How Small Is Small?

Sep 2, 2015

Sometimes in a world of towering skyscrapers, jumbo jets and warehouses big enough to hold a small planet--or at least a state the size of Rhode Island--we don't realize how “small” small is.

Last weekend it was a veritable insect feast on our narrowleafed milkweed. We saw lady beetles feeding on the oleander aphids, the oleander aphids sucking the very life out of the plant (plant juices) and monarch caterpillars polishing off the leaves.

Then the aphids started crawling on the ‘cats, and a whole new perspective of "small" burst into view.

An aphid, at about 1.5mm, is just a little larger than a pinhead. The lady beetle ranges from 0.3 to 0.4 inches (8 to 10 mm), while the monarch caterpillar, depending on the instar, is absolutely huge in comparison. Spell that H.U.G.E. According to, the 1st instar is 2-6mm; 2nd instar, 6-9mm; 3rd instar, 10-14mm; 4th instar, 13-25mm; and 5th instar, 25-45mm.

With two handheld cameras (a Nikon D800 with a 105 macro lens and a Canon EOS 7D with an MPE 65mm lens), we managed to grab a few photos of a tiny aphid crawling on the caterpillar's head, body and tentacle.

That's how "small" small is.