I said: “I hope some of the photos are presentable.”
Last Wednesday, a “leopard cub (or so I like to call them), the child of giant leopard moths (a.k.a. eyed tiger moths or great leopard moths; Hypercompe scribonia),” came to visit unexpectedly.
I first encountered the adult back in May 2006. I then enjoyed a bit of exposure to a young’un in August 2007. And while at the family farm in September, I once again saw an adult, only then I was able to get much closer.
Regrettably, I didn’t recognize the first child I saw and, therefore, had no clue as to whether or not the furry little critter could sting. Caterpillars with hair should never be handled unless you’re sure on that point.
Only later did I realize it presented no threat.
So when Larenti and I discovered this most recent visitor, I greedily snatched up the opportunity to visit with the little beast.
Without further tongue wagging from me, here are some photos showing how the visit progressed.
These caterpillars have no natural defenses other than to roll into a ball and hope for the best. Despite their red markings when in this position, they have no toxic weapons with which to fight predators. Curling up and showing their crimson is the pinnacle of what they can do when threatened.
And so this one did precisely that when I picked it up from the patio floor and carried it inside. How those hairs felt alien, ticklish, bizarre against the palm of my hand.
I placed it gently on a notepad to give it time to relax. In that the first one I photographed remained in this position for almost 30 minutes, patience was the word of the moment.
Finally, ever so slowly, it unraveled, much like a flower’s petals unfold with a stillness we can’t imagine. I barely moved for fear of pushing it back to its reclusive position.
Yet, after much time, it did become full of life from a lifeless calm, and it began to move. So I offered it a hand.
And up it climbed.
And up it climbed some more, taking hold of my sweatshirt and continuing its journey upward. And upward. And upward.
When at last it reached my shoulder, its path took an abrupt turn.
Across my chest it marched.
A bit of discovery ensued as it tickled my neck with its marching before a slow swoop took it back to my neck, back to my chest, and forward—at least from its perspective.
Upon discovering my other arm, I laughed as it crawled back toward the desk, back toward where it began this exploration.
Then it landed upon my right hand whence it explored as though finding some new world. I suppose, from its perspective, it was a new world.
Fingertips became a precipice unfathomably high. Yet its tiny little legs clung to me like tape.
No more a smile than a gaping wound on my face, I teetered on the edge of blissful oblivion as it explored, reached, walked, climbed, tarried. All this, no less, upon a single hand.