Hello, my name is Ms. Hegarty. Join me as I travel to New Orleans to study Climate Change and Caterpillars!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Day in the Life of a Frass Sanitation Specialist...


This is the first alligator I saw. He was about 6ft long. The photo was taken from a bridge.

The Alabama Swamp
Photo taken while kayaking on the Pearl River.

Today was a lab work day. My first task? Cleaning out the caterpillar frass!!! Eeeuuuuwww!! Actually it was not too bad. At least the caterpillars do not run away! My next job was to identify unknown plant species that the caterpillars were found on. I enjoy doing this because I like the challenge and learning the new plant species. Some of the plants are the wild version of things we have in our backyards. For example, Ludwigia glandulosa is the wild type of Evening Primrose. That is the plant that we found the giant caterpillars (Eumorpha fasciata) on. Check out your gardens at home! To find out what the unknown plants are we used reference books and pictures from the internet. Technology is great but the books worked best. We followed the dichotomous key! It really works! My last job was to help identify caterpillar species. This can be very difficult. They all look the same to me. Using a high powered microscope helps.
Caterpillar Sorting
Thanks for all you interesting comments and questions. Here are some answers:
* I love spiders and would never kill them. I have a spider who lives in my bathroom called Boris.
* We have collected over 15o caterpillars so far.
* The weather has been sunny and warm (85 F) since the first couple days of storms.
* We keep the caterpillars until, a) they pupate, b) they get parisitized, c) they emerge as adults or d) they die. They get checked every day.
Yesterday's word: gravid It means pregnant.
Today's word: aposematic Look it up!!
Warm up question: What techniques (ways) do caterpillars use to protect themselves from
Cute 'Coon
I spotted this racoon in a tree while kayaking through the swamp.

Be good! I am looking forward to finding out about your projects!


  1. Some catepillars have self defense "spikes" that will penetrate a predator that touches it. Due to its small size it can go places that many predators cannot. Their colors can provide camoflage. Are there a lot of bugs in the swamp?

  2. They have different colors that help them camoflage themselves from predators. Maybe the catepillar has a toxin on its "whiskers" that the predators do not like. Maybe they can shoot their "frass" at predators as a deterant. Can you post the picture of the 15 foot alligator? Do you enjoy finding catepillars?? Have you been "frassed" on yet???

  3. do caterpillars have stingers?

  4. why was the racoon out at day time? did it have rabies?

  5. Nice work Mrs. H! You are quite the photographer too.

    Is it possible to create some scientific chart with the plants and animals that you study/photograph? Where is the Pearl River? Are you in a very rural area? Are there other animal dangers (beside the alligator)? How do you preserve your food? Is it like "survivor Man" or more like camping?

    I have more questions but I'll wait to ask them!