Answers to your Questions!

Saturday, May 24, 2003
Teresa wrote:

Have you noticed any parasitation when taking care of the zoo?

My Response:

We have had several caterpillars that are in the zoo die. Right now the reasons for their deaths are not known. The will be watched carefully over the next several days to see if parasites emerge from their bodies. Several parasitized caterpillars have been found in the forest.... they are pretty bizarre looking!!

Friday, May 23, 2003
Elea Wrote:

What is the smallest caterpillar you have found so far?

My Response:

Some of the geometrids we have found are tiny! They are only 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch long and are about the diameter of a piece of angel hair pasta!

Sheri Wrote:

Have you stepped in anything gooey yet?

My Response:

Funny you should ask! Off trail, the forest floor is covered with a multitude of materials that have all kinds of textures! Everything from crunchy twigs and sticks to slippery leaves! In the plantation fields, there are many deep muddy spots that will grab your boot! If you are not careful, your foot will get pulled right out of your boot while you are walking!

Monday, May 19, 2003
Elea Wrote:

Were there caterpillars already in the lab that needed to be taken care of?
Have you had to collect plant material; is that done immediately upon
finding a caterpillar. so that you know what it eats? Do they have a shortened name
for caterpillar since you say it so often? How many different kinds are you
finding? How large are they? Do they release the moths? Does it rain all day or just several downpours? Do you sleep under a net?

My Responses:

More good questions!

Caterpillars are being raised at a place called the remote lab. It is a building located on a trail around 2500 meters away from the main lab. Remote lab is a very simple building a little smaller that a two car garage and it is built up on stilts so that it is around 6 feet in the air (just high enough for some one who is 6 feet 1 inch tall to repeatedly smack his noggin into the floor joists). Upstairs is where we collect and compile all of the data from the caterpillars we collect. We then put up to 5 caterpillars in a large plastic bag with plant material to eat, tie the bag up so that the caterpillars can`t escape and then put an unfolded paperclip thru the top of the bag so it acts as a hook and the bag can be hung from a string. Underneath the building is what is called the zoo! There are several clothes lines that run the length of the building and it is where the bags with the caterpillars are hung up. The caterpillar zoo is just like a real zoo. Every several days the caterpillars are fed fresh plant material and their bags are cleaned of frass (poop)...(the big caterpillars really go to the bathroom alot!!!) Before we arrived (and when we depart) there is a lab staff person that will continue feeding and taking care of the caterpillars. When a caterpillar is found is it really important to collect several of the leaves that the caterpillar was found on. This way the kind of food the caterpillar eats will be known.... What happens then is that every several days someone will go "grocery shopping" and collect the right leaves from the forest for the caterpillars to eat. Many caterpillars are "specialists" and only eat one kind of leaf. This means that if you feed them the wrong plant they won't eat and will starve to death.

We haven't invented a nickname for caterpillars yet...actually the scientists that we work with call each individual caterpillar by its species name (which is in latin and a lot longer than the word caterpillar -- example: Psychotria forest-psychotria. Oftentimes the scientists will just refer to the name of the caterpillar family such as: Megalopygidae, Sphingidae, Geometridae, Lymantriidae etc...(which to me are a who lot harder to remember than caterpillar!!!!!).

I'll find out tomorrow exactly how many caterpillars we have found and how many different kinds. The biggest caterpillars we have found so far (and we have a lot of them) are called Caligo memnon and the mature ones are between 5-6 inches long and about as big around a hot dog or cigar. You can see a picture of this caterpillar an lots of other caterpillars if you go to or

The moths are kept and positively identified (sometimes they are sent to a taxonimist if no one is sure what kind it is). In the past, Earthwatch Team Members have helped to discover brand new unknown species of moths at Le Selva!!!! The moths are sent to a museum in San Jose and then sometimes sent to other colleges and museums thru-out the world.

The last two days it has only rained at night! During the rainy season it can rain all day and all night for a week at a time. Most of the time it will just downpour several times a day and you get really really wet...but I don't mind because the rain is warm. It is funny because I wear rubber boots that go up to my kneecaps, one day it rained so much that my boots filled up with water!!! During the year, it rains a total of 4 meters or 13 feet!!!!

You asked about sleeping under a net because of the bugs.... To be honest with you, I am really surprised about the whole insect situation! The first day I arrived I put some bug spray on. After I noticed that the bug spray took the paint of my watch and melted some of the plastic I decided I did not want that bug spray on me!!!!! I have been here for nearly a week and have not used bug spray and haven't gotten a single mosquito bite yet! There are a lot of bugs! But most don't seem to bother us too much! (Some of the ants bite if you let them crawl up your legs). The only thing bad that has happened is that I touched a nasty plant that really stung my hand pretty bad it gave me a couple of blisters but they have just about gone away and I'm okay now.

Thanks for the great questions!

Friday, May 16, 2003
Theresa S wrote:

Hi Frank! Did you have a nice trip? Once you landed, did you have to
travel far from the city? Did you get started in the field right away? How
many people are in the group?

My Reply: Thanks for the questions! Right now I'm about one day behind in updating the journal regarding my activities!!! If you read my Journal Entires for 5/15-16/03 you will find answers to most of these questions! I'll answer your remaining questions on my Journal page in the next day or so! Take Care and Be well!

Elea wrote:

What kind of animals are you seeing?

My Reply: This is a great question...and one that I am asking myself!! So much of the wildlife around me is exotic (compared to Indiana) and I don't know what the names of the animals are. Over the coming days I hope to learn the names of what it is that I am seeing!! Once I learn the names I will share them and try to provide descriptions! Some of the animals that I have seen so far include the following: lots of bats, a 4 foot iguana climbing up a tree!!!!, a sloth, a wild pig, lots and lots and lots of large birds, a turtle, a large toad the size of a softball, humming birds, a swallow-tailed kite, an oriel pendulus (sp?) (bird), leaf cutter ants, termites, HUGE butterflies and moths, CATERPILLARS. There were lots of other animals I saw but I don't know their names. I will share the names as I learn them!

Tuesday, May 13, 2003
Hello and thank you for visiting!!

This space on the web will be devoted to answering questions e-mailed to me via the following address:

My intention is to respond to questions "real-time" as they are recieved. In the event that the technology fails, I will reply when I return home!