Saturniidae Hyalophora Cecropia Eggs, Caterpillars, Moths for Sale

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Hyalophora Cecropia Adult Moth

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Rearing Journal and Photographs

The adult moth on this page is from my first rearing experience. My camera wasn't all that great back then, plus I didn't keep a good photo record. The adult photo (very tacky background) is for reference, so visitors who don't know can see what a cecropia is. I think they are delightfully impressive, beautiful creatures. I like their caterpillars, too. . . . continued


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Due to USDA or USDOT regulations, our insects can only be shipped to jurisdictions where they occur and are approved. Please see state list to determine whether we can ship you the moths you want. Regulations by State BUT, you can apply for receiving permits, which are free and easier to get than shipping permits. If you're approved, you can receive the insects you want from us and we can ship them to you. Apply for permits

The USDA requires all customers purchasing regulated moths to adhere to the following: Organisms may not be distributed or entrusted to other parties, including students, or released outdoors. When finished with them, they must be disposed of by freezing for three days; you can certainly keep them and continue breeding and rearing, but don't release them. Exception: If the moths remain in the state of origin (that would be New York or Ohio -- note return address on shipment), the USDA does not regulate them and customers can do what they want with them.

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LUNA OVA     Unavailable - $10.00 per 15 ova plus $5.00 shipping for any size order. ASCERTAIN CORRECT MAILING ADDRESS IN PAYPAL BEFORE ORDERING!!

CanNOT ship to the following jurisdictions: AK, AZ, CA, CO, DC, FL, HA, ID, KS, MN, MT, NE, NV, NM, ND, OK, OR, SD, TX, UT, WA, WY (But if you have a permit to receive, please contact for further evaluation/instructions, or apply for a free permit.)

POLYPHEMUS OVA     Not available, including bulk increment. Bulk is 50+ eggs for $25 + $5 shipping. Order 3 lots -- we'll know what you want -- and we'll refund $5. Otherwise $10.00 per 15 ova plus $5.00 shipping for any size order. ASCERTAIN CORRECT MAILING ADDRESS IN PAYPAL BEFORE ORDERING!!

CanNOT ship to the following jurisdictions: AK, AZ, DC, FL, HA, ND, NM, NV, OK, OR, SD, TX, UT, WA, WY (But if you have a permit to receive, please contact for further evaluation/instructions, or apply for a free permit.)


CanNOT ship to the following jurisdictions: AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, DC, FL, HA, ID, KS, MT, NE, NM, ND, NV, OK, OR, SD, TX, UT, WA, WY (But if you have a permit to receive, please contact for further evaluation/instructions, or apply for a free permit.)

CECROPIA OVA    No longer available $10.00 per 15 ova plus $5.00 shipping for any size order. ASCERTAIN CORRECT MAILING ADDRESS IN PAYPAL BEFORE ORDERING!!

CanNOT ship to the following jurisdictions: AK, AZ, CO, DC, FL, HA, ID, NV, NM, ND, OK, OR, SD, TX, UT, WA, WY (But if you have a permit to receive, please contact for further evaluation/instructions, or apply for a free permit.)

WIS CECROPIA OVA    Not this year. WI stock, bulk orders only - $28.00 per 50 ova lot, price includes shipping

READ!!!---->CanNOT ship to the following jurisdictions: AK, AL, AZ, CA, DC, FL, HA, ID, NV, NM, ND, OK, OR, SD, TX, UT, WA, WY (But if you have a permit to receive, please contact for further evaluation/instructions, or apply for a free permit.)

Cynthia Ova    Not looking good. - $10.00 per 15 ova plus $5.00 shipping for any size order. Food plants: ailanthus (Chinese tree of heaven) and alternatives.

Can ONLY ship to these jurisdictions: CT, DE, NJ, NY, RI (But if you have a permit to receive, please contact for further evaluation/instructions, or apply for a free permit.)

Polyphemus Cocoons     Sold out - $8.00 per cocoon plus $6.50 shipping for any size order.

CanNOT ship to the following jurisdictions: AK, AZ, DC, FL, HA, ND, NM, NV, Ok, OR, SD, TX, UT, WA, WY (But if you have a permit to receive, please contact for further evaluation/instructions, or apply for a free permit.)

Promethea Cocoons     Sold out - $8.00 per cocoon, plus $6.50 shipping for any size order.

CanNOT ship to the following jurisdictions: AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, DC, FL, HA, ID, KS, MT, NE, NM, ND, NV, OK, OR, SD, TX, UT, WA, WY (But if you have a permit to receive, please contact for further evaluation/instructions, or apply for a free permit.)

Luna Cocoons     not a good year for these, no diapause cocoons to offer - $8.00 per cocoon plus $6.50 shipping for any size order.

CanNOT ship to the following jurisdictions: AK, AZ, CA, CO, DC, FL, HA, ID, KS, MN, MT, NE, NV, NM, ND, OK, OR, SD, TX, UT, WA, WY (But if you have a permit to receive, please contact for further evaluation/instructions, or apply for a free permit.)

Cecropia Cocoons     not a good year for these, no diapause cocoons to offer - $12.00 per cocoon plus $6.50 shipping for any size order.

CanNOT ship to the following jurisdictions: AK, AZ, DC, FL, HA, NV, NM, ND, OK, OR, SD, TX, UT, WA, WY (But if you have a permit to receive, please contact for further evaluation/instructions, or apply for a free permit.)

Cynthia Cocoons     none available - $10.00 per cocoon plus $6.50 shipping for any size order.

Can ONLY ship to these jurisdictions: CT, DE, NJ, NY, RI (But if you have a permit to receive, please contact for further evaluation/instructions, or apply for a free permit.)

We do not recommend buying cynthia cocoons if you live in the northern interior of the US, even with permits. Wisconsin and Michigan customers had very little success with eclosures. Customers south and east of those states had success.

Bulk luna ova     Ended

Luna: CanNOT ship to the following jurisdictions: AK, AZ, CA, CO, DC, FL, HA, ID, KS, MN, MT, NE, NM, ND, NV, OK, OR, SD, TX, UT, WA, WY

Promethea: CanNOT ship to the following jurisdictions: AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, DC, FL, HA, ID, KS, MT, NE, NM, ND, NV, OK, OR, SD, TX, UT, WA, WY
(But if you have a permit to receive, please contact for further evaluation/instructions, or apply for a free permit.)

Summer Luna Cocoons     Sold out - 8.00 per cocoon plus $6.50 shipping for any size order. Very short shipping time, eclosure is usually 14 days; lunas are multivoltine.

CanNOT ship to the following jurisdictions: AK, AZ, CA, CO, DC, FL, HA, ID, KS, MN, MT, ND, NE, NV, NM, OK, OR, SD, TX, UT, WA, WY (But if you have a permit to receive, please contact for further evaluation/instructions, or apply for a free permit.)

Promethea Cocoons     No longer available. - $8.00 per cocoon, plus $6.50 shipping for any size order.

CanNOT ship to the following jurisdictions: AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, DC, FL, HA, ID, KS, MT, NE, NM, ND, NV, OK, OR, SD, TX, UT, WA, WY (But if you have a permit to receive, please contact for further evaluation/instructions, or apply for a free permit.)

Bulk luna ova     No longer available, special pricing on bulk ova lots, 60 ova for $25 + $5 shipping

Luna: CanNOT ship to the following jurisdictions: AK, AZ, CA, CO, DC, FL, HA, ID, KS, MN, MT, NE, NM, ND, NV, OK, OR, SD, TX, UT, WA, WY

Promethea: CanNOT ship to the following jurisdictions: AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, DC, FL, HA, ID, KS, MT, NE, NM, ND, NV, OK, OR, SD, TX, UT, WA, WY
(But if you have a permit to receive, please contact for further evaluation/instructions, or apply for a free permit.)

Spent Cocoon     None available - $1.00 per cocoon plus $6.50 shipping for any size order.

Regalis Ova    Won't be available this year. $10.00 per 15 ova plus $5.00 shipping for any size order.

Can only ship to these jurisdictions: AR, CT, DE, DC, GA, IA, KY, LA, MO, NY, NC (But if you have a permit to receive, please contact for further evaluation/instructions, or apply for a free permit.)

Livestock for sale: If you wish to purchase livestock, please join our notification list today. Use the form at bottom of page and type "livestock notification" in the message box. We will have ova and/or cocoons of several species available in season, throughout the summer, and cocoons during the dormant/winter season.

