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The Felix Files: Part Two

I never imagined my daughter would be coming home every day and asking to play with her caterpillar, but that's exactly what happened. She would faithfully take Felix outside in the grass to play and munch on fresh leaves. Felix continued with as voracious an appetite as ever. We had fun watching him slurp drops of water off of leaves.

After about two weeks I noticed Felix wasn't eating much, which was very unusual. Then he stopped eating altogether. He became less active and began to secrete a green liquid. Felix was not looking well. My daughter was distraught. Was her little pal going to die?

We wondered if maybe he ate a plant that had been sprayed with something, or maybe he wasn't getting enough water. I turned to Google, and ended up on some corner of the internet with a hornworm breeder, who said the biggest thing to do when caterpillars get the "green sickness" was to rinse them off and keep them in a warm, moist environment. So that's what I did. I checked and pestered that caterpillar constantly to make sure he wasn't going to die on us. Sometimes the only way I could tell he was still alive was because I could see the vein in his back pulsating.

Felix perked up after about two days and got his appetite back, but his coloring still looked off. More Googling revealed something surprising-- ALL OF IT WAS NORMAL. Hornworms secrete that green liquid as part of a "purging" process as they prepare to pupate. And, hornworms pupate in the ground. So we needed to get Felix into some soil.

We altered Felix's habitat with some loose soil. My daughter insisted on having a goodbye party and she played with him one last time. She said she wanted him to stay a caterpillar forever, but she finally resigned to letting him go and placed him in the habitat. Within a few hours, he had burrowed. So that's it I guess, I thought. Next time we see Felix, he'll be a moth (I hope).

Wrong. A couple hours later I thought I saw movement from the container. I went to look more closely and Felix erupted from the soil like some kind of terrible cater-zombie. I guess he wasn't quite ready. I gave him some more leaves in case he still had an appetite. When I came back an hour later the leaves were mostly gone... and so was the caterpillar. Burrowed again. This time he stayed down.

After about a week we carefully dug through the soil to check on Felix's process. He was a fully formed pupae now. And he was wiggling. I never knew they wiggled in this stage! But I'm glad they do, so I can tell if he's alive. He's still great at playing dead.

And now we wait.

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