Disco caterpillars

A park ranger friend once told me that if you sing to webworms, they will dance. Intrigued, I decided to try it one day when I happened on a low tree limb with a web full of Eastern tent caterpillar moth larvae. One had just emerged and was making its leisurely way along the bark - a perfect subject. Looking around to make sure no one would see what I was up to, I leaned over and began to hum a catchy little tune with lots of rhythm. To my absolute astonishment, the webworm started wagging its head and continued until I stopped.

I was hooked. After that, no webworm could escape me. Actually, I found that not all of them were as interested as that first one. The majority, though, responded with enthusiasm.

One day, my 9-year-old grandson and I came upon a webworm colony with one of its residents out for a stroll. I told him about their unique talent. "Sing," he said, his voice laced with a certain amount of skepticism. I did, using the same tune I had sung to the first; it had worked so well. Sure enough, that little caterpillar wagged his head like a trouper.

Johnny's eyes widened in amazement. "They really do!" he exclaimed incredulously.

For those interested in trying it, I have to say that the hardest part is not getting a webworm to dance to your tune. The real trick lies in explaining yourself to gaping passersby when you have to tell them you are not singing to a tree; you are singing to a worm on the tree.

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