Cecropia ova

My friend gave me three eggs on Sunday, 21 June 09. I promptly brought them home and placed them in a clear, lidded deli-style container. It's important to keep the container sealed so the eggs don't dry out. These eggs were ovaposited on 14 June 09. I expect the caterpillars to emerge about two weeks after the ovaposit date, around 28 June 09. The tiny eggs are about 2mm each. The brown stuff is fluid and glue from the female moth. White is the normal color of the eggs.

Cecropias are indigenous to the eastern half of the North American continent and are common, but few people ever see them, it seems. The adult moths fly at night. The caterpillars live high in the treetops. Their habitat is typically the edge of wooded areas. Fifth instar caterpillars found in the wild are usually hopelessly parasitized and will not survive pupation. However, there are those who, like me, think it's great fun to rear these bugs. Those who make a hobby of it typically sell their bugs as eggs, cocoons, or collection specimens.

Cecropia hatchlings

25 June 2009: My tiny bugs ate their way out of their eggshells today, as that is how they escape. Eating is about all they do. Two of the three were still wearing their eggshells, which I eventually removed by hooking each with a pin and dragging it off. The hatchlings are about 3 mm long, and I love my camera's macro ability.

My gut feeling was that they'd hatch today, as the weather has been extremely warm. However, I didn't think to check until my source-friend emailed me to say she had two bugs. I promptly checked and found three. So, let the feeding frenzy begin!

Small images can be clicked on to view larger ones.

First instar cecropia

30 June 2009: The little bugs are very near the end of their first instar (caterpillar substage) and are about 7mm. I first noticed the slight color change yesterday evening. So far, the three have eaten one whole birch leaf and almost half of another. They'll molt soon, so they can continue to grow. Young cecropias like to stay close together.

First instar cecropia caterpillar poised for molting

2 July 2009: Today, the little bugs have begun their first molt -- all three at once, which is good, for me. Photos below are two slightly different views of same bug; the other two are on a different leaf, but I could get a better camera view of this one. They have grown much during the past week, and their skins have become too tight for them. They need new skin. Each has made a little silk pad on the leaf and then attached its hindmost legs to it.

They will remain in this slightly curled position at least for a day, unmoving. When the process is near completion, their head-skin will fall off, and they will ripple and crawl forward so that the old skin works back along their bodies until it forms a little bunch that is left behind on the silk pad.

We are having a significant cold spell at present, with overcast skies and daytime temperatures in the sixties. Such weather slows down bug development considerably.

Newly molted second instar cecropia

3 July 2009: By the time I checked the bugs today, they had all completed their first molt. One had already eaten most of its skin, but the other two were still at rest. Photo shows newly molted second instar caterpillar standing just ahead of its shed skin.

I've been feeding these bugs white birch leaves. I keep the leaves fresh by pushing the stems into a floral water tube, which fits nicely into their container. Inside the tube, I keep a waterlogged piece of paper toweling.

There are a number of plants that cecropias will eat. Once started on a specific plant, though, the caterpillars will want to eat only that. But, Bryan from Staten Island told me that wild black cherry is cecropia's true host, and the one food plant that caterpillars will switch to at any time. A few other options (list not exhaustive) are: maple, willow, apple, elm, lilac, plum, white oak, alder, beech, tamarack, ash, dogwood, box elder, poplar, cherry, gooseberry. I tried lilac the first time I raised cecropias and they all absolutely refused to eat it. I switched to birch.

Second instar caterpillar

4 July 2009: Following a day of eating, the second instar caterpillars have a more well defined look. This photo is so magnified; the bugs are really only about ½ inch long. The wider end is the front end. So far they are not big eaters.

Second instar

8 July 2009: The caterpillars are well into their second instar and have grown to about ¾ inch. They are still residing in a small, clear, sealed container and are eating about one leaf every two days. Such a nice environment -- no predators to worry about. In the wild, few caterpillars ever survive long enough to become adult moths. The last time I raised cecropias, all 24 caterpillars cycled through to the adult stage. That was a huge project!

Second molt

9 July 2009: I checked the caterpillars late tonight and discovered they are poised for their second molt. Due to poor lighting, I had to use flash which turned out to be a positive thing. Their colors are brighter, their shiny parts are sparkly, and strands of silk can be seen on the leaves.

All lepidoptera larvae produce silk. Bombyx mori was domesticated for the sole purpose of producing commercial silk, as the quality of its silk is unique. There is also a wild moth used in Asia for silk production, saturniidae antheraea pernyi. It is related to our indigenous saturniidae antheraea polyphemus moth. Cecropia is also a saturniidae moth and produces a large amount of silk for its cocoon; however, it is not used commercially.

Many lepidoptera do not use their silk for making cocoons. Butterfly larvae do not make cocoons, but use their silk to anchor their pupae, called chrysalises. Some also use their silk to create a sort of scaffolding all over their food plant.

Cecropia caterpillar about half way through shedding of second skin Cecropia caterpillar's old face plate pops off Cecropia caterpillar has just about completed the shedding of its skin skin Cecropia caterpillar lifts its behind out of old skin Cecropia caterpillar doing some finishing squirms Cecropia caterpillar doing a big finishing squirm The other two cecropias had already shed, and one had eaten its old skin

10 July 2009: I checked the caterpillars at about 8:00 p.m. and got treated to a live skin shedding in action. The process was just beginning, with the new skin splitting through the old just behind the head. I had to set up the camera so missed all that. Got some blurry photos, too, in my haste. Oh well. Anyway, click on the thumbnails to view larger images of the process. Enjoy!

The third instar is very colorful. The caterpillars are still quite small, probably under an inch.

11 July 2009: Today's first project was to create a new habitat for my bugs. I decided they needed more space, more food, more stuff to crawl around on, and a way for me to stock them up so I could leave them unattended for a couple days if necessary. For this I used a sour cream container with a lid and an ice cream pail with a lid. I punched a couple holes in the sour cream lid, filled the container with water, and poked a few leafy twigs through the holes into the water. This I set inside the ice cream bucket, and tucked the leaves and twigs inside so I could put the lid on if necessary. The caterpillars happened to have congregated on a single leaf in their old container, so I pulled the leaf and set it on top of the sour cream lid. Within a few minutes, all three had left the leaf and climbed in among the twigs and foliage. They spread out from each other quite a bit and are now just sitting around looking very content. I do believe the bugs are happy.

Cecropias in their third instar

13 July 2009: These third instar cecropias are very handsome. The interesting color variation continues, as one has much more black coloring on its knobs. This darker caterpillar seems to be mostly green otherwise, while the other two have an indistinct blue marking down the center of their backs. These two show more blue and yellow in their knobs. I captured the face of one, as it was eating on the edge of a birch leaf. I find a weird humor in how caterpillars reside on their food plants. It's kind of like if we humans ate our houses. When we finished one, we would move to another and start eating it. The caterpillars are now about 1.25 inches. Click on image for larger view.

Cecropias commencing their third molt

16 July 2009: This molt is commencing in less than a week since the last one. Top photo caterpillar is forming a silk pad to anchor itself for molting. Middle photo shows rear end of caterpillar poised for molting; flash reveals strands of silk on the leaf. Bottom photo shows head of poised caterpillar. Note that the forelegs are drawn up against its body and its head is curled over them -- the prayer position. This one's skin is beginning to loosen. Click photo for display of larger version.

Newly molted to fourth instar

Caterpillar at left has completed its third molt -- to fourth instar. I had to edit to achieve fairly uniform focus (combined two photos). The old skin is at the rear. Its spiracles are clearly visible -- the white circles. These appear on either side of the caterpillar, one pair per segment, and are the openings through which it breathes. This bug is about 1.5 inches long.

Fourth instar cecropias

22 July 2009: The fourth instar cecropias have gotten rather huge. Fully stretched, they are almost two inches and plenty fat. They hate being away from their food plant, and because they are what they eat and they aren't too smart, when they get near each other, they think they've found their food plant. They certainly smell like concentrated food plant.

Photo makes it look like the one on the right is biting the other, so that the one on the left is screaming out in pain.

Cecropia striking a great pose

23 July 2009: I love this pose. Click for larger view.

Prepared for fourth molt

26 July 2009: I had to leave the bugs for the weekend, so set up the worm coop for a long period of neglect -- two days. All three caterpillars did very well, but I bet they enjoyed the fresh air when I popped their lid upon arriving home, as it gets rather stale smelling in the closed container due to all the frass. I found them in molting position, after having defoliated just about all the yummy leafy twigs I left for them, but that's what they do. Now we wait for the enormous fifth instar.

Fourth instar cecropia on verge of shedding skin Fifth instar cecropia crawling out of fourth instar skin

28 July 2009: Shortly before the actual skin shedding, the caterpillar's old skin looks tight and kind of discolored. The face plate is separating. The new skin can be seen through the old skin at the base of the knobs.

