Mystery Cache

"Caterpillar Does All The Work,*: SI NMNH GeoTour

A cache by Smithsonian NMNH Send Message to Owner Message this owner
Hidden : 4/2/2013
In District of Columbia, United States
4 out of 5
1.5 out of 5

Size: Size: small (small)

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Geocache Description:


Natural History logo

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History GeoTour will be discontinued at a date to be determined in the first quarter of 2018. The NMNH GeoTour was launched April 2, 2013; and we’ve appreciated the support and positive feedback on the NMNH GeoTour from the Geocaching community. We have enjoyed reading your logs. We hope; and I believe we did, through the cache pages and puzzles, provided a different look into the National Museum of Natural History. We wish it could continue but that will not be possible. We wanted to let you know, at this time, so that if you wish to do the tour it should not be put off. As of 4/20/2017 there remain 125 coins to be awarded for completing the tour.

The National Museum of Natural History GeoTour, launched on April 2, 2013, consists of nine caches in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Caches need not be accomplished in any particular order; each can be treated and logged as a stand-alone cache. Geocachers must download a passport, in which the code word(s) from each cache must be recorded. Each cache will take a greater time commitment than most caches due to the nature of the puzzles being a combination of web research and field puzzles. Some caches are in high traffic areas and will be extremely difficult to retrieve without drawing attention. Be prepared to explain what you are doing to lots of passersby. If you intend to do all the caches in one time, it will serve you well to read each cache page and determine the various locations that information for each of the final cache locations must be gathered. Information may have to be gathered from the web (cache-specific sites are listed on the appropriate cache page), in the museum, on the individual cache pages, and in state parks or forests. Each of the nine caches will feature a department but it will be seen that in nature, the subjects of these caches are not so easily pigeon-holed.
This cache features the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History’s Pollinator Garden, Department of Entomology, Butterfly Pavilion, and the Orkin Insect Zoo.

The butterfly is a flying flower,
The flower a tethered butterfly.

-Ponce Denis Écouchard Lebrun

Moths and butterflies are very closely related, though in general, moths are active at night while butterflies are active during the day. Most moths spin cocoons before the caterpillar changes into a pupa; while butterfly caterpillars change into chrysalis with no surrounding cocoon. A domesticated moth produces all the fiber that we humans spin into silk cloth. Butterflies are insects, and thus have three pairs of legs and two pairs of wings. We all love to watch as they gather nectar from a flower or dance in the air as they go to who knows where. They are one insect that makes everyone smile. We get butterflies in our stomachs when we are anxious, nervous, or excited. You can swim the butterfly. There is the butterfly effect, which implies that small changes will result in greatly different outcomes. How did butterflies get the name “butterfly”? If you go on line you will find many different answers to that question, at this point in time the correct answer may be known.

Butterflies and moths are in the Order Lepidoptera (lepido is Greek meaning “scale” and ptera is Greek for wing; but you already know this word from flying reptiles or Pterosaurs, don’t you?). Moths and butterflies were given this name because their wings are covered with scales. You have probably seen the residue that is left on your fingers after handling a moth or butterfly. These are the scales that were rubbed off the wings.

A butterfly is actually the final stage of a varied life; one that has 4 stages—egg, larva,pupa, and adult (butterfly)—each being completely different from the others. On your search for the final coordinates you will learn about the stages of a butterfly’s life. In the garden, depending the time of year, you may see any of the four stages. You will see, regardless of time of year, the last two stages inside the museum as you look for the cache's latitude. Most often, the first stage begins as an egg oviposited on a host plant. All the food necessary for the embryo to grow is contained inside the egg. The egg hatches and the larval stage begins. For butterflies, and the closely related moths, the larval form is more commonly known as a caterpillar. A caterpillar is an eating machine—a giant stomach with a mouth and legs. How many legs does a caterpillar have? They have 3 pairs of true jointed legs on its thorax. Behind on the abdomen, which is long and heavy, prolegs support the back of the caterpillar so it isn’t dragging its butt around. The prolegs are not jointed and are not true legs. The caterpillar’s job is to eat and eat, and as it eats, it grows and grows. During this short period of time, the caterpillar will shed its skin three or four times to make room for its growing body until it is finally ready to pupate and form the pupa.

“Well, I must endure the presence of a few caterpillars
if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

In the third, the pupal stage, most moth caterpillars spin a cocoon from silk glands located in their mouth and then form the pupa inside the protective cocoon. The butterfly caterpillar never spins a cocoon but form a chrysalis which is also the pupa. You will see chrysalides and cocoons when you are looking for “E” in the butterfly and moth emergence case. These chrysalides and cocoons remain here for a variable period of time. They can spend anywhere from 2 weeks to several months in this stage depending on the species or time of year, as some may enter into diapause during winter. During this time the caterpillar will metamorphose into the adult butterfly. In the Natural History Museum, there is a window in the Insect Zoo (free admission) into which you may look and see chrysalides hanging while the pupa undergo metamorphosis. These hanging chrysalides can be seen anytime the museum is open as this is the emergence case for the Butterfly Pavilion (fee to enter) in which the fourth and final stage of the butterfly’s life cycle can be seen (there is no data in the Butterfly Pavilion which is needed to find the cache).
“And soon, three pale green dollops hung from the carved-out leaves, each studded with four gold beads--so gold they looked to be mineral--not animal--a miracle that kept us amazed as the walls grew clear and the transformed things broke through, pumped fluid in their wings, dried off--and flew.”
from Chrysalis
by Joan Murray
The Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Zoo are live exhibitions that help make science interactive and fun. The Butterfly Pavilion features over 300 live tropical butterflies from around the world demonstrating co-evolution with plants. The Insect Zoo offers a showcase of arthropods with tarantula feeding demonstrations and an opportunity to touch and hold live arthropods.

