I've been waiting for the end of this little story to emerge from its cocoon, and received word today that it is over. Our toxic little asp is dead. What!?? You may ask? "What?", as in... What is an asp?...... or "What?" as in.....Should we mourn another loss at Ararat Acres? I am here for you....to educate the general public about this bizarre creature in the insect world.
Lest you think we live in a scary world out here in the country (believe me, I think those of YOU living in the city are living in a scary world of a different variety.....but I digress!), an asp is just one of those things out here that you learn about and then watch out for. Nobody's ever died from one (that I know of), but countless people have ended up in the emergency room because of one.
Setting the Stage: So here I was, minding my own business, picking the evil bagworms off of a bush, when what should I see, but just about the cutest little caterpillar you could imagine. Why, it was so cute you'd just want to pick it up and cuddle it. The common sense side of my brain said, "something that cute can only mean trouble". So, with my gloved hand, I picked up the little bundle of cuteness, put it in a jar, and set about trying to identify it on the internet. It took awhile, but when I finally stumbled upon the right website (you really must go to that website to learn everything you ever wanted to know about these guys), I was VERY thankful I had not stroked its cute little furry body like I really wanted to (I am very texture oriented, and I really really wanted to!). See, one little brush with this little guy/gal, and you could end up in the emergency room. (Go here and here to see more pictures and information.)
I called my caterpillar expert friend, Michelle, and told her what I'd found. She raises caterpillars as a hobby of sorts (I think she might try to housebreak them too), and then she turns the butterflies loose when they emerge from their cocoons. It really is quite interesting, and she knows an awful lot. She was so interested that she raced 40 miles over here to "rescue" it. Only she would say, "Hey, nice asp!" , and really mean it. She put little asp in a caterpillar incubator, and within the week, it had finished its lifetime as a caterpillar, woven its cocoon, and was ready to think about being a moth (because, technically....it will grow up to be a moth, not a butterfly). There is very little information known about the latter part of the life cycle of an asp, so this was a biology experiment. I understand that the moths are really quite beautiful, except for the part about laying eggs and procreating more little asps.
Almost a month later, Michelle emailed me: the little asp had emerged as a cute moth, and then had promptly died, she feared, of neglect. She said it was so small that she didn't notice it for a couple of days, and by then, it had died. None of us are so sad about this ending, however. While it was a good biology lesson, we weren't sure what we were going to do with an asp moth. I'm sure even Noah had his limits on the ark.