The molting caterpillar crawls out of its skin, which looks so cool. I ended up having to assist this one, as it had lost its grip on its silk pad, probably having been freaked out by an earwig that somehow found its way into the container. I pinch-held the rear end of the skin while the caterpillar crawled out, and finally pushed what was left off with my fingertips. The freshly shed old skin felt very moist on the inner side and behaved kind of like elastic.

Once again, I had to leave for an overnight trip, so left the caterpillars on their own with plenty of food. Upon my return, I found them to be quiescent, but they had eaten a lot and made quite a mess, as usual.

Fifth instar monsters devouring a leaf

3 August 2009: The fat caterpillars make quick work of a single leaf. Glad I'm not Dawn, with twelve to feed. Their crunching can be heard. Stretched, each is around three inches. They are chunky, heavy masses -- a ten course meal for any bird or rodent, a banquet filled hatchery for wasps and tachinid flies. Such is the insect world. It's estimated one in one hundred of these survives to maturity. A little human intervention can't hurt.

I read that a certain non indigenous tachinid fly was introduced to curb the population explosion of gypsy moth, but the result has been that the thing likes indigenous saturniids, like cecropia, luna, and polyphemus, and so saturniid populations are declining. Sad if that's true.

Hand feeding a caterpillar: Hold caterpillar moderately lightly between thumb and two fingers. Pick up a leaf with other hand and place edge of it perpendicular to caterpillar's mouth/face, against its mouth. I did this and my critter promptly started eating, then grasped onto it and continued eating, and eating, and eating . . . All the while I held it.

6 August 2009: I measured each fat cat today. Stretched, two of them are easily at least 3.5 inches, and the other is just under. They are massive, bulky critters; the size always amazes me, as they are not just long. They are putting away leaves at a phenomenal rate, keeping me plenty busy.

A massive fifth instar cecropia

8 August 2009: The Blob! Call it the elephant of the insect world - a land dwelling herbivore. Fully stretched, this caterpillar is easily four inches and massive. All three are looking fabulous.

Pupation preparations - straining

12 August 2009: Much is happening today. We had to leave town overnight on Monday, so I thought maybe I'd miss the great transition, but it waited till today, Wednesday.

When I arrived home yesterday, I promptly fed the hungry blobs because they had defoliated everything and were searching desperately. They promptly resumed their food fest, which must have gone on for most of the night because there weren't a lot of leaves left this morning. However, it was also obvious that they had stopped eating. One had already emptied its gut; the other two were waiting for the big moment. Those moments came a little later, and lasted for a lot more than a moment. I cleaned the bucket twice today, but am quite certain I'm now finished. That's a good thing.

Not long after "the big moment" is completed, the caterpillars begin their quest for the perfect place to form a cocoon. At this time, the keeper must make certain the bugs can't escape, as clinging to the food plant is no longer essential and the bugs have no interest in doing so. They move quickly now, having lightened their load considerably, in search of their perfect place, and it's up to the keeper to limit where they will look. If you lose your bugs to the crevices of your home, be assured that sometime during the winter a moth will eclose and make a big mess that you don't want. Also, if you have any pets or are prone to mice, be assured that your moth project will become a snack.


I've got two bugs who seem to be busy creating their cocoons, and one that's still prowling around. This is the prowler, and it's doing quite a contortionist display. Space is kind of tight in the worm coop, and I'm wondering if I'm going to end up with three interconnected cocoons. Could be interesting.

Fashioning a fine cocoon

13 August 2009: Cocoon construction is well underway. Two of the bugs are very close together, so I expect their cocoons will be somewhat interconnected. The formation of the valve can be seen on both views. Cecropia uses a valve through which the moth ecloses; many other species dissolve a hole using a liquid enzyme the moth emits.

The cocoon is one continuous strand of silk. Silk is a protein produced by the caterpillar. It comes out of the caterpillar's mouth as a liquid, and hardens when it contacts air. The caterpillar also coats it with an adhesive to hold the cocoon together. In the silk textile industry, cocoons are boiled to kill the pupae and dissolve the adhesive. Of course, the textile industry does not use cecropias. Bombyx mori is the bug of choice. Nevertheless, to harvest cecropia's silk, the process would be the same, if one were aiming for reeled silk.

Fashioning a fine cocoon

When my original batch of 24 moths were eclosing, several years ago, one happened to not be facing the valve -- a caterpillar goof. This was disastrous. The moth can neither turn in the tight quarters nor back out. I, of course, did not know what was going on. There was obvious activity in the cocoon, so I waited a day or two. The cocoon became quite juicy, yet the moth was obviously still alive in there. I decided to cut it open (very carefully). What I found was a very soggy, misshappen, rather colorless excuse for a moth.

Their programming marches on, whether the previous step(s) has gone correctly or not; there is no turning back. The moth had had to expand its wings and also release its wastes. The wings had nowhere to expand to, so they were the length of the moth, narrow, and were hardened forever in that awful shape. The moth's body was not velvety. All the hair and all the color apparently had been washed away by the juices. I was amazed the creature hadn't drowned, but it was very much alive. Poor thing.

Funny thing with these: When I raised 24 at once, they were just a big bunch of bugs. Raising three this time, I perceived individuals. I could tell all of them apart, and each had somewhat individualistic behaviors. One would eat out of my hand. It was also the most efficient eater of the bunch. It also ended up being the biggest caterpillar. I suppose I should make note of which bug is in which cocoon. Though Red Knobs started its cocoon last, it's definitely leading the pack in progress.

Three cocoons

19 August 2009: The three bugs made three cocoons -- like I expected anything else. Two are kind of fused together, which I also expected. I haven't had time to do much with these other than peel them off the ice cream bucket, trim off plant matter, and toss them in the sour cream container after having cleaned it thoroughly. One of these days, when I do have time, I will likely cut one open (very carefully) to see what the bug within is up to.

Not sure whether I miss the caterpillars or not. Certainly, feeding them was getting a bit old, as was dumping the frass pile regularly. On the other hand, they could be kind of entertaining.

Open cocoon
Pupa back
Pupa front

1 September 2009: I finally had a bit of time today to tinker with a caterpillar. Well, really, things have changed dramatically, which I knew would be so. I cut a cocoon open and found a very lively pupa inside. It's a girl! She is fat, healthy, and quite weighty. I'm impressed and pleased.

A peek inside the cocoon reveals a gross glob that is just the old caterpillar skin. It's quite dry and brittle. Beyond the skin is the abdomen of the brown pupa, which fits snugly within its cocoon.

Next is the back of the pupa. The head end is on the right. A wing is clearly visible behind the head and extending underneath. Its spiracles run along the abdominal segments at the bottom of the photo. The length of the pupa on this side is mostly abdomen.

Last is the front of the pupa. The head/face is the round thing at right. Directly to the left of the head are the foremost legs, tucked up neatly. Framing the head and legs are the antennae, one on either side, and framing all of that are the wings, which wrap completely around the front side. When pupation is completed, the eclosed moth will inflate its wings into huge, colorful, wondrous things.

Most of the pupa is quite rigid; however, the abdomen can be wriggled quite vigorously. This pupa is an energetic wriggler -- very entertaining.

Its antennae give this baby's gender away. Males have wider antennae.

By the way, this pupa is "Red Knobs."

A close inspection of any lepitoptera pupa will, like this pupa, reveal an interesting image of the adult insect it will become. I've raised many monarchs in the past, and though the pupa/chrysalis looks like a curled leaf with dew on it, a bit of scrutiny unveils the butterfly, much like the image of this moth -- head, antennae, forelegs, wings, abdomen. Though each species of pupa has its own distinct shape, the same body parts are always outlined on it.

Three pupae
Cocoon layers

28 September 2009: Since my last entry I've prepared for a huge trip, taken in a week's worth of wedding festivities in Canada, imported a used car, returned home, and cleaned up much of the aftermath. At last, today, I found a little time to snip my remaining cocoons.

I couldn't remember how I snipped the previous cocoon, so today's effort was made possible with a suture removal scissors that I happened to have. I was very careful to force the point as far away from the pupae as possible. Thankfully, no damage was done.

The cocoons are interesting three layer structures. The layers can be seen quite well in the photo: outer cover, inner fluff padding, innermost hard, pod-like structure that snugly houses the pupa.

My two remaining pupae were both males; both were smaller than the female pupa. She's on the left.

One cocoon appeared to have its inner and outer valves on opposite ends. We'll find out next summer. I've since restored all my bugs to their respective cocoons. Soon they'll go in cold storage for the winter.

