I'm sure you are all familiar with the classic children's book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle. This is a wonderful story about a cute little caterpillar that eats his way through a whole bunch of things, only at the end to turn into a beautiful butterfly. I would say this book is probably appropriate in pre-K up to maybe first grade.
In fifth grade, though, the book should be changed to "The Very Weird, Horned, Ugly, Humongous Caterpillar and How It Scared The Teacher". Because that's what we discovered on the playground yesterday at recess.
Check him out....wouldn't he scare you if you saw this crawling around under a tree?
Of course all the students wanted to know what kind it was and what it would turn into. Was it poisonous? What are the spikes for? And about a million other questions that I won't bother typing up here. Of course this happened to be the time when the WHOLE 5th GRADE was outside, so I was getting these questions from all three classes, not just mine! So, like the good teacher I am, I spent the majority of my planning time on Google, researching this particular caterpillar.
This caterpillar is known as the Hickory Horned Devil, and is the larvae that turns into a Regal Moth. The caterpillar can be up to 5 inches in length. It has five pairs of antenna that resemble horns on its head. These "horns" and the black spikes along its back are used for scaring away its enemies. It has three pairs of legs directly under its head area. It has several pairs of darker "feet" that are actually not feet at all, but structures to help the caterpillar grip the bark of trees more easily.
The Regal Moth is nocturnal and has a wingspan of 5-6 inches! (Well, you would expect a big caterpillar to make a big moth, right?) It also has no mouth, so it only lives long enough to mate and then lay its eggs. What a life, right?!?
And here is a picture of the Regal Moth, what this caterpillar will turn into.
I can only imagine what kind of tales were told by my students when they got home. Would you really believe your kid if they came home from school and said they saw a huge green caterpillar with spikes and horns that makes it look like a dragon?? I wouldn't have believed it myself, either!
PS...these pictures are courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/. The pictures I took were on a co-worker's camera and the files ended up being too big to post on the blog. However, if you are my Facebook friend, I've posted pictures of my caterpillar there. It was quite the learning experience yesterday!