The Official Cecropia Moth Life Cycle Post™
Buckle in kids, this one should be exciting and full of drama.
It all started with a text message. A friend out in Smithville (i.e. further out in the country than me) found some giant caterpillars:
I dropped everything to go see them. I lovingly adopted one caterpillar (who would turn out to be the female), and was also gifted with a cocoon (which held the male), one of many my friend found in her elderberry bush.
Winter came and went, the moths emerged, and got to business right away. They didn’t seem to mind that they were probably siblings.
The female laid eggs.
After about 20 days, they started to hatch:
They hatched three days ago.
Which brings us up to today. Most of them are out of their eggs by now. And they have started eating. I offered them a choice. Elm (good for me, I have lots of elm), or elderberry (please no it’s a baby I don’t have enough elderberry for 50 cecropias please no).
Here’s their little mini-home:
Elm (light green) vs elderberry (dark green)
Guess what the turds picked?
My current plan is to grow the elderberry as much as I can (does the elderberry have favorite foods? Can I give it a ritual sacrifice? ???) and then return some of the caterpillars to the motherland when things get too ridiculous. I’m sure my friend will be super excited about that. And I can play with her bees when I visit, too!
Stay tuned (*sigh*)
March 19, 2019
Are they bigger?? They haven’t started Munchathon 2019 yet, but they are warming up, for sure.
March 21, 2019
They are bigger (and turning yellow)!
They finally turned their hungry on!
Not all my eggs hatched, so my “50” is greatly exaggerated. Looks like I have 13 if no more eggs hatch. A little more manageable. I can sneak them treats from my plum tree if I need to stretch the elderberry.
March 22/23, 2019
Baby’s First Molt
I just came home to find my first 2nd instar baby Cecropia! This was them this morning:
I had a feeling they were about to pop.
When they’re getting ready to molt, they will put down a silk mat to hold onto with their old skin (think velcro), while they crawl out of it. Then they hold real still for a few hours while their new head squeezes out of the old one so they have a hole to climb out of.
Here is the mat of one getting ready to molt:
In some species (and for older caterpillars), it can be more obvious, but you can usually see the silk when light shines on it. Here is the same caterpillar (side-view):
The silk mat is a little more obvious here. See how he looks like a fat sausage ready to pop?! (*whispers* it’s cuz he is).
March 26, 2019
I can’t believe how fast they grow! Elderberry bush is still holding out.
March 30, 2019
After they molted to second instar, some of them turned out to be banana flavored (!). Very nice! They are growing FAST! The oldest ones are already starting their molt to third instar!
The two who are molting are hanging out on the lid. It’s hard to see through all their silk, but the one on the little window is squeezing out of his old face. They should all be green in the third instar. Going to need to upgrade their home soon!
April 1, 2019
A couple more have molted as well, and a bunch more have started. This is third instar (there are five instars before this species pupates!).
This should be when they REALLY start to grow…
April 2, 2019