I found some videos on YouTube that were made by a moth raiser who cuts away some of the cocoon, then pins it to a board with the valve facing up so that the emerging bug can crawl out onto a something that it can easily cling to for wing drying. This person then puts a time lapse video camera on a bunch of these cocoons, so that the eclosing process can be readily seen, as the moth still goes for the valve, even with a different hole available to crawl through. It's all about bug programming!

So anyway, I figure to cut more cocoon away next spring, so I too can enjoy the show. Then, hopefully, I'll be around at the right moment.

Don't know if caterpillar size has anything to do with gender, though we know that female moths are larger than males. Red Knobs grew to be my biggest/longest caterpillar. She wasn't significantly larger, but the difference was measureable. One other caterpillar was almost as big. However, she turned out to be the only female.

1 October 2009: I refrigerated my bugs today. The weather had turned frosty and nights are cold, so I figured it was time. They are in a ziplock bag in a crisper. My husband cautioned me that the basement refrigerator tends to get pretty cold, so I also put the bag in a small cardboard box. Had I not opened the cocoons, I probably wouldn't have done this.

Periodically I will check on the bugs. A dead pupa loses its weightiness so that the cocoon feels feather-light. Of course, I can also simply take the bugs out of their cocoons to check for life. Anyway, that's for a later time. Now we face a long winter. May seems ages away.

24 November 2009: I checked my bugs today. I took them out of the refrigerator and then out of everything else, including their cocoons. Everyone is alive and well. Each one wriggled for me after my hand had warmed them up a bit. I kept them out only briefly, and then packaged them all up and put them back in their cold storage. All is well in bugland.

Wintering pupae

5 February 2010: I took the bugs out of the fridge tonight to check their health. They are doing very well. Upon warming up a bit, they became wriggly. They are now back in cold storage.

I have thought about selling one of the males, but that would pose certain problems. The cocoons of the two males are fused together. I could try switching a male with the female's cocoon, but she is bigger than the males and so is her cocoon. Also, I've slit all the cocoons, so if a buyer would want a "pristine" cocoon, it ain't gonna happen. Personally, I think the slit is great, as it allows me access to the pupa within, and will also allow me to observe the eclosing process, as I was careful to leave the valve end undamaged. The moth will go for the valve; that's its programming.

29 March 2010: Checked my bugs again tonight, let them get warm and wiggly. All three seem to be doing very well.

Breeding cage

1 April 2010: The weather is spectacular for a change. It's causing me to think about summer and . . . moths. I bought supplies today and then built a breeding cage. It will also double as an eclosing cage, and I'll use a tub for that event as well. Eclosing moths are messy!

Cocoon and its pupa

23 April 2010: I took my bugs out of refrigeration tonight for several reasons. Of course, I wanted to check their health. I also wanted to separate the fused cocoons. Surprisingly, they came apart quite easily and without any damage. The bugs are all looking good. This pictured cocoon and occupant are for sale, $11.25 SOLD, includes Priority shipping. This is a male.

13 May 2010: I decided it was time to take the bugs out of cold storage. It's been so cold (including in the house) that I don't think it matters much whether they are in the refrigerator or not. I should probably put them in the garage, but am concerned that some nasty mouse might somehow get at them. They are in cages, as I decided to keep the male and female separate so we wouldn't have an accidental mating. The cages are certainly sturdy enough to keep a moth inside, but I don't know whether they are sturdy enough to keep a rodent outside. I'm clueless. For now I'll keep them in the house and think about this.

14 May 2010: Friend Bryan sent me some eggs, which arrived on Tuesday of this week. I'll keep a few, but in my effort to find a home for the rest, it looks like I'll be doing a display at a local nature preserve. Should be fun.

Cocoon prepared for eclosing

15 May 2010: Newly eclosed moths need a perch to hang from so they can inflate and dry their wings. For this reason, I've arranged the cocoons so the valve is up, the moth can grip on the paper toweling, and if it climbs it will find the twig -- a good perch. I suppose it can also just cling to the paper. We'll see.

18 May 2010: I took some eggs out to the local nature preserve today to "share the joy." The staff is going to set up a live demonstration display along with photos of the stages of moth development. I'll be helping with the project and visiting regularly. I'm excited about this. Thank you, Bryan, for making this one possible!

Cecropia ova/eggs

19 May 2010: Anxiously waiting for my cecropia eggs to hatch. It must be ten days since they were oviposited, but no action yet. Nevertheless, I'm certain they aren't duds. The outline of the little caterpillar bodies can be seen in the eggs. They curl in a circle along the inner circumference of the shell. The dent is where the caterpillar isn't. Though it can't be seen on the photo, there's also a slight bulge and dent where the head and tail don't quite meet. One egg in the lot (not in this photo) is slightly discolored and has a uniform oval shape. I suspect it will not produce a caterpillar. Of course, I could be totally wrong about my entire interpretation of things.

Vacated ovaHatchlingHatchling

23 May 2010: True to form, when the weather turned hot and sticky, the action began. Today my four eggs all hatched. I happened to be at "Sunday Meeting," so a pleasant (but expected) surprise awaited me when I returned home.

I don't plan to add loads of new photos to this collection. I will finish last year's project in this record, and also post some photos of interest that I didn't think to take last year.

Vacated ova are kind of interesting. Last year's eggs were loose, but this year's were glued to paper, making them immobile so that they didn't cling to the hatchlings' behinds. Moths lay their eggs in neat little rows, in small groups. As can be seen from the photo, the eggs are close together, but placed so that all the caterpillars exit on the same side rather than aimed toward another egg. This is very convenient for the caterpillars. They don't encounter a second egg-wall to eat through on the way out -- confusion. So, obviously, caterpillars all develop in the same relative position within each egg.

In Japanese sericulture, mulberry silkworm hatchlings are called "kego." Translated, this means "hairy baby." I think the same can be said of cecropia hatchlings.

Bryan's ova also hatched today.

I checked the pupae tonight and saw changes. Some of the seams in the pupa skins are becoming more distinct, and there are subtle color changes. The female is very active; the male doesn't move at all. I don't know what that's about. Both are obviously alive. This pattern has been present since I took them out of refrigeration.

I do hope they eclose this week, but more important than that, I want their eclosure to be synchronized with the wild population. I much prefer mating the female to a wild moth. One concern is simply learning how to get it done. Another is to experience it. I also prefer to have new blood in my breeding effort. In any case, with Bryan's contribution I'll have two separate bloodlines for next year. Ian Miller, the ultimate expert, says it does no harm to mate siblings, as it goes on in the wild quite frequently.

24 May 2010: As I expected, all the eggs at the nature preserve hatched except the one discolored one. It also lacked the shape of the developing caterpillar within.

On the down side, because the eggs hatched when the office wasn't staffed, the caterpillars did not get fed until the following day, Monday. They aren't doing very well. I brought them home and am trying to coax them to eat. They've got a leafy smorgasbord plus lots of extra moisture. I'm not at all confident, though.

25 May 2010: As of this morning, four of the sick caterpillars had relocated somewhat during the night. Of the four, one hasn't moved since. Three are still crawling around some. This morning there were no signs of frass or nibbles on leaves. Not good.

Late this afternoon I found some frass in the container. Though I haven't found any apparent nibbles on a leaf, the frass is in the vicinity of a birch leaf and near a certain caterpillar. I hold out hope in this: Nothing can come out unless it first went in. If even one begins to thrive, I'll be very pleased. At this point, and though they're as old as my personal little brood, they are still the size of hatchlings. My personal brood is three times that size at least and might be starting their first molt.

26 May 2010: When morning arrived, it was obvious three caterpillars were eating the birch leaf and the others were dead. I decided the three would probably survive if cared for according to the rules of engagement, so I returned them to the nature center. Though three days old, they are only the size of hatchlings.

27 May 2010: Due to the heat wave, this year's pillars are way ahead of schedule compared to last year. They have just walked out of their skins for the first time. It will be interesting to find out how the nature center brood compares.

Why I'm partial to third instar

1 June 2010: Two caterpillars entered prayer position during the night, and the other two did so in the afternoon.

2 June 2010: Two caterpillars molted during the night, and the other two will likely get around to it sometime today. I'm kind of partial to the third instar skin; it's pretty.

Still no action from the pupae. I'm waiting impatiently. It's cold today, so I'm not expecting anything. They are alive, of course.

5 June 2010: I continue to wait for eclosure but believe it's imminent. The pupa skin is loose and feels separate from the creature within. That, according to Bryan, is a very good sign.

