Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia), Caterpillars 2010
Stan Malcolm Photos

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Stan Malcolm Photo
Along the Air Line...

 

 

May 24th. Eggs hatching.  Many thanks to Jeremiah Compton who shared a batch of eggs laid in Pennsylvania approximately May 14th.

 

 

 

 

 

New larvae were roughly 5 mm long.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 2nd.  Caterpillars have begun to molt.

 

 

Shed skin of the caterpillar above.

 

 

As they grow, their skin stretches and appears yellow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the next molt, the caterpillars are bright yellow with blue and red tubercles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As this skin expands, the yellow color gives way to a bluish green.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A final molt and the red tubercles turn orange.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This caterpillar has just stepped out of the shed skin behind it.  (Note that as time goes by, the caterpillars lose synchrony in molting.  Some caterpillars complete the larval life stages much sooner than others.)

 

 

Feeding time.  Caterpillars alternate between feeding and resting.

 

 

Feeding is machine-like and mesmerizing to watch.

 

 

Mouthparts and thoracic true legs.

 

 

Most mature caterpillars approch 4" in length - longer if streched out while walking.

 

 

For a day or two prior to beginning its cocoon, each caterpillar stops feeding and purges its gut, finally releasing some clear fluid.  (Hint to others raising caterpillars: you can tell when a cocoon is about to be formed by observing frass on the cage bottom, partially decomposed and staining purple a small damp area on paper towels used to line the cage.)

 

 

I was able to peel away the supporting leaves from this cocoon while it was still thin,

 

 

Backlit, you can see the caterpillar continuing to spin inside.

 

 

Spinning Cocoon (Actual Speed)

 

 

Spinning Cocoon (Time Lapse at 1 frame/second)

 

 

Another cocoon; this one with supporting leaves still attached. Several days after construction of the outer surface, it hardens and darkens.  The caterpillar continues to work on the inner cocoon for some time.

 

 

Collapsible rearing cage from Nasco accomodated over 20 Cecropia caterpillars.  Cherry branch "bouquets" were presented in up to four 1-gallon milk containers.