The suicidal cockroach

28 Feb

Hannah selflessly decided that she wants her whole class to see the caterpillar in her little bug cage turn into a moth, so we gave the cage and all of it’s inhabitants to her teachers and got ourselves an upgrade.  The new cage is about twice the size of the old one.  We’ll call it bug cage 2.0.

The new bug cage, with a standard 600mL water bottle for size reference

The new bug cage, with a standard 600mL water bottle for size reference

We immediately filled the bottom of the cage with crappy clay soil from the backyard and then found some sticks to prop up for makeshift trees as well.

Since Hannah loves watching caterpillars make cocoons and then emerge as moths, I was really hoping to find another caterpillar, despite the fact that finding one means my beans and leaves are being nibbled on.  I don’t know how I spotted it, but we found a looper caterpillar just like the last one, but way smaller. We are excited that we will be able to watch it grow a lot before metamorphosis.


We also found a weird black and yellow bug.  A few minutes later, we found another one.

The black and yellow (it's whole underside is yellow.  Some of them are more orange, some are more yellow) bug eating an apple next to a beetle

The black and yellow (it’s whole underside is yellow. Some of them are more orange, some are more yellow) bug eating an apple next to a beetle. One of the sexes abdomens sticks out past it’s wings, and the other does not.  I don’t know which is which though.

We then found two brownish beetles and a small jumping spider to add to bug cage 2.0. A katydid was hiding in some long grass in our yard, so it too has been sentenced to captivity.  The next day we found another one at the park. It’s like an insect Noah’s ark in our bug cage!

Both the black and yellow bugs, and the beetles were seen engaging in coitus, so I’m not quite sure if the ball of eggs that appeared in the cage are beetle eggs, or weird bug eggs.  I guess we’ll find out later.

The ball of eggs, hidden under a dirt ledge

The ball of eggs, hidden under a dirt ledge

That night, Rosie (our beaglier x mini foxy puppy) cornered something in the kitchen, alternately trapping it with her paws and putting it in her mouth to throw around in amusement. Uncaged bugs never last long in our house.  Rosie doesn’t eat them, she just likes to torture them until death.

I disregarded my squeamish, want-to scream-like-a-girl reaction to cockroaches and stole it from Rosie for the bug cage.  A cockroach would make an interesting spectacle in there.  Or not.  It just hid under a lettuce leaf.

I also found a big ugly moth on my beans (either laying eggs or eating them, neither of which I condone), so he too went in the bug cage.

We found 3 more weird black and yellow bugs in the garden, so they went in too, brining their number up to 5.  Those little brats can be hard to catch because of their ability to fly.  Or at least glide.  I’m not exactly sure which, but they do have wings.  They just don’t use them much.

Rosie found some more of the same kind of little brown beetles at our front door.  Turns out they  made some sort of nest in a crack between the bricks and the door frame.  I don’t really want a million beetles at my front door, especially since I think this particular kind eats plants, not pests of plants, so about 10 more were added to the bug cage.

Sounds pretty good, right?  I the kids enjoy watching the bugs and drawing them in their science journals (yes, they have science journals, at their request).  The bug cage makes learning about bugs fun.  Every day, we look for new egg piles, holes in leaves, bug hiding places, etc.

a page from Hannah's science journal.  Her old bug cage had a snail

a page from Hannah’s science journal. She drew the picture and we talked about snail facts which I then wrote down for her.  The old bug cage had a snail.

But then there’s the cockroach.  After hiding under the lettuce all day, it seems to have decided that escape is impossible, therefore suicide is the best option.  It dug it’s way to the bottom of the cage and wedged itself between the dirt and the wall.  It’s been like that for days, stuck there, it’s only movement an occasional twitching leg.  I could free it, but that means touching it, and I’d really rather not.

Suicide, or accident?

Suicide, or accident?

One of the katydids is missing a leg.  Not one of the little legs, but one of the big, long, bent, jumping hind legs.  There is no sign of it in the cage.  I’m pretty sure all the things in there are herbivores, except the spider, but surely the tiny garden spider couldn’t consume an entire katydid leg in one night?  Plus how did it come off?  How does a katydid lose a whole leg?  I’m thinking it’s either a case of mating gone wrong, or the leg got stuck in one of the slits at the top of the cage.  Neither scenario explains where the leg went though.

The one hind legged katydid

The one hind legged katydid

The black and yellow bugs are constantly trying to escape.  They can fit their creepy little heads through the slits in the top of the cage, but their bodies are slightly too big. We often see them with their heads sticking out desperately trying to get to the other side.  Three of them did though.  One of the escapees I found in the dining room and killed, the other two remain missing.  One died in the cage and is still in there, stiff and unmoving.  I left him there in case any of the other bugs are actually carnivores or omnivores.  I’m thinking not, since it’s still there.

The spider finally figured out it was small enough to fit through the slits and lived on the outside of the lid for a while before disappearing all together.

The moth also kicked the bucket after only a few days of captivity.  It’s still in there too, standing at the bottom of the cage with it’s wings up, like it’s had an unfortunate appointment with a taxidermist.

There is nothing alive about this moth

There is nothing alive about this moth

Rosie found a cricket in the house (an alarmingly frequent event), so I stole it before she commenced torture.  After a couple of days though, it too went the way of the cockroach.

suicidal cricket, or accidentally stuck?

suicidal cricket, or accidentally stuck?

And the caterpillar?  After one day, it climbed a little branch, and looked like it was slipping out of it’s green skin in favour of white skin.  The green skin clumped together on it’s back which looked like little tiny grapes, revealing white underneath.  Shortly after, a silk like web appeared around the now white, still tiny caterpillar, and then what looks like a layer of black armour appeared over the white skin.  It’s been like that for days, unmoving.  Surely it’s too early for the caterpillar to turn into a moth?  It’s still so tiny!

It's so small, you can hardly see it, but it's there on the little stick

It’s so small, you can hardly see it, but it’s there on the little stick

I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do when the eggs hatch, since the resulting bugs or larvae or whatever emerges will be small enough to fit through the slits.  I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.  In the mean time, we’re still enjoying bug cage 2.0.  It’s better then TV.

See, it really is better then tv

See, it really is better then tv


Today I found out that the black and yellow bugs are soldier beetles.  They are beneficial insects, so I let all of them go in my bean patch.  The brown striped bugs are actually whitefringed weevils.  As larvae, they eat taproots of legumes as well as underground peanut pods, causing much damage and or plant death.  As adults, they chew on leaves.  At least I caught them all (near my peanut plant), but I certainly hope they don’t procreate.  Hopefully all those eggs are soldier beetle eggs…..

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2 Responses to “The suicidal cockroach”

  1. Verla April 11, 2015 at 10:42 am #

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  2. Formerly Top Gear August 8, 2015 at 3:58 am #

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