Life and moth breeding have taken an exciting turn. A lady who lives about 30 miles from here found this page and contacted me in search of eggs, which I don't have yet. As it turned out, her little brood had produced two males; one single female was badly dented from a winter storm and had not yet eclosed, though it still seems to be viable. This brood has no genetic connection to mine, so we decided to offer my female to her two males. They are now at my house, she has my male, and we wait. I'm very thankful, though, that the mate-finding thing is settled. I'm also thrilled to have discovered this moth-friend.

It was a delight to see living, breathing moths again. Cecropia moths have a pleasing shape and beautiful markings. Their time as moths is so short.

Great news! I just heard from my moth-friend. While she was returning home, my male moth eclosed. When she got home and opened the container, there he was! This means my girl should put in her appearance real soon. Anticipation!!

Ripe pupa

The markings along her abdomen can be faintly seen through the loose pupal skin of the female.

Boys with girl's cocoon

6 June 2010: I kept the boys in the refrigerator overnight, as the cold causes them to become dormant and thus prolongs their lives. This morning I put them in the breeding cage along with the female in her cocoon. They look a bit wretched because they aren't fully awake, but it didn't take long for them to become fully awake. One was very agitated, so I secured his wings and will return him to the fridge. The other was content to hang from the paper toweling, so I left him, for now. Sure hope that female ecloses today. I'm anxious both to see her and to commence with this project. My camera needs a good workout.

7 June 2010: Sigh. Female moth has yet to eclose. Old skin looks like it's falling off of her. Poor males; they can't last forever.

A skin-feast

Two caterpillars went to pre-molt yesterday, and two today.

8 June 2010: One of the pillars has finally molted. I caught it having a skin-feast. Oh yum! The pillar next to it is on the verge of molting.

The ladyTopside of the lady

56 lousy degrees and the female came out anyway. I didn't even notice. All of a sudden one of the boys -- the docile one -- started flopping all over and I couldn't figure out what his problem was, as that was totally out of character. Then I saw her. That male moth is acting real perky. Good. I hope he carries on soon.

Expanding her wings

Now the other male is perking up. What amazing potion those female pheromones are.

In the meantime, the lady slowly and calmly expands her wondrous wings.

Trying hard to shed old skin

A caterpillar is trying hard to shed that old skin. It's suddenly become a very busy day, despite all the cold and gloom.

For those of you who have been following this entire epic saga, this female moth is Red Knobs, the caterpillar -- my big worm.

Expanded valve of vacated cocoon

The valve of the cocoon is much expanded, courtesy of the eclosing moth. Even though the cocoon was cut, she still went for the valve.

The moth likes my finger. She climbs on and won't get off. I offer her other things to cling to, but if the finger's near, well . . . I suppose this is because it's cold here and the finger is warm. Of course, she's used to my finger. I've been handling her for almost a year, including during the long time she spent as a pupa.

Her wings are still kind of wrinkledLaying useless, infertile eggs

It's kind of sad that the moth stage is so short. In a couple days she'll be all battered and broken, and then she'll start to fade away. This is already happening to the two males. One of them will likely not even compete for the prize. He vibrates occasionally, but hasn't fluttered around since this morning. I rather doubt he will again.

I don't think the female was hanging in quite the right position when she expanded her wings. They are kind of wrinkled and I don't think that's going to change at this stage.

Cecropia moths have a very strong odor. It's unique to the moth stage. The caterpillars only ever smelled like a highly concentrated version of their food plant. The pupae had no significant odor whatsoever, even when eclosure was imminent. But the moth that emerges includes the strong odor, and I wouldn't call it perfume. It seems to be stronger with the female.

The female moth has not yet mated, but she's depositing eggs nevertheless. I don't know whether that's normal or not. Will likely find out.

9 June 2010: What would I do without Bryan and Ian?! A demonstration on a YouTube video was also helpful.

Ian told Bryan, who told me, how to hand pair moths, just in case. Wouldn't ya know, nothing had happened overnight. I then tried hand pairing and failed miserably. So, I did a web search and found a video, a California species. No matter; there isn't much difference.

I grasped the moths' bodies at the base of their folded wings, on the thorax, and then put them together facing each other, belly against belly, feet clawing, and held them that way. They were both terribly squirmy. The female calmed down first. She extended her ovipositor/scent gland thing way out and curled her abdomen. She planted a couple of eggs on him. The male opened his claspers wide; he continued to vibrate his wing muscles. All I did was kind of keep them positioned so the tips of their abdomens were close; they really need to make the connection on their own. It took a little while, but then he clasped on.

Mating -- he only looks deadContrast - a normal mating

I set the moths in the cage, on a piece of paper toweling, hoping they'd both cling to that and be happy. They were happy clinging to me, but I wasn't going to hold two moths all day. Well, the female took off, crawling across the cage and flapping her wings. The male was content to be dragged along behind, backwards. She crawled up the cage side and finally stopped. He was laying on his side, still attached, and there they remain. Oh well, as long as they're happy.

By contrast, I dug out an old photo from some years ago showing a normal mating. But hey, whatever works!

The shiny, dark brown things at the end of the male's abdomen are his claspers. They can be seen clearly in the left photo. When they open, there's an opening in his abdomen that matches the size and shape of the female's scent gland/ovipositor thing, which is what he clasps around; it's a perfect anatomical fit, which becomes very apparent when hand pairing two moths.

11:00 a.m. - five hours paired and then they came apart; I'm certain it was her idea and had to do with needing to lay eggs. Ol' Red Knobs is in a paper bag now. Here's hoping her subsequent eggs will be fertile.

2:30 p.m. - Red Knobs is laying loads of eggs. She always was a great bug, except for her short time at pairing. But fertility is all that matters.

I consulted with the pros, Ian and Bryan, who said the shorter copulation time should not affect the fertility of the eggs, as males deposit most of the sperm during the first hour. I asked Ian about the premature laying. He said some females just have way too many eggs and are too heavy, so they do this to literally "lighten up!" He included the exclamation point.

Moth laying eggs inside a paper bag

Red Knobs is busy laying loads of eggs inside a paper bag. Eggs can be seen at the tip of her abdomen, and there are also some in the foreground, inside the bag. Her eye reflects the camera flash. Even with rumpled wings, she's still a good looking moth. She hasn't started to break apart yet, for which I'm thankful. That's a rather painful process to watch -- the fate of adult Saturniids. I'm probably too sappy about my moth, the price of hand rearing.

Papa Moth is pictured to the left of "June 6;" he's the moth on right, next to the cocoon.

10 June 2010: Red Knobs has deposited 157 post-mating eggs so far, plus there were 6 that I'm not sure about. I think she laid them right after separating from the male, but it could have happened before they were coupled. I've separated them for observation. Prior to mating, she laid around 17. I've put all the potentially fertile eggs in a sealed container so they don't dry out. Some I've since packaged to fill orders. The owner of the boys will pick up her eggs in the morning.

Red Knobs does not seem thrilled about residing in a bag. It's a practical method of collecting eggs.

13 June 2010: Red Knobs has added 39 more eggs to her post-mate total, putting that total at 196. Of course, we're also selling eggs, so we do not have 196 eggs cluttering up the landscape here. I'd be concerned if we did.

The full total of eggs the moth has laid so far, including pre-mate/infertile, is 219.

The caterpillars continue to eat and grow. All are fourth instar, and one has assumed prayer position for its final molt to fifth instar.

The birch tree has some horrible bug on it. This bug must lay an egg within the leaf. The developing new bug lives within a tan bubble that forms on the leaf-skin. The tiny new bug sort of swims around within the bubble when it's disturbed. Of course, I don't feed such leaves to my pillars. The creepy bug-bubbles seem to be getting more numerous on the birch leaves. I am not pleased.

16 June 2010: Red Knobs died overnight. As she faded, she became agitated, straining to lay eggs that weren't there. I suppose this mighty effort used up the last of her energy reserves, as the adult cecropia lives solely off reserves from the caterpillar stage. The males ended in a less abrupt manner, though they also demonstrated a period of agitation. Red Knobs had lasted one week following eclosion. She had added another 10 eggs since last count, making her final total 229. Most of the post-mate eggs have sold.

This fifth instar wad molted yesterday and will grow to be much longer

I suppose that, in the wild, these agitated moths are easy prey. The behaviors that help keep them hidden are suddenly gone. They become noisy and noticeable, day and night.

19 June 2010: Nothing beats a nice, fat cecropia cat. This fine pillar molted yesterday to fifth instar. It is a firm, thick, healthy little beast. Amazing what these larval creatures turn into.

