Thursday, May 7, 2009

Experimenting with the Rasta

Rasta this and rasta that, lol. I've got nothing against rasta or rastafarian, I've just come across a rasta caterpillar so i'm in a rasta mood.

Yes, there is such a thing as a rasta caterpillar, well actually it's called the frangipani caterpillar. Okay, for those people who are not into biology, forestry or the environment, let me break it down for you.

The rasta caterpillar or rasta chini as it is known in Dominica is a black and yellow caterpillar, with a pink, reddish face. It gets its local name from its colour scheme but its more common name is the frangipani caterpillar. It's name is derived from the frangipani plant because of the fact that it feeds off two groups of flowering plants (the frangipanis and the allamandas).

There are some peculiarities about the caterpillar:
  1. papae develops in the ground and not on plant
  2. caterpillar only feeds on frangipanis and allamandas
  3. birds dont feed on the caterpillar; because it feeds on plants that are highly toxic
The rasta chini is often seen at a particular time of the year, which is about now, april - june, and because of that you may often find the plants are left without leaves and flowers during that period. It often resembles a skeleton.

I remember capturing the caterpillar as a little boy and keeping it in a box just to see what would happen. Nothing ever came out of it, but now i've been told that the caterpillar hardly ever molts from the papae into the hawkmoth in captivity but no one can give me a real reason though.

So I've decided to try it again, this time with a little more knowledge about the insect. I will trap two or three of them and observe them over the next few months, I will try to give updates here and provide photos. Don't worry I only want to observe the molting process into the hawk moth. I'm no scientist so don't expect any weird experiments, lol.

Will keep updated information on this blog...


N.B. Dominica has one native frangipani (plumeria alba) or bwa rasta (rasta wood/rasta plant). It is called bwa rasta because the rasta caterpillar feeds on it.

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