If you are just joining us, yesterday my daughter asked me if caterpillars are ticklish. Today is the day we find out.
First we needed a test subject
Acquiring a test subject was easy. It’s spring. All we really had to do was park under a tree overnight. When we walked out this morning, we found plenty of candidates.
Then we gathered our tickling supplies
Slightly more difficult was the question of how to tickle the caterpillars. Fingers were clearly out due to the caterpillars’ mushability (which naturally led to a series of questions about why caterpillar insides are so mushy).
We needed a more gentle approach. I suggested tickling the caterpillars with a feather to see what they did. My daughter suggested tickling them with leaves and flowers. We decided to try all of them.
So we gathered a leaf and a flower from outside, and pulled one of the feathers off a cat toy.
Tickle Attempt 1: The Leaf
Tickling a caterpillar with a leaf was hard. Once you put the leaf near the caterpillar’s belly (where the nervous system is), the caterpillar simply squidged onto it.
Preliminary Verdict #1:
Leaves do not appear to be very ticklish for caterpillars.
Tickle Attempt #2: The Feather
The first tickle with the feather was highly satisfying, as the caterpillar promptly curled up on its side just like my daughter does when I tickle her. It looked very ticklish. But the results of the second and third attempts with the feather were not as compelling (the caterpillar simply ignored it).
Preliminary Verdict #2:
Feathers appear to be more startling than ticklish.
Tickle Attempt #3: The Flower
The flower gets more points, as my daughter says, because every time we tried to tickle the caterpillar with the flower, it appeared to work.
Caterpillars are ticklish with the right equipment.
What the 4-Year-Old Thought:
Finally, thank your test subject
No caterpillars were harmed in this experiment, although one of them was thoroughly annoyed. My daughter thanked him with a plate of tasty snacks.