Discarded fourth instar face plateDiscarded fourth instar skin with fifth instar caterpillar munching on it

20 June 2010: Discarded body parts: The face plate from this molt proved to be a perfect example, so I took a photo, and then included the skin (with caterpillar munching on it).

The first four arrivals of Red Knobs' brood

21 June 2010: Yea! So far I've got four tiny new caterpillars from Red Knob's brood, as of a few minutes ago. The eggs I kept were from various laying dates, the earliest being June 9 (majority of eggs were laid June 9 and 10). We are 12 days out from the earliest laying date. With Red Knobs gone, it's good to have some offspring of hers. I wonder if any of them will also have distinctly red head tubercles when they get to be fifth instar. We'll see. My brood from Bryan all have orange tubercles.

A total of five caterpillars hatched today. Hatching could go on for a while here, as I have little groups that were laid over the course of five days. As for the hatchlings, they cruised around their container for a few hours, then finally settled down on two different birch leaves. As the frass specks accumulated into an impressive little pile, I knew that the pillars are happy and doing what they're supposed to do -- eat and evacuate. This is only the beginning . . .

Buyers also sent notifications that they have hatchlings. Thank you! I love hearing from you folks!

Actually hatching

22 June 2010: It's almost 7:00 a.m. and here are some pillars actually hatching. Can't seem to get a decent focus. Probably too excited.

Yesterday's hatchlings are already twice the size of today's hatchlings.

Because the photos are magnified, I noticed what looked like a hatching pillar behind another egg. It appeared hemmed in by the other egg, so I bent the paper and, sure enough, a little pillar immediately started crawling out! Red Knobs is at fault; she put those eggs there. Of course, she couldn't see what her tail end was doing.

The fifth instar pillars are growing longer each day

On a sadder note, there seems to be a pillar that didn't chew a big enough hole to escape through. I am wanting to try picking the hole bigger, but a test run on an empty egg revealed that the shell is very hard. Also, my near vision ain't what it used to be; I'm concerned that I'll poke the pillar. Then there's the hereditary shaking problem. Oh frustration! I'll wait a while. If it appears the pillar is doomed anyway, I'll try picking again to free it.

Oh hurray! With a little paper bending, the stuck pillar got out. Relief!!

It's 8:01 a.m. and today's hatch has produced nine pillars so far. I don't see any more black openings in the eggs, where a pillar is eating its way through. There aren't many unhatched eggs left.

The growth of the fifth instar pillars is impressive. I brought them to the nature center today to awe everyone there.

23 June 2010: One lone kego has hatched so far today.

The enormous caterpigs can't get enough to eat. They are devouring every little speck of leaf, and then waiting anxiously for more. I try to keep on top of their feeding, but overnights are getting challenging. I brought in more food at 10:30 last night, and it is GONE at 9:00 a.m. Frass pellets are huge and abundant. I hear them plunk all day long; it's raining frass in the ice cream pail.

A note on egg differences: The eggs Bryan sent me were larger and more pearly than the ones Red Knobs laid, which were brownish and smaller. Because of this, I wondered some about the viability of the latter eggs, but the difference must simply be genetics. Obviously, the smaller, brownish eggs are just as productive as the larger, pearly ones.

They just keep getting bigger and fatter

I continue to hear from buyers regarding hatchings.

28 June 2010: The pillars are so thick and fat that they have become very slow and have some trouble curling up. They also seem to have a little trouble getting a grip on things, like my finger. Blobs they truly are.

Cocoon frameworkDetail of busy pillar

Eggs I was certain were infertile have hatched.

1 July 2010: At last, a cocoon is being constructed by one of the beasts from Bryan's contribution. This is good, as I had begun to weary of the feeding frenzy, though I've got a long way to go yet.

Carefully working silk threads into correct positions

3 July 2010: Caterpillar number two began its conversion process yesterday, first with the infamous gut cleanse, then it commenced its hunt for a perfect place to cocoon. Today, the cocoon is progressing nicely. I got this great shot of the beast working threads into correct positions. Truly amazing process!

7 July 2010: The last of my monsters is fashioning its cocoon. I put most of Red Knobs' little brood in the large container, as they are third instar and in need of more room. One runt remains in the hatching container. When it molts to third, I'll move it.

I have one abnormal caterpillar -- a new experience. It's in the "hospital." I moved it after noticing that it was having difficulty clearing its gut. It spent a couple days on that project, sort of leaking. Yuck! Can't say that I like sick caterpillars, especially huge sick caterpillars with intestinal issues. Well, it seems to have emptied out, finally, in spurts, but isn't producing adequate silk for a cocoon. I really don't expect it to live, yet it keeps going and going.

Pre-pupa stage inside cocoonDetails of pre-pupa stage

It had been suggested to me to not do this, but I couldn't pass it up. After all, this is all about why I raise the bugs, to observe and photograph them. I love the unusual, hidden things.

It is six days after the first caterpillar began cocoon construction. I opened the cocoon tonight to check out the bug-status. It's so amazing! The pre-pupa caterpillar is very much alive and active, and was very ticked off when I removed it from its snug little "womb." It squirmed and bucked vigorously. However, that's all it could do.

Note its shape. It is shaped like the pupa forming within. Its skin is becoming loose, its legs are completely useless. The most rigid parts of a pupa -- the foremost and tail sections -- are rigid in this pre-pupa stage. Only the section that will become the segmented abdomen of the pupa is now able to move -- just like an actual pupa.

In its own unique way, this stage is very colorful and pretty. It's also much smaller than the fully developed fifth instar caterpillar was just prior to cocoon building. Nevertheless, if it remains the size it is now, it will be a large pupa.

Newly molted pupa in cocoonSide view of newly molted pupa
Back view of newly molted pupaPupa in cocoon

10 July 2010: The caterpillar molted to a pupa sometime this morning. Both the old caterpillar skin and the new pupa skin are still very soft and flexible. Instead of the dark brown of a hardened pupa, this new pupa's skin is colorful. Note the wing, which is transparent and pale green, but not for long. The pupa is very alive and wriggly. This pupa is female. Her head tubercles, though orange, had been darker than those of the other three caterpillars and had leaned toward red. It will be interesting to discover the genders of the other caterpillars. (One of those caterpillars is dead.)

Discarded caterpillar skin

When the pupa molts the old caterpillar skin, the face plate does not pop off like it does during the caterpillar stages. Instead, it splits from the top; however, the mouth section remains intact, so that it holds the two halves of the face together where they are attached to the mouth. The full splitting of the skin is along center-back.

Pupa molt is imminent

This pre-pupa caterpillar's molt is imminent. The skin is very wrinkled and loose, and most of the coloration has faded away.

In the meantime, all save one of the little mites are either poised or have molted to fourth instar.

Later, at 10:15 p.m., the second pupa has molted. It also appears to be female.

A pair of female pupae

12 July 2010: I have a pair of large female pupae. The pupa on left is ultra lively; the other is more sedate. They certainly look the same in terms of size and shape. For a male comparison, the trio at Sept. 28 is a female on left with two males, and the antennae difference can be clearly seen.

Cocoon size for these two was markedly different; in each case, the inner chamber was sized to fit its occupant. It seemed like (I could be wrong) the size determiner was the distance of attachment points. If objects to attach to were near each other, the resulting outer cocoon ended up smaller.

15 July 2010: Third pupa is also female. I figured it would be. Caterpillar was huge. So's pupa.

27 July 2010: I was greeted this morning with a big mess in the worm coop. The first of Red Knobs' brood had cleansed its gut. Cocoon construction began by early afternoon.

28 July 2010: A sploosh sound from the worm coop was a warning. I've got two messes to clean up, and two more cocoons will enter the construction phase sometime today.

6 August 2010: I cut open several cocoons this evening. Most of the inhabitants were still caterpillars. Two had pupated, and both were -- female! I don't know what I will do with all these female moths. Not a single male yet.

A resealed cocoon by an indignant caterpillar

One cocoon's inhabitant was not yet in pre-pupa stage. It didn't appreciate having its cocoon cut open, so promptly sealed it back up. I'm amazed that those caterpillars can move around in such tight quarters.

This caterpillar is building a cocoon all over the inside of this container

7 August 2010: Odd things greeted me this morning. For starters, I had put a cocooning caterpillar in a small container. Overnight, the critter had laid silk everywhere inside. I wonder where the cocoon will actually end up and how it will be positioned and shaped.

The pupation process is imminent for these two pre-pupa caterpillars; they look dreadful.

A peek inside the cut cocoons revealed two caterpillars looking just dreadful. The pupation process was imminent, so I took them out and laid them on white paper to observe.

