Last winter we decided to collect some and raise them to see what they turned into. We often collect caterpillars from the garden to watch them go through the process of pupating and emerging as either moths or butterflies. We call them “Surprise Bugs” because we don’t always know what they will turn into! It’s actually very easy to do and makes for an interesting school project or a temporary new pet.
Woolly Bear caterpillars can be found on many common garden plants in Adelaide, such as Geraniums, Aeoniums and Dandelions. If you have Swan Bush or Milkweed in your garden you may find stripey Monarch Caterpillars that hatch into bright orange and black butterflies. Another beautiful butterfly that is easy to rear is the Dainty Swallowtail, whose caterpillars can be found on citrus trees. They make a stunningly camouflaged chrysalis that mimics the markings of the citrus tree stems. Granny Moth caterpillars can be found on Acacia plants and be sure to keep an eye out for Looper caterpillars on Eucalyptus and Bottlebrush, they inch along with an almost comical gait.
Some things to remember:
So, what did the Woolly Bears turn into? Glatigny’s Tiger Moths (Spilosoma glatignyi), beautiful black and white moths with adorable fuzzy faces and bright orange striped bodies. Well worth the wait! I wish you the best of luck with your own “Surprise Bugs”, we’d love to see some photos of what you find and what they turn into.
Fun Fact: Caterpillars have 6 legs, like all insects. Their true legs are located on their thorax, nearest the head. The rest of the “legs” are actually prolegs, an adaptation to help them get around during the larval stage.
Written by Tracy McNally, Animal Caretaker