Caterpillar poop (Frass)

Frass or caterpillar poop
Frass or caterpillar poop

There is a caterpillar the size of my thumb dining on the Virginia Creeper here. As part of my duties as one of the editors of the Friends of Cave Creek Canyon Facebook page I thought, “That’s a nice bug. I think I’ll get a picture for our page.” Getting a clear and interesting picture of a small moving object is fraught with trouble. The wind blows, the caterpillar is in sun and shade, there are snakes in the bushes, my low to the ground squat was unstable…I spent quite a bit of time and all my photos were blurry or over exposed. The iPhone and I were at our technical limits. The caterpillar was swinging its head back and forth as if it was a boxer trying to avoid a jab. I thought maybe it was starting to form its chrysalis. I couldn’t see any silk so I wondered about what it was doing. Then it extruded a poop. I was surprised. I presumed caterpillars had dead ends like some larva. Wrong. Caterpillar poop is so important to fertilizing the world that it has a name, frass. This particular caterpillar, a sphinx moth larva, poops star shaped turds with white centers. These are the loveliest feces I have ever seen. A Facebook follower suggested they would make nice earrings. All vegetable.

Sphinx moth caterpillar
Sphinx moth caterpillar. This was the best I could do.
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