House Cats of Central Ohio: Love Triangle

In this episode of House Cats of Central Ohio, we find spurned, long time lover Sookie sulking. Miles seems to have thrown her over for the younger and more formally dressed Olivia Wigglebothum. Rumor has it that Olivia gives as good as she gets in the grooming department.

Whatever cat fight is brewing, Miles will sleep through it.

In a twist of blackmail, back stabbing, and faked evil twins, Sookie has a plan!

The Wigglebothum is out. Sookie has resumed her deserved place.

On the next episode of House Cats of Central Ohio, Miles finds himself trapped like a CATerpillarby one of his jealous loves.

Will he metamorphosis? Will he fly?

What are these caterpillars thinking?!

I’ve been holding off on this post because there was the real possibility that I would murder these five innocent yet obstinate swallowtail caterpillars. Their collective attitude makes monarchs seem simple and angelic. As of this writing, (November 26- this will probably publish later) everyone is in chrysalis and seem safe.

Everything I read about swallowtails indicated that they would form their chrysalis and overwinter. I was in the habit of getting out of my car and taking a caterpillar head count before even going in the house after work every day. However as we edged into the end of October and actual ice in our rain on Halloween night, these guys showed no sign of decamping the fennel plant for their winter homes. October20198

I fully panicked  on November 2, when I came home to find two of them heading inside dead leaves in the grass. Two more were still hunkered down at the base of the fennel where they had been days before; and for the love of Pete, IT WAS COLD!

I found a shallow styrofoam tray in the recycling, dug up a clump of curled parsley, and some un-frosted dill. Yes, we had had at least one frost by this time. What are these caterpillars doing?!

I bundled everybody up with the plants in the pop-up environment and relocated them to my unheated garage. I was afraid that the heat in the house would further mess with their tiny crawly instincts. Additionally, I could not find an article that would clearly tell me how to proceed. Heated house? Cold garage? Stop messing with shit? Who knew.

At any rate, everybody ramped up their activity level within an hour of being in the garage. I really thought one in the leaf was dead.

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November 2

However this arrangement lead to idiotic situations where I “needed to take my caterpillars for a walk.” I couldn’t just leave them in a dark, windowless garage all day! Plus the live plants needed the light as well. I would set them out in the sun and hope for the best before going to work every morning. There was one day where it turned extremely cold and rainy before I got home, and I found two of them curled up on the floor of the tent as if they had fallen.

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Miles gets it.

However the longer this went on, the more I worried about their time frame. I now theorize that reason that elementary classes use monarchs to raise and watch in the classroom is that monarchs follow a predictable timetable whereas apparently swallowtails do whatever the fuck they want. I’m not the boss of them!

Finally, I decided that maybe this was more about time than temperature. Everyone’s activity had slowed. One little guy had been in the same spot under the egg carton for days. Another had assumed what I considered the pre-pupal J position, but was not moving forward. I could see the anchoring silks near all of their heads and bums. Around November 10, I decided to bring them into the house to see if warmer environment helped to speed things along. Again, I could not find helpful articles that really spelled out what to do so this was just me rolling the dice. (Potential murderess  here!)

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Success came on November 16 and 17. One by one, I discovered them in chrysalis. The one on the stick was the first to go. However this is where I cut our ties. Some articles suggested keeping the chrysalis in unheated garages and even your refrigerator, but they also said that some swallowtails have stayed in chrysalis for over a year! I cannot maintain this level of stress or caterpillars in my fridge for over a  year. Also between climate change and Ohio’s multiple personality weather patterns, who knows what these guys will decide to do.

The one on a stick is firmly planted in a bush where I can see it. The other four are sheltered in a styrofoam and egg carton “hut” that gives some ventilation and an exit strategy if they decide to emerge on one of our freaky high 50’s “winter” days. Hopefully, predators and weather will let all five survive until late spring. Keep ya’ posted!

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November 16- 17

Wearable Art: Spiders!

Yet another double dip from my instagram takeover to go along with my insect theme.

Last summer I was in a weird? unhealthy? relationship with a Black and Yellow Garden Spider. Bernadette was an orb weaver, measured about 3 inches across, and scared the ever living shit out of me.

