Ten days ago, I got all excited that we had an Imperial Moth (Eacles imperialis) hanging out on the grape arbor here at Our Little Acre. I'd never seen one before and was really taken with her beauty. To make a long story short (here's the longer version), I brought her in the house, she laid bunches of eggs in five different locations in our dining room, then died a few days later (what they normally do).
Since that time, we've had a small glass dish sitting on the counter of our upstairs bathroom, covered with Glad Wrap that's had small holes punctured in it. In the dish were about 125 little yellow eggs. I think we located all the eggs she laid, but we're not sure! I found another large cluster under a desk, a few days after she laid the other ones. I'm sure they were laid at the same time, but we just didn't find them right away.
We couldn't be certain that her eggs had been fertilized, but we knew we'd know soon enough. Incubation period is 10-15 days and today was Day 10. A couple of days ago, I'd noticed the eggs were darkening in color, so I suspected they might be preparing to hatch. Either that, or they were decomposing.
Just a little while ago, I walked into the bathroom and there were caterpillars crawling all over, inside the dish! Not all of them have hatched out at this time, but I'm sure by the end of the day, they will have emerged. Each one is about 4mm in length.
I placed them all in a larger bowl, went outside and picked a fresh Sweet Gum leaf (they like those) for their first meal. I'd read that it's advisable to wait until they've gotten to their 2nd instar (out of five total) before releasing them outside. So we'll feed them daily until we notice a change.
I'm so excited that we're going to have these living here at Our Little Acre! They will eat themselves fat and they'll eventually crawl into the ground to hibernate for the winter. Next June, they'll emerge just like the beautiful moth we first saw here... their mother.
6 July update: I have found five more caterpillars crawling around in the dining room, where she laid the other eggs. Obviously, she laid eggs in another location that we haven't found. I keep checking to see if there are others, but so far, just the five wee wigglers.
Also, the caterpillars are munching on the Sweet Gum leaf and their digestive systems are working like they should. Their frass is like powder!