In addition to the arthropod biology exhibited in the Insect Zoo and Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution, a tremendous amount of entomological research goes on behind-the-scenes. The Department of Entomology at Smithsonian houses a collection of 35 million insect specimens, including about 3 million Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths). These collections are used both for basic research on evolutionary relationships and ecology and for applied research critical to agriculture, including pollination and biological control. A major current focus is documenting the Lepidoptera of South America, the richest and mostly poorly known fauna in the world.

Information to find the cache
To obtain the latitudinal coordinates for the cache you will have to visit the Insect Zoo and Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution exhibitions at in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. You will then proceed to a series of waypoints in the outdoor Butterfly Garden to obtain the longitudinal coordinates to the final. The Insect Zoo and Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution exhibitions are on the second floor of the Museum.

In the exhibit area, outlined in red, you will collect the information to complete the latitude for the final cache.
A)To your right as you enter the Hall from the Rotunda there is a sign about the departments involved in piecing together the insect plant co-evolution. A = Number of museum departments involved in this study.

B)"The Family Tree Takes Root" B = Sum the digits in the number of millions of years ago that moths first evolved #+#+#

C)"Smell the Early Flowers" C = Number of letters in the missing word. “They have a short,_______-like tongue.

D)"Modern Family Tree" D = Today there are about 120 families of moths and __#/2__ families of butterflies.

E)Find the Butterfly and Moth Emergence Case. Look at all the cocoons hanging there. Look for a moth or butterfly emerging from its cocoon. Read the labels and you will see one that has GC3RR35 on it. There will also be a (number). E = (number)

F)"Strategic Defenses" located in the Rain Forest. F = Passion flowers grow features on their leaves that look like an _____ to fool the Heliconius butterflies. Understand why the plants do this. Number of letters in missing word (singular).

G)"Evolving Together" G = Length -1, in inches, of the Giant Hawk moth's tongue.
Note that there is the subtraction of 1 from the length of the tongue

Checksum digit of AB° CD.EFG’ = 6.

The longitude will be obtained in the outdoor Pollinator Garden east of the Natural History Museum at waypoints 1- 7. You are looking for W 0TU° VW.XYZ'

1) T= "Butterfies land on the wide petals then delicately probe the flower's _________....." number of letters in the missing word.

2) U = What part of the light spectrum can bees see? Number of letter in the word minus 4.

3) V= How many numbers are on the spiral notebook page with the magnifying glass and three illustrated bees? The number is not 3!!!!

4) W =How many illustrated bees are on this sign?

5) X= "Honey bees communicate through ----- ------------- -------------- (three words)". Count the number of letters in all three words and divide by 3. X=# of letters/3

6) Y= Moths frequently visit _______ _______, moonflowers, and tobacco. what you are looking for should be very obvious.

7) Z= "... adds $2Z billions in value..."

Checksum digit of TU° VW.XYZ' = 9

Critical requirements and rules for the award of the geocoin are here.

1) The Original 9 caches of the NMNH GeoTour must be completed.

2) Two (2) photographs are required. Posted with your found log. (This is not an ALR as you may log a find on these two caches without posting a picture. It is a requirement to be awarded a geocoin. In other words – no photos no coin but your found log will stand).
a. Photo of an adult at GC3RRWA "CINMAR" with the log book clearly next to the face. Do not expose the code word in the photo.
b. Photo of an adult at GC3T24J “Leave it to Beaver” with the log book clearly next to the face. Do not expose the code word in the photo.

3) A completed Passport with the required code words sent to the address listed on the Passport.

4) One (1) coin per household or mailing address. If there are multiple geocachers in a household who have completed the tour, only one (1) coin will be awarded to that address.

5) The passports that have been received prior to January 1, 2016 will be awarded one coin without having to meet item 1 above, and these rules were not in effect for the NMNH GeoTour at that time.

6) January 1 will be the date of publication of these requirements to earn the geocoin.

Click this link to down load the NMNH GeoTour Passport


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Additional Hints (Decrypt)

*ohg gur ohggresyl trgf nyy gur choyvpvgl." Trbetr Pneyva

Decryption Key


(letter above equals below, and vice versa)



296 Logged Visits

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Current Time:
Last Updated: on 7/21/2017 6:18:05 PM Pacific Daylight Time (1:18 AM GMT)
Rendered From:Unknown
Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum