Caterpillar Season IV: Playing God

There are various reactions to my lifelong habit of collecting caterpillars: few of them favorable. In my aging and jaundiced eye, I see a trend to a reflexive negativity about this hobby. First of all,few people like worms in person; although--of course-- they are universally thought to be excellent in the abstract or in their place facilitating the growth of fancy lettuces. Aside from the disgust factor, there is that of reasoned concern that I am somehow upsetting the balance of nature. or the principled concern that i may destroy a precious tiny life. For my part, I find it hard to believe that I personally can have much impact on the world 'o bugs... I am not the DuPont Corporation. And in the ultimate weighing of my sins before the throne of god, I'm skeptical that St. Peter is going to dwell very long on my Butterfly collection(1958-61). Still, I hate to offend persons of sensibility. If i could avoid it , I would. i've not pinned a specimen for decades. but I cling to the caterpillar thing.

In many specific instances, I perceive that my little victims fare rather better in my clutches than in the wild. many and many a caterpillar I've plucked from a withered wisp of its host plant in a dry field: clearly it would die unmolested. In virtually any case, survival chances are greater in one of my zoos than in the field. Of course, birds, parasitic wasps etc. etc. need love and dinner too. How dare i interfere!

My opinion: it is rather too late in the game to be too sensitive about these issues, given our collective massive, prolonged and continuous interruption of nature. The guy who collects bugs is way down the list of malefactors.

Where I really feel vulnerable is when I get some exotic creatures to play with. I've gotten cocoons from friends unsolicited; and never managed a reproach. This year, charmed by Mr. Oehlke's site, i blew out the stops and ordered 10 cocoons. And as luck would have it, i got mostly Lunas when I ordered the locally occuring Polyphemous and hyalophoria species. Therefore, the rest of you can brace for the coming plague of Lunas. Cane toads, killer bees, brown snails... and now this!

I'm not helping my case by being unrepentant. Certainly by themselves these charming creatures are unlikely to give serious offence. Their asocial catepillars will not wreak havoc on our precious grapevines, or even be noticed where they do nosh. You don't need to tell me of the stern law of unintended consequences; they might carry some horrible plague. Who knows? But since they are here, I'm not going to step on them. That would be playing God.

Posted by icosahedron icosahedron, May 21, 2011 04:24


Photos / Sounds



Polyphemus Moth Antheraea polyphemus




May 18, 2010


Here's a boy: check out those antennae! This is actually an reduced file from my brother David Hibbard's work. He take pix with enormous detail: his files can't be reasonably transmitted without compression. But just the thing if you want to photograph lepidopteran... Compare with my pitiful blackberry snap of the girl.


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