Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Imperial Moth Caterpillars - Eat, Sleep, Poop

We've lost another caterpillar since the last update a week ago, so we've got 11 at present.  It was one of the smallest and it may have been a casualty of one of its siblings, since I've seen them biting each other on occasion. They don't move very fast in general, but when one bites the other, they rear back their head pretty fast!

 The shed skin is laying just above the caterpillar. Not sure which instar it's in now. There are five total.

Lots of changes going on now.  They're developing spots on the sides and a coat of fine hairs. Also, the head and rear are prominent and have developed spots as well.

Their appetites are amazing. In a day's time, these 11 caterpillars will eat nine large sweet gum leaves! That's nearly one leaf each per day.  We gave them a maple leaf just to see if they'd eat something different, since I'd read that once they start on one type, they don't change. Well, they will, because in the morning, the maple leaf was gone.

Eating that much means lots of poop. Okay, so the PC word is "frass." But it's still poop. (Besides which, poop is a multi-functional word, being a verb as well as a noun. Caterpillars don't frass.) I clean the bowl twice a day because I figure it can't be good breathing the fumes from all that poop and I've seen them trying to eat it. ICK.

 Caterpillars in a nice, clean bowl with fresh eats.

The largest one is now over two inches long. It's amazing to me that just three weeks ago, they were a mere 2 mm in length.

There are likely other caterpillars outside, because Romie found another female (dead) laying in the neighbor's yard a couple of days ago. Amazing that we've never seen these before in our lives, then we see two within a month!

Previous posts about the Imperial Moths:


Joseph said...

They are so cute! I haven't done that since I was a kid... I should do it again one of these summers.

Darla said...

I love the watching this process so much. I have rescued a rather large green cat, not sure it may be a hummingbird moth. I have it in the butterfly cage, prayerfully it will survive.

Fern @ Life on the Balcony said...

I bet all moth mothers wish they could lay eggs in your care!

Robin's Nesting Place said...

I've never seen these before! I have a couple of black swallowtails in the house to watch. It always fascinates me.

Kylee Baumle said...

Joseph! I think they're cute, too, although I hear a lot of comments to the contrary. LOL. But all mothers think their kids are cute, don't they? ;-)

Darla ~ I love watching nature up close and personal like this. Living things for the most part are so resilient, aren't they?

Fern ~ Ha! That reminds me of the time our neighbor said if he came back in another life as a cat, he'd want to live at our house!

Robin ~ We'd never seen them before either. The whole butterfly/moth metamorphosis process is just fascinating to me, too.

Muhammad khabbab said...

wow i am impressed. I am yet to see a caterpillar in my garden though butterflies do visit off and on.

Anonymous said...

I am just leaving you a comment of hello. I came across your blog on a google search for Imperial Moths...I was sitting here in my family room this evening about 10:30pm when a bird hit my window....

wondering why a bird would hit my window at this time of night, I then thought it was a bat and then all of a sudden it came close and fluttered along the window....

To my amazement was this huge moth I had never seen before. I immediately called for my 3 oldest children to get up 8,5,4....to come see this beautiful creature from God....what are the odds we would ever get to see something like this again!!!

Anyhow, I took my pictures and started searching to try and find it on the web....and I came across your site.....

Thank you for sharing about your experience with this moth...it was delightful to read about!!
God Bless,
Melissa D., SC

I'll have pictures up in the next day or so!!

Kylee Baumle said...

Muhammad ~ Keep your eyes open! You'll see one eventually! :-)

Melissa ~ What a great experience! Yes, moths are more active at night. There are some really beautiful ones! Thanks for sharing and I hope to see your pictures soon! (I signed up at Xanga so I can see them!)

Anonymous said...

hello, we just found am imperial caterpillar in our back yard (north of pittsburgh pa) could you please email me how your guys are doing I'd like to try and keep this ( I have 6 & 8 year olds) would like them to see the process but i don't want it to die.any advice would be appriciated! Michelle ishtar_redlion@yahoo.com

betterchance said...

I have the eggs on a curtain on the back porch and want to save them for the preschool. Glad I found your site. I was going to order food for the Painted Ladies because I didn't know what else to do. I do have sweetgum trees. I'll try that. Thanks. I also have the butterfly house for later.

betterchance said...

Hi, I have a cluster of Imperial eggs I want to save for the preschool. Sweetgum leaves? Good, got those. Was going to order the Painted Lady food from Insectlore. They said probably won't work. Googled and found you. Exciting.

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