Friday, September 17, 2010

Autumn Series #1 - Beware of Caterpillars

Outdoor Hour button
The boys spend a lot of time outside exploring and investigating.  It is not unusual for them to approach me as I am working in the garden a half dozen times with all kinds of insects, flowers, and rocks to identify.  Even though they are only three, I have taken their enthusiasm as a cue to begin a more formalized study.  I had discovered The Outdoor Hour last year, and have decided that now is the time for us to give it a whirl.

The first lesson in the series is really a getting your feet wet, sharpening observation skills, and discussing and recording findings.  I decided that it would be a good idea to let the boys investigate "as usual" and do next week's lesson more formalized.  They decided to use their sense of touch to discover the Hickory Tussock Moth.

hickory tussock moth, Lophocampa caryae  (Lepidoptera: Arctiidae)

This fuzzy white and black caterpillar loves to feed on hardwoods such as Hickory, Pecan, and Walnut Trees.  They also feed on  Ash, Elm, Oak ,and Willow.  The fuzz on this caterpillar is irresistible to a three year old.  Unfortunately the "fuzz" is actually hairlike setae that causes an itchy rash in some people.  "Some people" would include both of my boys.  Within minutes of their investigation they were both crying and covered with hives.  "I" actually ended up with swollen hands that look like the Michelin man's.  The swelling has lasted about three days.  Needless to say they have learned an important lesson in nature study.  Beware of caterpillars with all the extra fuzz, be sure not to touch unless you know it is safe, and when in doubt ask mom.

By the next day the boys were back at their investigating.  They have not been slowed down at all, but are definitely more mindful of what they touch.  We are really looking forward to the bird study next week.


Barb-Harmony Art Mom said...

Oh my goodness! I have never heard that the fuzz can be so irritating! Your poor family really had a reaction and this is a good warning to us all about fuzzy caterpillars. Thanks so much for sharing your experience.

Edwena said...

WOW!!! We'll beware of touching caterpillars. Hope everyone is feeling better.

pebblekeeper said...

Thanks for sharing and linking up on the OHC! We really enjoy the studies also. We too are looking forward to the bird study.