DSCF3432However she also fascinated me. People threatened to un-friend me if I posted one more photo of her on social media. I checked in on her every day, multiple times a day. I could clearly watch her from my living room window. I gathered Japanese beetles and stink bugs to drop in her web; she was the only one who would eat those pests. Watching her attack them made all the screams go live in my head. If you can see the webbing come out of a spider’s butt then the spider is too big.

Then Bernadette got pregnant, moved house, and built her nest sac by my back patio doors. We had a Charlotte’s Web moment where she passed away a few days later, and I totally relocated her egg sac to the back of the garden because that is 1000 BABY SPIDERS!

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Somewhere  towards the end of this summer in the midst of my spider drama, I found Jamie’s shop on Etsy (JamieSpinello). One recommendation lead to another and then to her etched copper and silver jewelry, two of my favorite jewelry mediums. The cuff’s description talked about orb weavers and I could see all of Bernadette’s brilliant patterns including her hunting instinct in Jamie’s design.  (Also, I grew up on Linda Carter as Wonder Woman, and it sure as hell feels like a bad guy deflecting Wonder Woman bracelet.)

  • Artist: Jamie Spinello @jamiespinello
  • Title/year: Moth and Spider, 2018
  • Materials: copper

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We’d like to speak to a manager

Not sure what happened. I turned around to find that they had followed me into the bedroom and were lined up like this.

Sookie seems intensely concerned about that amount of laundry that needs done. ( She really needs to worry about the 5 baskets that need put away.) Birdie has the vapors and passed out on a boot.

I’ll assume that Miles thought there would be snacks.

…and then we were scientists!

Twas another buggy day. I’d had a brown orb weaver camped out across my front windows stretching from the porch post to the Japanese maple. It did not keep its web as neat and tight as Bernadette did nor did it exude her confidence. It really only seemed to be out in the evenings and would scurry into a curled up maple leaf whenever I opened the front door or approached for pictures. It took caution and quiet not to panic it.September20192It was there for ages and then gone. Deceased or moved on I thought. However much like Bernadette did, it was just relocating. I opened my front door early one morning intent on putting things in order to drive off to MomBert’s and almost walked through a new web. Puzzlement and a high pitched scream saved me from having a large orb weaver stuck to my midsection.

It had not spared an inch, literally using the entire doorway as a frame for a new web. The door looks wet because I tried to “mist” the web strands in an attempt to photograph its enormity. No luck. While this seemed like excellent home security, I did not think that the cat sitter needed to deal with it. I gently broomed down the web and deposited the spider in the nearby hostas.

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Part two of a buggy day happened later at MomBert’s. This summer she had a absolute herd of monarch caterpillars nom nomming her milkweed. They were also incredibly cooperative caterpillars in that they all created their chrysalises in blatantly obvious spots: the side of her house, in between fence posts, and off of railings.

Unfortunately, not all survived the process. The monarch chrysalis darkens and becomes solidly black before the butterfly emerges however turning black and staying that way is an indicator that the butterfly died. One chrysalis on the side of the house was definitely a goner as it had been there for some time and we could see a crack in it.October20191

My nephew and I were both curious about the insides of the chrysalis. Instead of smashing our way in, we got two pairs of tweezers and the trusty magnifying glass.

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There may have been the suggestions of a leg or antennae, but nothing solid when we got it open. In a very unscientific way, I can testify that the inside of a dead chrysalis smells like really stinky feet and lettuce that has liquefied in the salad container.

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Sookie Relaxes

Sookie belongs to Miles. It’s been that way since a day after I brought her home from the shelter. I am simply a provider of food and a possible serial killer in her eyes.

She rarely relaxes around me. It was only last winter that she started actively sitting beside me on the couch while allowing me to pet her. Even when she’s snuggling with Miles, she keeps a watchful eye on me, guarding her man from the two-legged predator.

I do my best to not disturb her when she finally does give in to sleepy peacefulness. There’s a progression. Sookie on her side, belly floof exposed is definitely an adorable start. It’s when she goes for the upside down head and even more belly that she’s really having a zen moment.

I watched the couples version of her relaxing over the course of a morning (I have grading but would rather watch cats sleep)

You can see her changing head and body positions for the deepest sleepiest stages. Until we arrive here at the apex of couple cuteness. So much floof.