Young and old

Many adult insects don’t look like the juvenile ones they used to be. These insects are called holometabolous, meaning they transform during development. The opposite is hemimetabolism where juveniles look like small adults. Back to the holometabolous kind. I love this aspect of insects, but it does make identification more difficult because you have to know what both the juvenile and the adult look like. Most people encounter this problem when trying to determine what type of butterfly or moth a caterpillar will become.

For example, unless you’ve seen it before, finding this in your garden doesn’t tell you what beautiful or boring adult it will become.

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Some identification books will provide pictures of caterpillars, but most won’t. I prefer to just keep them and see what they become! That particular caterpillar became this lovely butterfly.

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It’s a anise swallowtail, and the caterpillars are actually really cool, but that’s another topic. Back to the subject of transformation. I found a cool one in my yard this summer. This little guy was hanging out on some cone daisies. I didn’t capture and keep it because I wan’t sure what I wanted to eat.

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I think it looks a lot like a tiny dinosaur. In fact, it is a young katydid. Last week I found the adult. It was in pretty much the same location so possibility actually the same individual.

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Katydids are in the cricket family (Tettigoniidae). They are interesting insects. The females lay their eggs in plant stems or in the dirt at the end of the summer. The eggs hatch in the spring, letting the juveniles develop all summer. Depending on the species, they can eat anything from leaves and flowers to bark to other insects. They wave their antennae like hands and have cool eyes. And when they are young, they look like tiny dinosaurs.

This is why I always love to keep insect pets. It’s so much fun to see what they become!


About keviclaire

I recently graduated from the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley. My research interests are focused on biological control and how to increase it's use in agriculture and home gardens. I am also an avid gardener and insect photographer. I'm using this blog as a place to share those interests!

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