When the rear end of one of the caterpillars began to elongate, I knew pupation was in progress. Thankfully, I had time to watch and a camera that was ready to go. It was a truly amazing process and . . . it's a boy!

Rear end of caterpillar begins to elongate. Elongation continues, different angle Elongation becoming very pronounced Note the white stripe on the caterpillar skin along the spiracles
The back splits The head splits and divides down the center The split widens
The creature continues to move as it shimmies out of its old skin. Change of angles Antenna and wing appear as skin shifts toward end of pupa body
Change of angle and skin shifts farther down Antennae are sticking up away from body a bit Almost off
Struggling to kick it off Another kick Off, but pupa keeps kicking And kicking . . .

Pupa continued to kick at skin even though it was off. I suppose it has no idea, and thus continues to kick for a pre-programmed length or number of times.

New male pupa turning brown

It does not take long for the new pupa to begin turning brown. Photo shows the large antennae of a male. Hurray! First male, sixth pupa. I was beginning to be concerned. I'll let him get hard before trying to put him back in his cocoon. He's real squishy at present.

Pre-pupa molt is imminent

The other pre-pupa is becoming more and more sickly looking, which is normal. It will shed that old skin very soon. Rear end is already beginning to slip off.

Cocoon is taking shape

The caterpillar that had been putting silk everyone finally narrowed its territory and is filling in its cocoon.

One ravenous caterpillar remains

I'm down to one last ravenous caterpillar, and won't miss it when it's gone -- I don't think. Report from the nature center is that one of their two caterpillars has cocooned, and the other is eating like a pig -- very excellent report.

16 August 2010: Today, I watched the last caterpillar pupate, and made a new discovery. When the skin was almost off, but not quite, I pulled it away, and thus was able to observe the process by which the pupa pulls the skin off. It uses the tail end of its abdomen, and continuously retracts and then extends it. This section of the abdomen seems to have a surface that produces friction enough to sort of grip the inside of the skin, so that with each extension, it is able to move the skin along the pupa body and off, a tiny bit at a time. Then it suddenly stops the retraction/extension movement, and moves the tip side to side instead, which pushes the skin away.

The last pupa was yet another female, like I needed another one.

1 October 2010: I put the last of my pupae collection in the refrigerator today for winter storage. Now I can forget about them until next year, unless I sell some off.

This is likely my last journal entry, unless, next year, I manage to be watching, camera ready, when a moth ecloses. That would be a good grand finale. A normal mating would also be good.

29 April 2017: Last year I had successfully reared two female cecropies. In late summer, I found a big poplar sphinx caterpillar on Lark Road by the Amish store, which I claimed. The sphinx was obviously prepupation and pupated within a few days. I've successfully made sphinxes comfy by wetting and wringing out a piece of paper toweling and putting it in a deli container. The caterpillars burrow into the stuff and crawl in a circle to hollow out a space and then pupate there. It's cool. I refrigerated everyone when the weather turned cold sometime in October and took them out today, 29 April. The cropies are fine in a cage, but I built a little incubation thing for the sphinx, a plant pot with dirt. I watered it some, hollowed out a hole, placed paper toweling over it for a covering, and caged the whole thing to prevent an escape.

24 May 2017: It's been a warm spring with some cold snaps, and I've mostly kept the furnace off, so the house is cool inside. I've kept moths inside (though I'd hoped to build an eclosure enclosure to put outside but never got around to it), and the sphinx put in an appearance today, a fine female. I will put her out in the breeding cage but don't have high hopes. For starters, poplar sphinxes are not indigenous to anywhere-Wisconsin. They occur on the high plains and westward. I'm on the eastern side of Wisco, so even further away from their stompin' grounds. My other concern is that the eclosure is awful early for the climate.

5 June 2017: Found the first cropie-girl today. She's beautiful. I have guests in the house, so things are hectic here; I suspect she eclosed yesterday and I never noticed. I'll put her out in the breeding cage at night and hope for the best. Seems too early though.

7 June 2017: My guests left yesterday, things have settled down, and I have time to attend to loose ends, one of which was burying the beautiful sphinx. She'd been dead a few days, but I simply did not have time. Couldn't just throw her. She was a wondrous thing. It gave me no pleasure to put her away. She never did attract a male, but that was no surprise. As for the cropie, she hasn't attracted a male either. I just keep putting her out or by a window on second floor. I wonder if it's even possible to attract these moths here in the city. The place is a death trap, and it would take a brave male to get by the traffic and such. I spent last night at daughter's place, where there's a balcony, woods, a stream, an open field -- more like moth-land -- but nothing happened there either. It's probably way too early. Sigh.

15 June 2017: Second cropie-girl eclosed today, and I will put her in the cage and out on the patio tonight and as long as she lasts or as long as it takes. I'll put the first girl out, too, as she is still alive and I don't think has dumped her full egg load yet.

Locally paired cecropias

17 June 2017: I don't know how many times I've put out a female moth and experienced nothing. Just this year, I had a female eclose nearly two weeks ago, and she called every night while hanging from the gutter above the patio doors or by an open window. Nothing. Then a second female eclosed two days ago. I put both of them out and nothing happened. I retired the older girl and put the fresh one out for a second night, last night. Overslept and didn't get out to check till nearly 7:00am. Was concerned about bird-terror. No sign of birds, but there he was at last, a wild male cecropia that had found his way to the lady, a city moth in a city location. I was awed.

Weather commentary: It's probably our second stretch of very warm, humid nights, which is moth weather. Considering I've been putting out girls for about two weeks, and this is the first male, I suppose it's the beginning of the wild flight, and I don't know how long that lasts. My past failures have probably all been about timing. In the end, a male finally did come to the city moth, out on the patio, to a cage hanging from a gutter above the patio doors. There are houses all around, and the land slants sharply upward at back of house, as we are on a big hill. House behind us is probably 8 feet higher up, and the hill just keeps climbing. I really need to build an outdoor eclosure enclosure, so the real weather can play its part in getting my city moths synchronized with the wild ones.

Way later . . . moths stayed paired all day. It's now 9:02 pm, and the female is having a "let me GO" fit, flapping her wings to pull away. Boy moth is not cooperating. I hope he does soon, as I absolutely do not want her damaged!

Okay, she won, and the boy just took off, but I netted him. She's going berserk; so's he. And, of course, I'm wondering if she got injured. Time for the bag! I'll put boy with other female, but am certain she's too spent to do anything. Definitely time for the bag. Girl is laying eggs already! Amazing!

23 June 2017: Girl-moth started laying eggs immediately upon her separation, and she laid 162 during the first two nights, then lesser amounts during subsequent nights. As of now, her full total is 250 exactly. She might lay a few more, but I've put her in a spacious cage, so anything she lays will be spread around on wire and screen.

130 eggs have been claimed by three moth friends. I need to figure out what to do with the other 120. They'll probably end up attached to host tree trunks, and they'll have to find their way to the feast above. I've made a couple sleeves, and will put around 2 dozen out on the birch. It's sort of an experiment, as I treated said tree with systemic granules back in March. It may or may not be lethal to cecropia caterpillars. I'm hoping not. The sleeves will be nice, because my responsibility for the pillars will be extremely minimal, plus I won't have to watch them die if that's what happens. I don't want them to die, but I do need to find out whether that tree can be used during treatment years. Since I have more eggs than I know what to do with, I guess now is as good a time as any. Here's hoping I won't have to part with all of girl-moth's offspring.

30 June 2017: Sighting reported of gravid female cropie somewhere in SE Wisconsin by Milwaukee resident who works in Kenosha area.

Hatchlings 30 June 17Second Instar Pillars 6 July 2017Newly molted to third instar 9 July 2017Nets for outdoor rearing of caterpillars 10 July 2017Newly molted to fifth instar 26 July 2017

26 July 2017: Due to time constraints plus a desire to raise more pillars, I'm trying outdoor rearing using nets. Some people call them sleeves. Basically, they are a net with a seam joining the two opposite sides to form a cylinder, then hemmed on either end with a drawstring added to close them.

So, I had ended up keeping 27 eggs, and the caterpillars started hatching 30 June. I began rearing in the house, in an ice cream bucket, because small pillars are easy to manage indoors, only requiring a few leaves each day or two. I kept them inside through the molt to third instar. When they had all become active again following the molt, I moved them into the nets that I'd hung on my birch tree. That was 10 July. It is now 26 July, and the caterpillars are all either pre-molt or just having completed the molt to fifth instar. They are robust and healthy. I'll need to relocate the nets soon, because the enclosed branches are close to defoliated.

The nets are proving very effective for containing the caterpillars and protecting them from predators. I've emptied frass once so far, letting it fall into a pail, and I dumped it far away and on other side of house, as frass attracts insect predators.

