caterpillar21If you've visited the Main Library recently, you may have noticed our new friends in the Children's Department: Monarch, Black Swallowtail, and Cabbage Looper caterpillars living on potted plants.  Be sure to check on these tiny visitors as they grow bigger, form protective chrysalises and transform into butterflies and moths before being released outside!  While you're visiting them, think about these fun facts:

I'm dangerous! 

The monarch caterpillar and butterfly are poisonous... but only to other insects that eat them!  They prefer to eat the milkweed plant, which contains natural poisons that don't harm the monarch but do harm the monarch's enemies.  But the monarch gives other insects a warning; their brightly-colored caterpillar stripes and bright orange butterfly wings tell everyone that monarchs are no good to eat!

The black swallowtail caterpillar also has an interesting way of scaring off possible predators.  When it gets scared, it sticks out an orange organ called an osmeterium that gives off a stinky smell, a signal to stay away!

Bring your own snack 

As it grows, the black swallowtail caterpillar actually gets too big for its skin.  When that happens, it sheds the skin (this is called molting) and then eats it!  How's that for a snack?

What's in a name? 

How did the cabbage looper caterpillar get its weird name?  Well, the cabbage looper caterpillar loves to eat the leafy parts of cabbage leaves and several other leafy plants, and it moves around "looper"-style.  It doesn't have legs in the middle of its long body, so it moves by walking its back legs forward and bending its long back into a loop shape, then moving its front legs forward and stretching its back straight again.  Cabbage eating + looper walking = Cabbage Looper!

If you'd like to learn more about caterpillars, butterflies, and moths, come visit the Children's Department and we'll help you find some fun books to check out!