Glumshoe my Polyphemus silk moth jk just emerged and it's September! Should I release her now?
Oh hmmm… did you keep her indoors/near incandescent light? If they get too much unnatural light cycle, they’ll eclose from their cocoons early and not overwinter. I’m not sure where you live, but here it’s too late in the season for a new generation. You might have some luck keeping her in a wide-meshed enclosure outside at night, where any male moths still hanging around might find her… but I’m concerned that even if she laid eggs, there won’t be leaves on the trees long enough for the larvae to grow to pupation and overwinter.
So. Up to you. If you want to try for the slim chance of another generation, go for it… or release her and she may either get lucky on her own or serve as a meal for a hungry owl or bat or something.
A few years ago my mother tried raising luna moths but didn’t know about the light and temperature cycle, so she kept their cocoons indoors over the winter where they stayed warm and were exposed to incandescent light. They ended up eclosing just before Christmas—there was nowhere for them to go, so we just had ~20 giant green moths fluttering around loose inside our house for a week before they died.
Bagworm Moth caterpillars collect little twigs and cut them off to construct elaborate tiny log houses to live in (photos: Melvyn Yeo, Nick Bay)
I had to look this up because i thought there was no way these little faerie cabin-building caterpillars were real
I love every single species of bagworm. They are all wonderful. Yes, even the ones everyone hates as tree-killing pests here in the U.S. Here are some cool bagworm things:
In many species, the female never develops wings or in some cases never even develops legs, antennae or a face. She’s just a sausage-shaped egg factory who dies in her bag.
Two very different species are among the world’s few carnivorous caterpillars. One preys on snails and uses its bag to wedge into the snail’s shell. The other builds its bag OUT of body parts from the arthropods it eats and the smell attracts even more tasty things.
Some species not only have females that remain as “bagworms” but have parthenogenetic subspecies with no males at all; entire populations of caterpillars with no moths.
Do they build them first, and then crawl into them?
Do they have freakishly long arms that extend out from the bottom, allowing them to stack ever-higher?
Or perhaps they build them for each other?
Do they ever tweak the architecture, or rebuild from scratch?
They wrap themselves up in silk, just like when other caterpillars would make a cocoon later. Then as they go along feeding, they attach bits of their leftover food, leaves, twigs etc. to the silk bag. They can reach their whole body out of it when they need to stick something on!
As they molt and grow, they keep adding more to the bag around its open end, so the very tip of the bag is what they started with when they were tiny!
Here’s one where you can obviously see the difference between the “newer additions” to the bag (green leaves), and the more established parts (dried up leaves):
Unfortunately, all the bagworms I collected in my yard ended up being parasitized by braconids! Seems the bag doesn’t protect them so much after all!
Every time I mow the lawn I end up bothering somebody.
White-lined sphinx moth. They feed on nectar through a long proboscis while flying and hover in place like hummingbirds.
March 13, 2017. Been spring here for months already.
This was one of my first sphinx moths! And definitely not the last thing I scared out of the yard while mowing. In fact, while mowing recently, I scared up this poor baby:
Gulf Coast Toad. I had to chase the poor thing into the neighbor’s driveway to be able to relocate him somewhere more comfortable (a nice shaded area under my flower bushes with lots of leaves hiding tasty bugs to eat).
I had an “assignment” from an entomologist at the California Department of Agriculture to rear a particular species of slug moth (Euclea incisa, not present in California so he can’t do it himself) and document variations in caterpillars from different broods. No problem! I said.
He probably didn’t expect embryonic development updates.
The eggs of this species are completely transparent and flat, so checking in was easy and SO COOL.
Anyways these babes are one of the stinging slug caterpillars, and they don’t have prolegs (?!), check out that last gif. Mom of these ones is in the last photo. They are super tiny, microscope shots are magnified 50x.
Said Californian entomologist is a Good Dude and offered to help me write up the paper without author credit on the babes. I can’t get an entomology job without an entomology degree, but I wonder how many single-author papers I can publish to substitute for one (probably none lol).
May 17, 2019
Spiny slug baby updates
The purpose of this “experiment” is to see if there are differences in how the caterpillars look between different batches of eggs, but I’m going to go insane keeping track of that here AND on iNat, so here are a bunch of unlabeled random slug babies! Microscope shots are all magnified 20x in this batch.
Arranged from youngest to oldest. They get spinier and stingier as they grow!
Look! You can see them without the microscope now!!! And I am totally raising them in a parmesan container, they are too small to keep in anything else.
At their largest, they are about the size of a jelly bean. A… spiny jelly bean. Do not eat.
May 18, 2018
Spiny Slug Jellypillar Update
It’s warm enough in my house that I am constantly fighting against mold in their little containers, but if they are molting I can’t move them off a moldy leaf. It’s a situation. I upgraded the big batch of them to a salad bin (formerly in a parmesan container). The rest of the babies are in sauce cups.
Wecome to my salad bar!
May 26, 2019
The worst salad? Or…
the best salad?
They’re so cute save me how are there so many where did they come from
Last night I was up too late doing emergency caterpillar feeding. I need to switch their enclosure over but I don’t have a clean one and I can’t eat the salad I bought fast enough to move them into that container, and there’s a lot of mold growing at the bottom of this one. I was worried about cocoons getting moldy, feeding leaves to caterpillars, and I accidentally bumped a baby with my finger.
The sting was worse than an io moth caterpillar sting! It wasn’t a very hard bump though, I’m sure a proper sting would be much more painful. Very impressive!
It’s that time of year, when the Saturniids start laying eggs all over the side of your house… I’ve got one of these asks in my inbox I need to get to (although I think it’s about the same moth so hey!)
First off, ASAP you need to remove the eggs (or if the lady is still around, put her in a paper bag to get eggs on something easier to deal with). The eggs are glued on with special moth resin, but eggs can be gently pried off fairly easily. I pick them off with my hands because it’s easiest to not squish them like it would be with tools.
Second, you need to locate a nearby host plant. Saturniids are usually pretty easy, especially because so many people raise them and document what they eat. The bugguide page for imperial moth has an example list of trees they munch leaves from [link]. Just giving leaves isn’t good enough, you need to give fresh leaves. Keep them from drying out somehow. Newly hatched caterpillars can be kept in small containers with lids (don’t poke holes! They have enough air and keeping in moisture is your goal!). But clean out containers daily, make sure mold doesn’t grow, give fresh leaves, etc.
Larger caterpillars will eat entire branches full of leaves bare before they can dry out, and I will keep these in pop-up laundry hampers (which they will also make cocoons in and emerge from as moths). When your caterpillars get larger than your thumb and you have an armful of them, you run out of aquarium space and have to get creative! If you have a host plant in your yard, you can sleeve: put the caterpillars on the plant, then cover the branch in a netting that birds and predators can’t penetrate (remember parasitic wasps are tiny!). All you need to do is make sure there’s enough food in the netting for them, and move it around for them as needed.
One thing to keep in mind, if you are raising indoors: air conditioning dried out the air significantly. Your eggs and caterpillars might need to get misted with water to stay hydrated.
Lots of people raise moths and butterflies. If there’s a garden club in your area, chances are there are butterfly and moth people there who can give you pointers.