April 27, 2009


I am in Dallas, currently wearing a VERY fancy cocktail dress and the glossiest lipstick ever invented. MYSTERIOUS DOINGS…but Mr. Husband sent me a picture I thought you might like of our five newest family members.

I like to have little kitchen pets. They are my AUXILARY animals. Many of the kitchen pets come with short life spans, so they are not major commitments that I get all VESTED in for a couple of decades. These are little friendly friends who are not complex enough to go all out on the unconditional love like my dog, or even go HALF out on the highly conditional and emotionally pointy love of my dreadful cats.

But the kitchen pets are never-the-less charming in their own way: they do not rack up vet bills, eat my shoes, and they excrete vile wastes ONLY in the glass box they live in. They tend to like us because we never chase or snatch at them and when we coax them to us with treats they find gentle hands, and we like them right back. They are also useful in forming hypotheses for science projects. Nothing CRUEL! I mean, we aren’t injecting them with ebola over here. Our experiments are more like, “DO GERBLS FIND THEIR WAY THROUGH A MAZE FASTER IF THERE IS A TREAT AT THE END” (Hypothetical answer: Yes. Real answer: Not if they are as fat and spoiled as our gerbils, no.)

Some people have this crazy idea that maybe you shouldn’t have reptiles and rodents bouncing around in the same area where you cook your food, but me, I say, “It probably promotes a healthy immune system via methodology that does not bear close scrutiny.”

We had the NEWT LARVAE on the breakfast bar, remember? And then after the newt larvae (who were cute and transparent and pulsing and who zoomed around the water and popped across the surface like brine shrimp to snatch food pellets) turned into fully grown newts (who basically found a rock and SAT under it, unmoving and impassive as zen masters modeling the sound of one hand clapping) we put them back out in the creek in the backyard from whence they came.

Then we went to PET SMART and got a pair of BROTHER GERBILS. One of whom secretly had a uterus. Heh. Together these brother gerbils turned my kitchen into Philadelphia. Not only did my kitchen have to contend with pets, it also was forced to experience and house the miracle of birth. Eighteen times.

I may have a certain amount of sangfroid when it comes to sharing my kitchen with little animals, but even I am too fastidious to be truly happy about the miracle of life happening where we eat. I mean, I like the miracle of life and all, but you have to admit it is somewhat gooey and fraught with placentas. No one wants to sit down to a savory meal in the presence of placentas. No one.

Anyway, after the newts, we had the gerbils, and now that the last pair of our dear old mice ladies has moved on to a better place, I am going one step down the evolutionary scale – and one step down the ICK factor scale too. My kitchen aquarium is fulla bugs:

You can BUY butterfly habitats and be mailed caterpillars for 30 bucks, but these fellas came off my friend Julie’s strawberry and mint plants and our big tree. They are eating leaves from the tree where we found the first one and pooping and growing. We’ve had them 5 days now, so I think the food we chose is working.


They are called Squirmy (the biggest), Whit (the pale furred one) Hookah and Mookah (Pictured above --the mythology is that they are twins and certainly no one knows which is which. I am charmed by the innocence of Maisy Jane, who has NO IDEA she has named one of her wormies after a type of BONG. In fact, so innocent is she that she would probably think Bong was a good pet name.) and Speedy. (The littlest).

We have NO IDEA what will emerge after they cocoon or chrysalis up. Maisy is hoping for monarchs. I am expecting those irksome little white moths who eat my sweaters. Is the glass half full, or half empty? And when the thing in the glass is BUGS, who is the optimist?

Posted by joshilyn at April 27, 2009 4:06 PM

If they are eating tree leaves, they are probably not monarchs -- those caterpillars eat milkweed. But I can't wait to find out WHAT THEY ARE!

Posted by: kmkat at April 27, 2009 4:52 PM

Not monarchs for certain, they are black/white/yellow striped without fuzz.

They look like tent caterpillars to me...which i think turn into little brown moths. Though not sweater-eating ones.

Posted by: Rachel at April 27, 2009 5:48 PM

Yeah, they look an awful lot like tent caterpillars. I have a problem with tent caterpillars. They spin silk tents in trees (okay, that sounds cool and kind of romantic, but bear with me here...). The are considered a pest because they damage the trees. When I was about 7 years old, we had a big tent in one of our apple trees, so my dad sent up the tree with a stick to knock it down. He did not tell me that it was full of caterpillars, so when I gave it a good smack, hundreds of caterpillars rained down on me... and down the back of my neck, inside my shirt, in my hair...

I have a problem with tent caterpillars.

