Answer Man: Do all caterpillars turn into butterflies or moths?

News-DemocratMarch 25, 2014 

If they can survive, do all caterpillars turn into butterflies or moths? -- N.C., of New Athens

This could be the easiest question I've had in my 27 years as Answer Man. By definition, caterpillars are indeed the larval form of Lepidoptera, the insect order consisting of moths and butterflies.

"There are lots of other insect larvae out there that resemble caterpillars," says entomologist Chris Hartley, the coordinator of science education at the Missouri Botanical Garden's Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House. "But they're never called caterpillars unless they become a moth or a butterfly."

Not that Hartley doesn't understand your occasional confusion.

"I guess the one most often noticed by farmers and gardeners is something called a sawfly, which actually grows up into a kind of wasp (order Hymenoptera)," Hartley said. "It looks like a caterpillar but with a few simple ID pointers, you can tell the difference pretty easily."

Differences can be found in both behavior and appearance. As it holds onto a plant, the sawfly larva may curl its abdomen up into a C shape, which caterpillars wouldn't do.

But, Hartley says, the most obvious difference is in the legs.

"All insects have six legs, but in the larva stage, they have suckerlike feet that are called 'prolegs,'" he explained. "Quite simply, the sawfly larva has prolegs all down its body while caterpillars have them on only certain body parts. So if you're ever in doubt, all you have to do is count whether it has prolegs all down its body or whether it just has a few."

For the first week, your paper published lengthy stories on the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, but you never said who won. Please finish the story. -- C.R., of Belleville

Dallas Seavey must have added some power bars into that last Alpo he fed his team.

Erasing a three-hour deficit over the final 77 miles, Seavey zipped past the final two mushers ahead of him to win in eight days, 13 hours, four minutes and 19 seconds. He smashed the previous record time for the nearly 1,000-mile race by more than five hours.

It was the second Iditarod crown for Seavey, who, at 25, became the youngest champion ever in 2012. This year, he sped in nearly three minutes ahead of Ally Zirkle -- and more than 3.5 hours ahead of his father, Mitch, who won in 2006 before becoming the race's oldest champion last year at age 53. If you're a real fan, you may remember that Seavey's grandfather, Dan, helped start the whole affair in 1973.

Bringing up the rear was Marcelle Fessineau, who won the not-so-coveted red-lantern award by finishing dead last, more than four days behind Seavey, but only 35 seconds behind next-to-last finisher Lisbet Norris. In the old days of sled-dog freighting and mail carrying, people put out kerosene lanterns to help drivers find their destination. Often called a widow's lamp, it would remain lit until they arrived.

For complete results, go to www.iditarod.com.

When I think of the Indian-head penny, I have two images in mind, one around the turn of the 20th century and another several years later. When did the images of the Indian change? -- Bernard Stelzer of Collinsville

You certainly have a keen eye, but your memory of the dates may not be on the money.

Making its first appearance in 1859, the coin was designed by James Barton Longacre, the fourth chief engraver of the U.S. Mint from 1844 to 1869. He depicted the goddess Liberty wearing a feathered headdress, which he says he based on a statue of Venus that had been loaned from the Vatican to the City of Brotherly Love.

Longacre later sharpened the details of the face and added his initial L on the ribbon behind Liberty's neck. But the only other noticeable change came in 1886 when Charles Barber slightly modified the portrait and shifted the lettering on the right side of the coin. The Indian heads ended in 1909 to make way for the debut of the Lincoln wheat penny that celebrated the centennial of 16th president's birth.

You can find detailed pictures of all Indian head cents at www.coinpage.com. You also can read about all the subtle variations at coins.about.com.

Today's trivia

According to the payment service Square, what state's residents are most likely to tip? What state gives the best tips?

Answer to Tuesday's trivia: Ever since Oregon won the first (and its only) NCAA men's basketball crown in 1939, only three men have coached NCAA title teams after playing on one themselves. One was Dean Smith, who helped Kansas to the crown in 1952 before coaching North Carolina to titles in 1982 and 1993. Another was Bob Knight, playing at Ohio State in 1960 before coaching Indiana to titles in 1976, 1981 and 1987. But the only man to do both at the same school was Joe B. Hall, who played on Kentucky's 1949 championship team before coaching the Wildcats to the top spot in 1978. (Before the NCAA tourney, John Wooden played on Purdue's 1932 Helms Athletic Foundation National Championship squad before leading UCLA to 10 titles in 12 years from 1964 to 1975.)

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com or call 618-239-2465.

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