Category Archives: Update

Vote for the insect!

The WWF is holding a photography contest, with the grand prize being a trip to photograph polar bears in Canada. There are three categories: Wildlife, Wild Places, and People Connecting with Nature. I submitted a bunch of photos during the submission phase, just as a way to waste 10 minutes.

Nearly 10,000 photos were submitted. 50 were chosen by a panel of judges to be finalists in each category.

Guess who snuck one into the wildlife category!

This is a photo I took during my trip to Ecuador in January. One of the less exciting insects, but I spent about 5 minutes photographing this pretty paper wasp guarding her nest under a leaf. I loved the way the light shone through, and of course those shades of green are my favorite colors. Apparently the judges appreciated the moment I captured, and it’s the only insect photo in the wildlife category!

So if you feel so inclined, vote for me and “like” the photo on facebook! I know I don’t stand much of a chance against tigers and bear cubs and sharks, but it’s worth a shot, right?

CLICK HERE to vote for my photo!

You have to sign up on the upper right hand side of the page. They ask for lots of info in order for you to enter into a raffle to win a reusable mug, but as long as you keep un-checking the ‘sign me up for emails’ link, you won’t get any spam.

If that link doesn’t work, go to the main gallery and search “Brigette” in the search bar.

You can vote once per day, and every day you have a chance at winning a mug.

Thanks for your support! If you don’t feel like signing up to vote, you can always pass on the link or just tell me how a cute wasp should beat out all those mammals.


(Oh, and the U2 concert was amazing, I’m glad I didn’t get bogged down by my grumpy pants and drove up to Montreal to see my friends. Some of my early instar caterpillars kicked the bucket over the weekend, but that’s to be expected early on, overall they did well. Lots of caterpillar photos and stories to share soon!)

Another busy weekend

A few months ago I agreed to go to the U2 concert in Montreal with my friends… and now… I’m regretting it. I hate long lines and crowds and overly priced beer, I have to drive 6 hours to get there, and I don’t want to go more than two days without tending to my caterpillars.

But… I’m going… it’ll be great to see my best friend… so… hopefully all will be well when I return.

I’ll be aiming to get back to the lab sunday evening for a good long session of photography and feeding.


We made it! It was interesting trying to explain to my grandmother and other relatives why I had to carry around a few trays full of plastic containers holding caterpillars, a cooler full of plants, why I needed to hang a blacklight outside and check it throughout the night, and why there were live moths fluttering in plastic jars in the fridge in the morning.

It was a great weekend. Met up with my wonderful boyfriend at my parents’ place, and we all drove up to the Adirondack mountains to visit relatives. Even though my wrist is still in a brace we went hiking, swimming, canoeing, and ate lots of ice cream. Here is an example of a beautiful trail… which I was hardly able to enjoy due to all of the mosquitoes.

My boyfriend worked on teaching me sign language and helped me with tree identification. It turns out I need to know my plants pretty well in order to feed my caterpillars, so dating a guy with a degree in forestry is a bonus!

Of course I saw some caterpillars.

At first I thought this was some sort of cutworm, but it’s actually a noctuid in the genus Lithophane. Pretty cool. I didn’t have my camera on me when I saw the others, but there were a few neat geometrids in the trees.

I got a bunch of Acronicta moths at my blacklight, mostly A. americana males, a male A. innotata, and one female A. hasta. So some good specimens to practice spreading, and one lady who has already laid me a bunch of eggs! My caterpillars all cooperated and handled the driving around ok, and were well fed with my constant attention. I was able to keep track of molts, even if I couldn’t measure them or photograph them right away. The past few days have been a flurry of catch-up, and right now I think I’m on track.



On the mend

My wrist might not be broken after all, just badly sprained. Another doctor said the strange bump on my scaphoid bone is probably a natural variation. And after a few days of pain medication and wearing a brace, I’m feeling much better. Hurrah!

Here I am in my Lep Soc t-shirt, and sporting a temporary tattoo of a tiger swallowtail, one of my favorite butterflies (mostly because they’re fun to chase).

Back in the lab tending to my babies (err… caterpillars…), and this evening I’m going collecting on a Lep Soc field trip. Hoping for some more gravid female Acronicta.

