Caterpillar CPR

Tagged: ,

  • This topic is empty.
  • Creator
  • #12896


    Sarah Dalton, who is a Senior Naturalist, at Blendon Woods Metro Park in Ohio, passed me this which I though I’d share with you:

    "I’ve worked with Metro Parks here in Columbus, Ohio for almost twenty years now and pride myself on being a highly trained professional naturalist. So it’s nice to see myself able to swing into action, make clear-headed decisions, and use my training in an emergency. It’s really nice when it results in the saving of a drowning victim in my own park. But I doubt I’ll get a medal for saving this life….

    I have now successfully performed CPR on a caterpillar!

    We had had a tripod of branches set in a shallow pan of water allows our caterpillars to make their chrysalises in full view of the the public visiting my nature center. Usually staff or a volunteer is at the desk to keep an eye on things. When I was closing up the building last night, I noticed one of the caterpillars had fallen in the water and was floating quietly. I had been showing folks the caterpillars there just a few moments before so I knew it hadn’t been in the water long. So I fished it out and laid it on my palm.

    Totally limp, like a drowned worm. I poked at its side –not even a reflex movement. I poked again and thought, “Well, why not?” So I began poking gently between each pair of prolegs, half expecting to see little jets of water squirting from its spiracles. That didn’t happen so I started working my way up and down its belly, trying to get its circulation going. I giggled to myself as I noticed that whenever I poked, its head would pop out like that child’s squeeze toy with the eyes that pop out. I kept doing that for about a minute, thankful that no one else was in the building to see me doing this crazy thing, and then gave up. I laid the caterpillar back down on the desk, gave it one last farewell poke, and … it curled reflexively, just a little!

    I picked it back up, worked on it for a few seconds more, and it curled up tight around my finger! I left it alone then and watched as it gradually came to in my hand. Finally it did that neat little reverse curl to set itself on its feet and began swinging its head from side to side as if laying down silk. I put it back in a container by itself with a fresh milkweed leaf. By the time I was ready to leave for the night it had snacked a bit on the milkweed and seemed perfectly alright.

    I don’t usually name the captive animals we keep in the Nature Center but I think I’ll make an exception and name this one – Lazarus, of course!"

Viewing 5 replies - 1 through 5 (of 5 total)
  • Author
  • #16293


    Hi Adrienne,

    I think that you may be right. I finished a lot of caterpillars off earlier in the season with pumpkin and the longer they’d been on the pumpkin the less silk they made. See my reply to you in another thread.




    Hi shaun, yes they are indeed amazing. I have just hatched a beautiful monarch yesterday but the day was tempered by sadness when my younget caterpillar appeared to be “hanging” too early. It was much younger than two others who are still munching and didn’t have any white sticky stuff to hang by. I touched it gently to see if it was just asleep but it fell off. So I left it in a safe place on a piece of tissue paper with a piece of pumpkin next to it. it was a warm place and I though t if it was still alive it may do something. When I got home later in the day I found a lot of green jelly had poured out the back end of it ad it appeard to be dead. I gently moved it to a different place and didn’t have the heart to throw it outside. Imagine my surprise ( and horror that I may have killed it) when I see this morning that it is half way into a chrysalis but appears to have not been able to finish the job. I feel terrible tat I may have caused it to drop, so I have another one hanging today and it has no white stuff to hang with either so I am leaving it alone to let nature do its job.
    I was wondering if maybe the pumpkin doesn’t allow them to make that sticky white stuff the way milkweed does?




    I’ve had similar experiences as you adcat, seemingly drowned caterpillars ‘come to life’ when left in a sunny spot and warmed up (although the intention was more drying than warming).

    It’s not always a good idea to anthropomorphise our little charges. Monarchs are capable of ‘suspended animation’, as in the pupal stage. I think that rather than CPR, or even warming them up, it’s probably more a case of the caterpillar shutting down it’s metabolism when it can’t get either oxygen or out of the water and “hoping” (there I go!) that it’ll survive until things get better.

    Sometimes it pays to remember that these wonderful creatures are far, far different from us mammals. 🙂





    I had a similar experience just a few day ago when one of my caterpillars seemed quite motionless after getting a dunking while eating a seed casing that was floating in a glass of water. I put him in my hand and blew on him with hot breath for while until he responded!! I just assumed he was too cold and that I warmed him up. Adcat



    That is absolutely amazing. I thought the wing transplant was fantastic.
    There are so many clever people out there.

Viewing 5 replies - 1 through 5 (of 5 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.