Friday, September 10, 2004

Caterpillar Chaos

Earlier this week we got an order of prepared slides delivered, and it was almost like Christmas had come early. They arrived weeks before we truly needed them, and they're much clearer than the faded 20+ year old slides we have been using. I even thought, "maybe I should write a post about something going right for a change," but got busy with other things. Well, I should have (ed.: and you just did, pal).

Early in the summer I placed an order with my campus purchasing department to have some caterpillar eggs come in either this week or next week, but never heard back regarding when they were supposed to arrive. I also had a separate order placed for some food (artificial diet) and rearing containers, but haven't seen anything from that order yet (even though it too was placed months ago).

On Thursday I walked into lab early to make sure my equipment was set up (trying desperately to ensure that my dream did not become a prescient dream), and what should I find but two vials of caterpillar eggs on the table at the front of the lab. Typically the company ships the eggs so that they arrive a few days before hatching, but these eggs had already hatched by the time I got to them. Neither our lab tech nor our shipping department had bothered to inform me that the caterpillars had arrived and hatched. It was apparent that at least some had hatched hours before I got there, since there were already a few dead hatchlings in the vials. There was no food in the vials, and no artificial diet, host plants, or rearing containers anywhere in sight.

So, instead of having lunch I got to rush over to our plant folks and see if they had any plants that would work as food (they did), and then rummage around the stock room for containers to rear them in. Some students helped me set up the cute little guys, and I think the majority will survive, but it was a pretty close call.

Since this species of caterpillar has been shown to have a preference for the food it's reared on immediately after hatching, I probably should keep rearing them on natural leaves, which entails a lot more work and will get expensive if our plant people decide to stop sacrificing their plants to the cause.

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