Monthly Archives: April 2012

Caterpillar landscapes

Here are some caterpillar images I took during my last session with the SEM (scanning electron microscope). I have cropped and edited them, these versions are just for fun – I’m saving most of my shots for potential publications.

I would like to give people a sense of what is hidden in the world around them – these are landscapes that exist on such a small scale. Yet they do indeed exist, and can be found with enough patience and determination. Awaiting you could be great beauty, or potentially nightmarish scenes. Regardless of how you feel about insects on an emotional level, I encourage you to consider the complexity these creatures hold and the wonder they can provide.

Acronicta falcula. Crochet hooks (little claws on the abdominal prolegs), 500x magnification.

Acronicta falcula. Skin texture, 1000x magnification.

Acronicta falcula. Skin texture, 2000x magnification.

More images to come soon!

Mr. Niblet

The famous Mr. Niblet emerged as a moth this week! He was so named because of his penchant for biting (or “nibbling”) me when I tried to change out his leaves. He was a big fat Acronicta afflicta caterpillar.

You might recognize him as the first LOLCATerpillar:

Or as this angry guy

And now… here he is!

This is the end of the road for Mr. Niblet, though (I could also check if he’s actually a he or she…). He went into the freezer, and is now in a relaxing chamber so that I can pin him and spread his wings tomorrow. He will be a beautiful specimen. I’m hoping to find many more of this species this summer!

Smart bunny

I’ve had my rabbit Rascal for over a month now, and he has turned out to be quite a character. I’ll try to not overload this blog with posts about my bunny, but you can  follow his antics on my Flickr page.

He is quite a smart bunny. I decided that clicker training would be a great way for us to bond and interact without invading his space too much – he still doesn’t really like to be touch or picked up. There are a few moments throughout the day where he submits to petting or wants to do tricks, and the rest of the day he runs around or relaxes and looks adorable.

He knows five tricks now. He comes to his name, “up”, “spin” (his favorite), “kiss”, and “paw”.
When he really wants a treat he will spin in a circle and look at me, without a command, because he knows he gets rewarded.

Here he is doing all of them.

We are going to start high jumping and agility training soon, I just need to start building some equipment.

This is a real thing, I swear! Rabbit jumping is more popular in Europe, but there are some clubs in the US as well. Even if we never try to compete, I think it will be a lot of fun (if you still don’t believe me, look it up on youtube!).

In other news, I’m getting a few more emergences, and have a protocol in place now for collecting DNA samples and pinning/spreading the moths. Exciting 🙂


I was walking to my car yesterday when a caterpillar landed one me.

It was a little guy in the family Geometridae, hanging by a silk thread.

Go inchworm, go!


You know what’s a huge relief? Realizing you didn’t kill all of your study organisms.

I wasn’t sure what to do with all of my pupae for overwintering. My advisor kept his covered in his garage, so they were exposed to fluctuations in temperature, and protected.

I don’t have a garage or anyplace to put a few boxes full of vials. I decided to keep mine in the walk-in cooler across the hall in our building. It’s very dry, so I had to mist the containers (they were covered with mesh) every day with water.

I sort of didn’t do that every day. I’m pretty sure at one point I went a week without giving them any attention. But I also remembered being told that pupae and larvae can be killed by too much love, as well as not enough. Last week I took them out of the cooler to see if they would start emerging.

It turns out I gave them the right dose of attention, perhaps mimicking the fluctuating conditions they would experience in nature. Because last weekend I had a bunch of emergences!! These are all moths that I raised all the way from eggs. I’m so proud.

Here is the first batch, in their containers.

Here is one of the prettiest ones, Polygrammate hebraeicum. It is a relative of Acronicta within Acronictinae.

One of my favorites, the giant Acronicta americana.

Here they are in their temporary vials, about to go into the fridge and cool down until they are ready to be pinned. It is best to work with them when they are still fresh. Yes, though they are my darling little insects I raised from eggs, they have reached the end. I will save some of their legs for DNA samples in ethanol. Their bodies will be pinned and spread for morphological analysis and preservation for posterity.

Ryerson Lab

Functional Morphology, Sensory Biology, Behavior, Biomechanics

I spell it nature

Trying to make sense of the world through science and language.