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iLabs: Munch, munch, munch

June 22, 2012

Wednesday, June 20th, we had some special visitors here in the Natural World iLab.  Coming from UNC-CH, two researchers brought in tobacco hornworms, Manduca sexta.  These caterpillars are pests that munch on tobacco leaves and are sister species to tomato hornworms which are often found pillaging tomato plants in the backyard.

Tobacco hornworms at different stages of their life cycle.

Two of our study subjects.

In the iLab, visitors learned about their life cycle and helped out with an experiment. The question: How does temperature affect how fast tobacco hornworms eat?

Visitors collected data by counting the number of bites that the hornworms took in 10 seconds while either sitting on ice or sitting on a hand warmer.  Here you can take a look at our results!

Our results from the experiment. The caterpillars took more bites when they were warmer.

Because tobacco hornworms are ectotherms, they are reliant on the temperature around them for energy.  Cold caterpillars have a hard time eating because they simply don’t have the energy.

Be on the lookout for more posts from the Natural World iLab coming soon!

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