Lep Soc 2011

I’m at the Annual Meeting of the Lepidopterist’s Society at Yale for the second day of talks, it’s been fun so far! A little drowsy from pain meds for my wrist, but I’ve been having a blast meeting and mingling with so many great scientific minds. Skipped the blacklighting trip yesterday because of the weather (rainy), but I got two Acronicta ovata at my own blacklight last night, a new species for me – and one is a female, so I’m hoping I can get eggs out of her.

Should be another great day of learning and inspiration, I can’t wait til I have enough material for my own talk next year!

Technical difficulties

Fell off my bicycle yesterday. Actually, spectacularly flipped over my handlebars while going fast downhill in the rain on a bumpy unevenly paved road. Was only about 2 minutes into the triathalon I was going to attempt with my friends… oh well.

My boyfriend took great care of me, he’s the best. Got me to the ER, they saw me right away, wonderful people there. X-rays showed a fractured scaphoid bone in my wrist. Temp splint now, need to make an appt to maybe get a real cast.

Typing is difficult, so I won’t be doing much blogging for a while. Maybe put up some photos now and then with quick updates.

Should only be about a month before I’m fully healed, so I’m hoping I can be patient and not go crazy by then.

Wish me luck!

Back in the saddle again

Sorry to disappear, but life needs balance (and that balance should include the Caribbean).
I am trying to recover from a collecting trip, a vacation with friends, and diving back into research. I had to leave my caterpillars in the care of a few lab members who did a great job, but I sure missed seeing some of my babies grow up!

Soooo I have some catching up to do. Some of these posts will be current, and some will be catching up on events that happened in the past week and a half.

Here is a sneak peak from one adventure…


I know you’re all dying to see photos of our Long Island collecting trip… but I have a habit of overbooking myself and I’m off on a week-long vacation with my friends tomorrow morning (we’re waking up around 3:30am, woo!). I might be able to get on here to update with snippets of tantalizing stories, but I won’t be back in full blogging force until I return around the 11th. So… sorry for the drought of caterpillar photos, but don’t worry, I’ll have some great stuff to share by the time I get back!


Welcome to the Caterpillar Blog!

I’m Brigette – that’s me on the side over there.
Yes, that’s a real caterpillar. Pseudosphinx tetrio, found in the Caribbean.

I have dabbled in blogging for several years now, but always kept my focus pretty broad. I thought it would be fun to talk about whatever I was in the mood for – science, sewing, my pets, you name it. In fact, that made it much harder to write effectively. I’m the sort of person who cannot just sit down with a piece of paper and a pencil and draw, or write, I need a plan. A purpose. A hint of inspiration and guidance. I’m a very organized person, and I detest purposeless clutter.

So here, I will focus my energies. I am a graduate student in my first year, starting my forays into caterpillar research. I will be studying the systematics and evolutionary biology of a subfamily of Noctuids, Acronictinae. To start out, I don’t know too much about caterpillars other than what I’ve learned in classes. I used to rear them occasionally when I was younger, but couldn’t really get into them because of the lack of field guides available. Even when we got the internet in my early teens, it was nearly impossible to identify caterpillars. But now I’ve become enveloped into an entirely new world full of possbilities! My advisor, Dr. Wagner, has written the Caterpillars of Eastern North America field guide, which I highly suggest you all purchase! I am becoming increasingly inspired and enthusiastic… but… I do not claim to be an expert by any means (…yet…). Here I will document my adventures in caterpillar rearing and research.

A few things you will probably notice about me as I write: I get very excited. About everything. And I use a lot of exclamation points!

Other tidbits:
-All photos, unless otherwise stated, are taken by me. You may freely post photos or entire posts as long as they link back here, but any other use requires my permission! Everything in blog posts are also posted on my flickr page (see the “Gallery” tab above).
-There will be guest posts by other members of the lab.
-I probably will not be any good at identifying caterpillars if you have mystery photos you want identified. My advisor’s book, and are both great resources.

My first bunch of posts are going to be me playing catch-up… lots of great larval development happening in the lab the past few weeks!

Ryerson Lab

Functional Morphology, Sensory Biology, Behavior, Biomechanics

I spell it nature

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