As fascinating as it has been to watch the Imperial Moth caterpillars eat and grow into gigantic poop machines, the time finally came to put them outside where they belong. They each were eating three large leaves per day and I had to clean the bowl at least twice a day so they weren't crawling around in their own frass.
It's funny how you have a sense of ownership with something that was born and grew up in your home, even though they aren't your kids or even your own species. But like our kids, there is a time of letting go for their own good and survival.
We released them in both the sweet gum tree and the nearby maple. They took to them right away and started eating shortly after they clasped onto the branch. Every time I checked on them later, they were hanging upside down. They must like seeing the world that way.
The most common form of the Imperial caterpillar is green, but ours were all brown. There is only one brood a year and when they've completed the fifth instar, they will descend to the ground and find a soft spot to burrow down under to pupate for the winter. Since the larval stage lasts about 42 days, these will soon be disappearing. (They hatched from the eggs on July 5th, so this weekend will be 42 days.)
|These big guys can stretch out to an even greater length!|
Watching these giant silk moths go through their life cycle has been fun for us. We have raised Painted Ladies and many Monarch caterpillars through their entire life cycle in our house and it's a miraculous process to watch. Out of approximately 150 caterpillars, we ended up with eight that lived to grow big and fat. Once they go underground to pupate, we won't see them until next summer as adult moths, just like the one we found about six weeks ago. At least I hope we will.
|Female Imperial moth on our grape arbor - June 24, 2010|
Previous posts about the Imperial Moths: