Thursday, August 12, 2010

Last Word on the Imperial Moth Caterpillars

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.

Imperial Moth caterpillar chowing down

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:


Carole said...

Wow, you're a cool Mom! Caterpillars in the kitchen, LOL. What a great learning experience.

Darla said...

Just wonderful!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

You make a good nanny Kylee.

Diane said...

Thank you so much for the video. It's incredible, and a little appalling, how much caterpillars can eat, and how efficient they are about it. Love the close view of the pseudolegs, a caterpillar trait I find really fascinating. And that pulsing vein! Neat! I can't wait until next season. I really hope you find the adults.

Alexandra said...

This has been just a fascinating journey. Thank you so much for sharing it.

Alexandra said...

Thank you so much for sharing this fascinating journey with us. It has really just kept me on the edge of my seat all summer!

Linda said...

Thanks so much for blogging about this moth-raising experience! We are in a similar situation... We found an Imperial moth in our backyard, and in the short time while she was a guest in our house (inside a box), she laid her eggs. We collected the eggs and are planning to raise them like you did with yours. Do you have any advice to offer? The eggs were laid this past Monday, July 25th. I'm very excited for my children to watch the beautiful process. Thanks!

andrea@grwhryrpltd said...

Kylee, I never knew you were a caterpillar nurse! What an amazing process to see them grow and change in your own home. Did you end up seeing adult moths the following year?

Kylee Baumle said...

Andrea ~ I kept watching for one, but unfortunately I've never seen another one since that summer. :-( But what a great experience it all was!

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