Posted by: Sandi at April 27, 2009 8:16 PM

Are there gypsy moths in Georgia? Definitely not monarchs, anyway.

Posted by: rams at April 27, 2009 9:50 PM

You have no idea how happy this post made me! When I was growing up, we would get hundreds of these in our peach tree, and I would capture the biggest ones to keep as pets in a little glass terrarium. I loveeee them!

Posted by: Dani at April 27, 2009 11:03 PM

Sandi- I feel for you SO deeply! One of my deepest fears from childhood revolved around the bag worms that infested the park near my grandmother's house in Oklahoma. I once (once!) had a worm drop on my head from a bag and I fell down dead splat on the ground. I could NOT share my kitchen with bugs, especially ones whose relatives could assail someone's noggin. Gah! I've got a serious case of the heebie jeebies now.

Posted by: ellbee at April 28, 2009 12:17 AM

You are in DALLAS?!?! That is a mere 30 minutes from me! Do you want to get together for drinks, or lunch, or dinner, or dessert? Email me!

As to the caterpillars ~ they indeed appear to be tent worms. Ours are all white and eventually turn into tiny little white moths. I'm assuming these will be brown moths, since they have brown fur. They are bad for trees and especially love fruitless mulberry leaves, which they will kill in just a few years if left to munch every season. I speak from bitter experience.

Plus, they will fall on one from above, causing shrieking and carrying on, which is not fun for the male of the house, who hears and understands the shrieking to mean, "SPIDER! IN THE HOUSE!" and comes running, only to be confronted with caterpillar(s) in the wife's HAIR.

I still have nightmares.

Please do not show further pictures of the creepy crawlies until they are properly flying moths, or butterflies, or whatever they turn into ~ lest I have heebie jeebies and apoplexy.

Thank you, in advance, for your assistance. ;)

Posted by: Kim at April 28, 2009 2:24 AM

On the tent caterpillar bandwagon here. But it is still fun to watch the Miracle of Pupation (no placentas there!) and have the kids see what comes out, even if it is moths.

Posted by: Brigitte at April 28, 2009 5:34 AM

I am not voting for tent caterpillars, but I just want to say these are very pretty. I do not remember tent caterpillars as having those lovely blue patches.

Posted by: Judy at April 28, 2009 7:50 AM

Here ya go: http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/
My boys have "raised" many caterpillars, so I have this bookmarked in case we need to know what to feed one species. Great thing is, you can search here by state.

Posted by: Laura L at April 28, 2009 9:00 AM

"Fraught with placentas": Priceless.

Posted by: RuthWells at April 28, 2009 9:03 AM

I think what you have there is a Gypsy Moth...but I'm no entomologist, so. Grain of salt.

We still have toads. They don't do much, but they apparently live forever. SIGH.

Posted by: Amy-Go at April 28, 2009 9:29 AM

I cannot WAIT to find out what you are doing in Dallas in a very fancy cocktail dress, glossy lipstick and, I assume, fabulous shoes.

Posted by: JenniferG at April 28, 2009 9:59 AM

I will say with no authority except experience - Gypsy Moth Caterpillars. These are NOT GOOD. I lived through a season of biblical proportions during my childhood where they covered our house (looked like it was MOVING), killed many, many trees and fell onto one's head. This made it necessary to travel with an umbrella. HORROR MOVIE LEVEL AMOUNTS OF CATERPILLARS. Nightmares for months amounts of caterpillars. Beware.

Posted by: heidi at April 28, 2009 11:23 AM

I am with everyone who suspects tent caterpillars; I don't know Thing 1 about caterpillars, but I looked here:


and the picture second-from-the-top on the right side of the page sure looks like Hookah (or Mookah--who can tell, right?).

It entertains me that that caterpillar website ends in "hairy.htm."

Let me know if your Self-Esteem is successful in divorcing your Scale Number; I may want to hire its attorney.


Posted by: Jennifer at April 28, 2009 12:42 PM

Eastern tent caterpillars, according to Dave's Garden (has photo of the adult too).


Sometimes caterpillar hairs can cause allergies, so be careful if you handle them.

Too bad they aren't yellow woolly bears. They grow up to be beautiful white Tiger moths that look like they are wearing furry capes and kingly crowns.


Also -- it's a good thing one of your gerbils turned out to be a lady. Because two male gerbils? will try to kill each other.

We named ours Oscar and Felix and had to separate them with a cardboard wall in the middle of the aquarium.

Posted by: firefly at April 28, 2009 6:18 PM

My guess is Tent Caterpillars, and they are moths, and will cocoon up. :P

Posted by: Lia at April 28, 2009 8:06 PM