Wednesday, April 2, 2008


It bothers me. Yeah. That's right. I'm tired of cute, fuzzy, cuddly critters. (Except that saiga antelope. Man that thing is crazy looking!)

Vegetarian Times has put its April 2008 edition online as a free trial of online magazines, which is actually pretty cool, except that you can get all of their recipes online anyway. (Part of the reason I stopped subscribing.) But the image that goes with the article on p. 68 really irks me. The article is called "Eat for Change" and that's all well and good, but there are way too many mammals. Aside from the female human in the picture, there is a rabbit (which looks like a white lab rabbit, including makeup!), a skunk, a deer, and a squirrel (also wearing makeup, apparently this is the one Eddie Izzard met). There are two birds and two butterflies.


I realize that my idea of "cute" might not be the same as anyone else's (yes, I did bring home a pair of cockroaches one time, and yes, I did start to find them sort of adorable) but what about, at least, other attractive vertebrates? There are some lovely lizards and fishies out there, not to mention the sheer cuteness of frogs.

But even including more vertebrates is, well... besides the point. We're the minority, folks. The insects have us, tarsi-down. There are more species of beetle than there are of vertebrates several times over. More than half of known animal species are insects.

For the rest of this week, and all next week, I'm going to post about interesting insects and other non-vertebrates. Let's call it "Get to Know Your Neighbors" week-and-a-half. Interesting critters live all around us, if we're open to seeing them. For example, leaf-cutter ants mostly live in the tropics, but one species lives as far north as New Jersey! I'll write more about leaf-cutters in a post of their own, though -- those minuscule farmers deserve it.

In the meantime, here's a picture of a pair of frangipani hornworm (aka tetrio sphinx moth) caterpillars that I took in St. John.

My hand is actually right next to that caterpillar; I am not using Peter Jackson's camera techniques. They grow to be six inches in length and can eat up to three leaves a day; one clutch can defoliate a frangipani (plumeria) tree in very little time. They might look fat and succulent, but I wouldn't recommend eating them; some of them sequester toxins from their food sources. However, another theory is that they're also mimicking the coloration of a coral snake, which is highly venomous. Either way, they're pretty spectacular larvae! (You can see the little horn on their abdomens in this picture; it looks like a little hair.)

Enjoy the hornworms. More insects tomorrow!

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