Owl Caterpillar, Caligo memnon
These caterpillars hatch from eggs occasionally laid in the Conservatory on the Heliconius plants (lobster claw and Bird of Paradise). After they form a chrysalis, they will emerge in a couple weeks' time as an Owl Butterfly (Caligo sp).
After the caterpillars chew their way out of the tiny white pearl-like eggs, they begin eating and double their size every 2 - 3 days by shedding their skin approximately 5 times. Within a few weeks, they can become the size of a hot dog!
After their second or third molt, they acquire what appears to be spines along their back. These are actually harmless tufts of "hair" that are soft to the touch. These spines might make a potential predator think twice before attempting to eat one.
Despite the fact they can reproduce in the Conservatory, we are constantly importing more from South America. We receive bi-weekly shipments of owl chrysalides from a Costa Rica butterfly farm, El Bosque Nuevo (http://www.elbosquenuevo.org/).
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