Twice I've noticed an earwig crawling around on the outside of one net. Earwigs will eat these caterpillars alive; however, it could not access the inner sanctuary. I flicked the earwig off. I decided it was probably climbing the nearby daisies to reach the net, so I tied the lower end of the net to a nearby branch, to prevent it from contacting the tall daisies. Haven't seen an earwig since.

Today I noticed a wasp hanging around a net. There wasn't much I could do about a flying insect, but it wasn't on a net, and I doubt it could attack the caterpillars unless one would decide to press against the net. That hasn't been happening so far. Wasps will eat these caterpillars alive. Some female wasps will lay their eggs in or on these caterpillars and thus parasitize them, which eventually kills the caterpillar.

Sometimes, if eggs are laid on a caterpillar but don't hatch before it molts, the eggs are shed without any harm done. Now, however, my caterpillars have reached fifth instar and won't molt again until they have cocooned, which is probably enough time for wasp larvae to hatch. Here's hoping no wasp has sneaked some eggs through a net and into any caterpillars.

Anyway, so far -- perfect. The nets are working, relieving me of having to attend to a lot of food gathering and container cleaning. The caterpillars live mostly undisturbed in their natural environment and are thriving. I'm loving nets so far!

Fifth instar 28 July 17

28 July 2017: Am in the process of moving a net. Well, actually, the net is moved, and I'm waiting for the pillars to eat up the leaves on the twigs I cut off to get them out of the old location. There are 11 fifth instar pillars and one in premolt. They are currently parked in a bucket among lots of leaves. The net is on a new limb that's full of leaves and should get them through fifth instar to cocoon time.

A bug's wretched life in Wisconsin

31 March 2018: My new emergence cage is set up for eclosure and contains about 40 cocoons, half of which are cecropias plus polyphemuses and lunas, all of which I reared last summer.

Last summer I learned that maybe 3 caterpillars per net is a good number, if I don't want to be moving nets and/or supplementing.

As for the cage, I visited my oldest son last October. He's good with wood and has a nice workshop. I asked him if he'd kindly construct for me a wood frame of my design, and he was happy to comply. It's 1'x1'x2' and did a lot of traveling, including through Canada, to get home. I painted and added hardware to it to comply with USDA regulations, and it is now on its maiden voyage. With it, I hope to synchronize my bugs to the local wild flight, making it easier for the girls to attract boys.

Emergence Cage on 1st of 3 day historical blizzard

16 April 2018: On April 13th, I helped my daughter move to a new (for her) home as a terrible storm raged that included drenching rain, hail, sleet, ice, howling wind. It was pure misery! By April 14th, it had converted to thickly falling, unceasing snow, and that's the day I took this photo of the cage. The storm continued into today for a while, then finally stopped. It had been a record breaking, historic blizzard the likes of which had not been seen since 1889. By then, the box was almost totally buried. Of course, I'm wondering what the outcome will be for my cocoons' occupants.

23 May 2018: A big heat wave is approaching, and moths started eclosing today, a male each of luna and polyphemus. Comparatively, males always eclose first.

24 May 2018: More male moths today, and one female of each species. The girls will be spending the night in the breeding cage! Big test: Are my moth eclosures in sync with the wild herd? I'm anxious to find out.

Polyphemus pairing of stock female and wild male, 27May2018

27 May 2018: After two disappointing nights out in the cage, success was waiting for me early Sunday morning! The luna had not paired but the poly had! Maybe, due to location of box being sheltered and exposed to a lot of sun, my moths are eclosing a tiny bit early compared to wild flight, but there is still sufficient synchronization. Only wish more females would eclose. I have a herd of males but only the two girls so far, and the luna has died. The cecropias are still on hold.

31 May 2018: Oh thrill! Cecropias began popping today, 3 males, 2 females. They are beauties! Have had another female luna, and put her out in the breeding cage overnight, but there was no male with her come morning. Disappointed about that.

Cecropia pairing of stock female and wild male, 9June2018

9 June 2018: Nine days and 4 more females later I finally got a pairing this morning of cecropias. That's good; I can carry on my Wisconsin line of cecropia and now also polyphemus moths.

The last female luna had a deformed tail; whether that was a hindrance I do not know. She did not pair; she did lay a few infertile eggs. My polyphemus eggs began hatching on 7 June. I'd given most of them away before hatching. I have four small caterpillars.

There was a seeming break between eclosures (slower action mostly) as the weather cooled off. It's warming now, and my last polyphemus, a male, eclosed. I still have one luna cocoon that seems to be alive. There are several cecropia cocoons still occupied.

I expected five female cecropias based on weight, but have had six so far and as many males.

Has the eclosure box been a success? I don't know. There was one year where I had two dozen cecropias and didn't get a single wild pairing. Admittedly, I also had no idea what I was doing. Certainly the timing was also all wrong. They'd been kept in the house so were not synchronized. But as for this batch of moths, there was sufficient synchronization to get one pairing of two different species, but it took time, like maybe mine had eclosed ahead of the wild flight. Or maybe it's the location. A local connection, who lives in a very rural location, had loads of polys fly in for his females. These were of the same brood as my moths and eclosed within a couple days of mine. Maybe my city location is a deterrent, and the rural dwelling moths find pairings without having to follow a long scent trail into the rather dangerous city environment.

10 June 2018: Major action this morning! Another female had popped yesterday, and I saved the male from yesterday's pairing, stuck him back in the cage last night and hung it out. Checked about 4:50am and found a fresh male paired to a female and another male swooping around and attacking that male. It was quite amusing.

Got my net and managed to slip out door without terrorizing the aggressive male. Netted him and brought everybody in house, where I opened cage and stuck him in. He promptly paired with a female who was hanging from top of cage and, therefore, unreachable from outside. So, I've got three paired females this morning and fourth female laying eggs in a paper bag. Happiest camper!

11 June 2018: Sorted through cecropia cocoons today and found two heavy ones, cut 'em and found females. We're not done yet!

14 June 2018: I put yesterday's female in cage overnight, but she attracted no male. Another female eclosed today, so two will go out tonight.

15 June 2018: Got a single pairing overnight of the 13 June female and a wild male. Then, later in the day, a friend came over to pick up eggs. He lives in a rural area some miles out of town, so I sent the unpaired female home with him to see what the flight and cecropia population looks like beyond the city. His polyphemus activity earlier in the season had been incredible; hopefully the cropies are the same. Exciting to know that the wild flight continues and the box is working well.

Cecropia pairing on 26June2018

26 June 2018: Cecropia flight continues. A friend found a male cropie at a local Kwik Trip yesterday. Another friend's late blooming pupa eclosed two days ago. I loaned her my breeding cage overnight, and she got her pairing. I think hers is a great location, as she is on a mostly pristine, heavily wooded ravine not far from Fox River here in the city. Male looked older, battered, but that doesn't matter. She has one more female pupa to try.

Another friend, who is west of the city, continues to get loads of male polyphemus moths coming to his females but not pairing. He finds them on the property during daylight hours. He's still waiting for cecropia eclosures, but it seems he need not fear that the flight has passed him by.

27 June 2018: Friend's second female pupa died, but she did find a second male parked on the foundation of her home, another suitor for the first female, and he was pristine, probably fresh out of his cocoon.

13 June 2019: First moth from my personal stash, a male, emerged today, compared to 31 May of last year. What a difference the weather makes! Plus I had relocated the emergence box to a more sheltered and shady place, because last year's moths seemed to have started eclosing slightly ahead of the wild flight. That's not the case this year! Yesterday, local friends began reporting to me of sightings of wild moths, a cecropia and a polyphemus. That's great news!

15 June 2019: Two more males emerged today, three cocoons remaining. I desperately need a female!

22 June 2019: A female finally eclosed on 17 June 2019, but she failed to reel in a male. Very disappointing. I suspect the ongoing cold weather was a significant factor.

3 July 2019: JL is having great success with his moths. He had two females eclose on 22 June. One called a wild male; the other paired with a sibling that was still in the cage. I visited JL on this date, and he gave me updates. He had a huge gravid female laying eggs in a bag; she was a couple days old. There was a paired female in the cage, with wild male.

4 July 2019: Because it was too late to ship moth eggs from JL's original pairings, I brought them to Ernie. He paid me, and I gave the money to JL.

6 July 2019: Eric G. posted a photo today on FB of paired wild cecropias that he found on his front lawn. The two week long heat wave that followed afore mentioned lengthy cold spell started a new wave of cecropia eclosures, and it's still going strong. Eric G.'s pair were pristine perfect.

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