Fostering curiosity in kids (and their parents) since 2011

Throwback Thursday: “Are caterpillars ticklish?” Part Two: The Tickling

Every once in a while when I tell people the name of my blog, they want to know why I picked it. Believe it or not, there is actually a reason. Back in the days when my daughter’s question-to-declarative sentence ratio was a hefty 15:1, she asked me a question about caterpillars that launched an impromptu science experiment that was so much fun, I decided to document it (and a few of my daughter’s other questions) for posterity.

Her question, “Are caterpillars ticklish?”,  became the first post on this blog. Back in those days, The (then) Four-Year-Old called caterpillars caterpickles, so the name seemed only natural.

Finding out whether or not caterpillars are ticklish turned out to be a multi-post adventure, with the setup for the experiment happening in the first post. The bulk of the experiment happened in Part Two, however, so that’s the post I’ve chosen to reproduce here. This only vaguely science-y experiment was first published on May 31, 2011, when The Nine-Year-Old was a mere four-year-old.

a small green caterpillar next to the end of a measuring tape. The caterpillar is about 3/4 of an inch long.

Our Test Subject (shown next to a ruler because measuring stuff makes it seem more science-y)

If you are just joining us, yesterday my daughter asked me if caterpillars are ticklish. Today is the day we find out.

What Happened:

Parking the car under a tree worked beautifully. When we walked out this morning, we found plenty of candidates.

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.

The same small green caterpillar has climbed onto the leaf.

Get me out of here!

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 seem 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.

My daughter tries to tickle the caterpillar on its leafy perch with a white flower.

tickle, tickle, tickle

Our Conclusion:

Caterpillars are ticklish with the right equipment.

What The Four-Year-Old Thought:

“Very good.”

In Case You Were Wondering:

No caterpillars were harmed in this experiment, although one of them was thoroughly annoyed. My daughter placated him with a plate of tasty snacks.

My daughter shredded up some leaves and left them on a brightly if inexpertly painted plate.

mmm caterpillar snacks

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