Ready for another caterpillar flavor? I found a Polyphemus moth laying eggs on the side of my house. Brought her inside, put her in an enclosure while I grabbed a paper bag (easier to collect eggs on paper!!!), and she laid FIVE eggs in the 10 seconds it took me to get back to her.
Last year, I struggled with keeping my Polyphemus babes fed, since the trees they eat were not abundant in my yard (they ate all the little saplings down to sticks!). But this year, I anticipated Good Moth Luck, and have let all the elm saplings get big and tall regardless of how inconveniently placed they are. And here we are! 😀
August 31, 2018
Guess who’s here?
Mama moth laid 90 eggs and thankfully I was able to give away most of them. I kept 20 eggs for myself, and they started hatching this morning. Exciting!!
September 8, 2018
My fat babies 😭
I gave away 5 more eggs, and three have yet to hatch, so only 12 caterpillars right now. Much easier than 90!!
September 10, 2018
Compare the size of a newly hatched baby pillar with her two-day-old siblings.
September 10, 2018
Baby’s First Molt
You can see his old face is starting to come off! Exciting!
September 11, 2018
Fresh new clothes! In the top photo, you can see the baby’s old skin behind him (it’s the dry yellow thing). In the bottom photo, you can see all their discarded head capsules (I circled them). I collect caterpillar faces!
Remember: they are four days old at this point.
September 12, 2018
Gaze upon my large children
September 13, 2018
Oops forgot to post these yesterday!! Got distracted by BIRD NONSENSE
I probably need to feed them again. They are eating machines!!!
September 15, 2018
Important new development: Hairy Toes
September 20, 2018
The molting and cuteness are everlasting. Soon they will have their walrus mustaches.
September 22, 2018
The bigger they get, the sillier their molt dance gets. Check out the complete celebratory ridiculousness here [link to previous post]
Wow wouldn’t it be nice if I could post a video reblog on mobile?!
September 23, 2018
Big n’ fat
September 25, 2018
These were taken over the course of the past few days (time to retag these as “caterpillar laterposts”?), but as you can see, they are now LORGE. The last photo is a big fat baby molting again to become bigger and fatter.
On Monday, I’m bringing them to a school, where a class of VERY lucky 1st graders gets to MEET THEM and WATCH THEM POOP. Speaking of which, stay tuned because I have the action-gif of the poopening photo third from the bottom.
September 29, 2018
Polyphemus caterpillars: unanimously approved by 25 six-year-old humans
Yesterday, I brought four of the fatties to Cedar Creek Elementary school where they got to meet a class of 1st graders who are learning about insects. One of them was molting! One of them pooped, they were fat and eating and the kids LOVED them. They kept asking: “Are these REAL?!” You bet!!
I also brought the microscope and showed them some caterpillar faces! Photos above are from yesterday.
They grow. Larger and larger!
October 2, 2018
October 3, 2018
October 4, 2018
I’m in love
October 4, 2018 (pm)
October 6, 2018
How are they not making cocoons yet?!
LOOK HOW FAT
October 8, 2018
Like my new mustache?
October 8/9, 2018
Squeeze gently to check for ripeness.
Ah, yes. Almost ready.
(Where are my cocoons already?!)
October 9, 2018
It is time
The prophesy is realized. As it was foretold,
R O U N D B O Y
This prepupal green sausage is making THE FIRST COCOON!!!
October 10, 2018
There are now three cocoons
Top: the first cocoon, babby sewed some leaves to the side the their home so you can see the “naked” cocoon side. They don’t always hide in leaf cocoons, but it’s very common and a good camouflage strategy.
Bottom: the second cocoonis completely enclosed in leaves. The third cocoon looks the same.
The caterpillars were huge, so these cocoons must be MASSIVE, right??
Nope! Check it out:
You remember the first bab got SO FAT WHY? They squeeze themselves like an accordion before they make their cocoon and pupate inside. Adult moths look way bigger than they actually are thanks to their wings. Polyphemus moths are pretty big anyway, but the cocoon and pupa are only about a large as the moths body, the wings are just tiny inflatable flaps until they emerge and pump them up.
Only 9 more to go!
October 12, 2018
Only 3 caterpillars left!
Currently, 9 babies are tucked away in their cocoons. Look how cozy! The three remaining sausages are being their typical ridiculous selves. For example, this:
I mean, sure, this is how I eat my breakfast, too.
October 14, 2018
All the Babs are in Cocoons
The final caterpillar made a cocoon on Friday, and caterpillar season is finally starting to slow down a bit (who am I kidding, caterpillar season in Texas lasts 9 months).
Here’s what happened the 17th through the 20th!
Wandering around, trying to find the perfect pupation location.
Poops! Their poops are typically as big as their heads!
The last caterpillar needed to be original, and made a naked cocoon (no leaves). Here’s the beginning.
All done! The finished cocoons are thick and hard, which protects them during the winter. They will pupate inside the cocoon, and when the moths emerge, they spit out a special enzyme that dissolves the silk so they can emerge. For that reason, it’s important that the cocoons are kept somewhere somewhat humid (similar to the outdoors!), since our homes can be very dry by caterpillar standards. I have a humidifier in the caterpillar room, but you can also spray a mist of water onto them regularly.
October 21, 2018