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Caterpillar Lab inches its way to DTL

By Lauren Schiavone
Hometown Weekly Staff

Individuals of all ages were recently welcomed to Dover Town Library for some creepy, crawly fun as friends from the Caterpillar Lab in Marlborough, NH, traveled with a variety of caterpillars for exploration. Set up in the community room, an entire habitat was recreated for these creatures. Leaves, plants, containers and makeshift biomes made the bugs feel safe enough to crawl freely as staff aided visitors in getting a close-up look at these amazing bugs. 

Jack, a college intern and expert caterpillar handler, helped to distinguish species of caterpillars to those in attendance. The New England area plays host to some fantastic diversity of caterpillar species; from venomous to the docile, camouflaged to multi-colored, numerous types of caterpillars were spotted on the day. One of the most popular, a cecropia, crawled around leisurely on Jack’s hand. These green caterpillars are quintessential, known for their leafy green coloring and vibrant spikes. Cecropia caterpillars are large, and when transformed into moths reach approximately seven inches in wingspan. They have five larval instars, or stages of life, lasting over a week. Jack also displayed a pupa, commonly known as a chrysalis, to show the evolution of the species. 

Lucy McKay, a summer intern, offered insight into the program and where the caterpillars come from. Answering children’s questions and conversing with interested adults, she explained: “All of these caterpillars are found throughout the northeast. They’re all native and local. Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts have very similar species. We can see caterpillars and moths through every stage.” Amongst the insects were leafminers, tiny caterpillars that live in leaves. The particular leafminers that Lab Manager Jesse Varga displayed on the microscope only eat a handful of cells in each bite, and feed off of black locust leaves.

Visitors of the library made sure to check out caterpillar, moth, and butterfly books before leaving. Entomology field guides and illustrated stories are also available to borrow.

Dover is currently participating in the Beyond the Beaten Path summer reading program. More information is available at http://dovertownlibrary.org/ 

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