A Virginia Tiger Moth

Virginia Tiger Moth, shot by DaynaT via Flickr

So, our caterpillar finally came out of its cocoon, and it’s a … beautiful white moth. To be specific, it's a Virginia Tiger moth (Spilosoma virginica), which comes from the arctiidae family (eNature.com and discoverlife.com are two useful sites for identifying bugs). Now that I've seen the moth, I realize that our caterpillar was a yellow woolly bear.

What next? You’re probably thinking: that’s obvious, release it! But here’s our dilemma: the moth ‘hatched’ in the country at my parents’ house, and we are here in New York City. We had dragged its cocoon, inside a plastic container, all the way out there on vacation a couple of weeks ago, not wanting to miss The Big Day. When the time came to return to the City, I didn’t want to lug the cocoon all the way back to Brooklyn via rental car and Metro North. Wouldn’t it be happier in the wilds of Western Massachusetts, anyway? Now, unfortunately, the moth is stranded without us for at least another week.

To keep it alive until our reunion, Jeffrey Miller, the entomologist who had helped me so much with my original caterpillar entry, sent me this advice via email: “Have your mother put the container in the fridge until you can get to it … there may be a slight ‘ick’ factor here.” And that's exactly what we did. More on refrigeration and the moth metabolism in my next post.

P.S. Due to a glitch, an early draft of this story was mistakenly posted on Sunday, August 7. Apologies to the readers who left comments yesterday.