gardener Cat Lover Dog Lover Ponds Foliage Fan
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cliftoncat
Feb 25, 2016 8:01 AM CST
Aww - I'm really glad you're continuing with the rescue efforts. You are the patron saint of cutworms (if indeed that is what he is)! Angel Smiling
Name: Dnd
SE Michigan (Zone 6a)
Dog Lover Daylilies Organic Gardener Houseplants Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Level 1
I helped beta test the first seed swap
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DogsNDaylilies
Feb 25, 2016 8:08 AM CST
cliftoncat said:Aww - I'm really glad you're continuing with the rescue efforts. You are the patron saint of cutworms (if indeed that is what he is)! Angel Smiling


*Blush* Lovey dubby


Mika, Susan, and Melanie, thank you for the info about this little guy. I'm sure he'll turn into a pretty moth someday and, thanks to all of you, he'll do it without damaging my garden. Thumbs up He'll get a more appropriate home.
Name: Susan Johnston
OKC, OK (Zone 7a)
Susanlynne48
Feb 28, 2016 4:33 PM CST
No, unfortunately, they are rather dull, little brown jobs (aka LBJs). These guys truly are a pest. Last year, they cut down my newly planted Echinacea 'Pow Wow Wild Berry', Agastache Black Adder, and several other plants before they cycled out. By that, I mean they are most active in spring. They overwinter as eggs and larvae. Yours was probably disturbed from hibernation (squirrels, other digging mammals), and is looking for another place to burrow.

Cutworms and Climbing Cutworms eat plants - any plant - they are generalist feeders. I'm sorry but I do not like them, Sam I am!

Susan
Susanlynne48
Name: Linda
Medina Co., TX (Zone 8a)
Charter ATP Member Salvias Herbs Bluebonnets Native Plants and Wildflowers Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
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LindaTX8
Feb 28, 2016 5:19 PM CST
There are some moth cats that survive by overwintering as a cat, perhaps in the ground or a fairly sheltered location. I used to have a species of moth that used a native host plant here. Sometimes I'd see the little cat in the winter and wonder if it was overwintering, but never was sure. I miss that species of moth...they disappeared over time and have never seen them again. I wonder sometimes if they'll ever return!
I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority. E. B.White
Integrity can never be taken. It can only be given, and I wasn't going to give it up to these people. Gary Mowad
Name: Mika
Oxfordshire, England and Mento
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Critters Allowed Daylilies Irises Roses Hostas
Birds Multi-Region Gardener Cat Lover Dog Lover Ponds Foliage Fan
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cliftoncat
Feb 29, 2016 11:19 AM CST
DND, was the release of Bobski successful? Confused Smiling
Name: Dnd
SE Michigan (Zone 6a)
Dog Lover Daylilies Organic Gardener Houseplants Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Level 1
I helped beta test the first seed swap
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DogsNDaylilies
Mar 1, 2016 6:24 PM CST
cliftoncat said:DND, was the release of Bobski successful? Confused Smiling


Thanks for asking! With the weather the way it's been, I've been cleaning out his bin and feeding him the last few days to wait out this new winter storm. (It's snowing and freezing rain and they were predicting up to 9 inches of snow.) I didn't want my efforts to go in vain.

I still think I might release him in the metropark...far enough away from me to not cause any problems and it's a perfect place for him to fulfill his place in the environment. I really don't want him near my plants, but I really cannot kill him. Just thinking about it makes me cringe.
Name: Mika
Oxfordshire, England and Mento
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Critters Allowed Daylilies Irises Roses Hostas
Birds Multi-Region Gardener Cat Lover Dog Lover Ponds Foliage Fan
Image
cliftoncat
Mar 2, 2016 12:33 AM CST
I'm with you! Thumbs up He's probably the luckiest cutworm (IF that's what he is) that ever fell into human hands! Thumbs up
Name: Alex Junge
MN st paul, (Zone 4a)
Plantsmylove
Mar 3, 2016 4:43 PM CST
My guess is it is a 7th instar moth cat and it was looking for a place to pupate put it in a jar or shoebox with soil and if he burrows I'm right next spring a moth should come out

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