Can anyone tell me - are these luna moth cocoons? They are HUGE. And after the hard winter we've just had here in mid Michigan (zone 5a), are they likely to still be alive?
OMG!!! I'd faint with happiness if I found those - they're cecropia cocoons!!
Here's one I raised -
I don't know whether or not the harsh winter will adversely affect them. If you can pick them up, and they're heavy, then I'm pretty sure they're still alive. If they're light as a feather, they're dead.
Didn't want to disturb them, to tell the truth. The one is firmly attached under a stacked log; the other which is attached to a boxelder branch, maybe I could get some sense of weight to, without detaching it. Do you have any idea when they might normally be expected to hatch out?
Cecropias only have one generation per year, even down here, and, they usually emerge later than lunas, which have many generations, at least in my area. I'll guess they'll emerge in June or July, but it could be earlier or later, any time from May to August wouldn't be out of the ordinary.
I wouldn't disturb them either, but if you can cut off the branch of the box elder and put it in a safe place, then you'd be assured of seeing the moth when it emerges. I have butterfly cages on the porch, which are made from a PVC frame, covered with mesh that has a zipper that you can open when needed. Your cecropia will need something to hang upside down from, so that its body fluids can properly go to its wings to harden them. It will be ready to fly that night, so, once it's dark, you turn off all your lights, so it can fly - lights cause them to flail around. If it's a male, he'll fly off, hopefully, to mate with a 'calling' female. If it's a female, she'll stay where she is and 'call' until, hopefully, a wild male visits and they become a couple.
I'm telling you these things, assuming that you're new to moths, but you may already know these things.
I used to correspond with lep enthusiasts in Wisconsin and Ohio, and I think the one in Ohio raised his cecropias on box elder.
Congratulations! Let us know when it/they emerge!
I am absolutely new to moths, and don't know that I feel confident to enclose either of these fellows for fear of doing them harm. But I will keep an eye on the cocoons, and hope to get pics of emerging moths. :)
I just read elsewhere that in my area, I can expect to see the emerging moths in late May or June, when there's some heat and humidity. Seeing the pictures of the caterpillars makes me realize that I saw one of these in another area of the yard this past summer. I'll have to go look for a possible third cocoon.
They're neat looking caterpillars, aren't they, samhain10? Like most cocooning moth caterpillars, they travel a fairly long distance to make their cocoons, sometimes on the host tree, but usually not. So, one of the cocoons may be the caterpillar you saw.
Sherry - Looked all around the area where I'd seen the caterpillar, but didn't see any other cocoons. That would have been a pretty long distance to go - more than a couple of hundred feet, so do you still think one of those cocoons could be his/hers?
Yes, I've found pipevine swallowtail chrysalides - the butterfly form of a moth's cocoon - probably ?150 - 200' from their host plant. And I've watched luna moth caterpillars wander around the cage for what seems like hours - if they were in the wild, all that running could take them a pretty far distance. So, yes, the cocoons you found could be his or hers, but maybe not - there may be more out there you haven't found yet. Caterpillars are less predictable than most books/web sites tell - some will travel far distances, and some will stay right on the host plant - go figure.
I can't wait to see the emerged moths!
P.S. When I said I've watched luna moth caterpillars wander around the cage, I meant when they've finished their growth, and they're ready to make their cocoon.
This post was edited by misssherry on Fri, Apr 25, 14 at 18:09
Sherry - OK, will keep a watch on these and a lookout for others. Hopefully, I'll get a pic of an emerging moth. Will post one way or the other in May or June. Keep your fingers crossed. :)
Sherry - not looking good for the coccoon hanging in the tree - there's a spider living by it, and a tiny hole which I'm sure isn't from an emerging moth. :(
Still watching the other one under the log...
Hmmm.....that's not good. Any breach of the cocoon isn't good for the pupa inside. The pupa may have already died and the cocoon is just crumbling, making it easier for predators to enter. It's hard for any predator to enter a healthy cocoon, but I guess that could have happened. I hope neither has happened.
Anyway, you still have one left. My impression from raising some cecropias is that they're a much less vigorous species than lunas. Several of my cecropia cats would die, and I'd only wind up with a few moths. Lunas, on the other hand, almost never die - I've raised and released too many to ever count. Occasionally a pupa will die over winter and nothing emerges in spring, but that's about their only set back.
Sherry - so do you think this warrants me opening the outer cocoon to check to see if the pupa is intact? Had considered doing it, but kept telling myself - "leave it alone!"
Tiny hole usually means wasp or wasps exited the cocoon.
Luna cocoons are easy to cut open without injuring the pupa. Same for cecropias. Polyphemus cocoons are trickier because the cocoons are hard.
Luna pupa are quite active. If you shake the cocoon and do not feel anything moving inside, I'd say it is time for closer examination.
EDIT: Just looked at the beginning of this thread and saw they are cecropia cocoons. Cecropia pupa are not very active so shaking them usually won't get them moving. But like I said before, they are easy to cut open. There are two cocoons. The first cocoon has a valve at the top for the moth to emerge from. Slice the cocoon there from top to bottom. Once opened, remove the inner cocoon while keeping track of which way is the top. While holding the cocoon in an upward position so the pupa is resting on the bottom, snip off bits of the cocoon's top until you have created a hole. Then hold the cocoon horizontally and carefully cut a line along the length of the cocoon. The cut will tend to curve instead of going straight. You can then pull the cocoon apart to see the pupa.
It is normal for cecropias in your area to still be in their cocoons at this time. July is when you should be worried but I sometimes have a couple which wait until July to eclose.
This post was edited by kcclark on Mon, May 26, 14 at 6:39
KC has dealt with many more cecropias than I have, so I'll go with his advice.
Thanks, folks! I have already periodically tapped on the cocoon to see if I could elicit any movement, but no dice. Since the one cocoon on the branch already seems compromised, I'll follow KC's instructions and open it, carefully. The other one is in a more protected location, and I'm holding out hope that it might be OK.
Oh, and in the case that the pupa is still alive, I guess I can rig up some screened box in the greenhouse until it emerges. Cross your fingers...
OK - as you can see by the pic, there is a hole in the pupa case and the inside is empty. Too bad, but maybe the other will be alive still.
If you're still around, Miss Sherry, I am getting antsy about this remaining cocoon - wondering if I should open the outer husk and check on it. It's hard to see if there is a breach in this one like there was in the other, but definitely I don't see any large hole where a moth climbed out. What do you think - leave it alone or take a look?
If it was me, I'd leave it alone until the end of July. After the long cold winter and colder than usual spring, it would follow that it'll take longer for it to transform inside the cocoon, since it got such a late start. Cecropia moths are BIG - usually, the bigger the lep, the longer their body processes take.
If I tried to cut open the cocoon, I'd probably accidentally pierce the pupa, but if you're sure you can do it safely and you just can't wait, I don't guess it'll hurt anything.
Is the cocoon heavy? By that I mean for what it is, they aren't really heavy. When a pupa dies, it dries up, and the cocoon is 'airy' light.
Ouch!! Sorry about your one Cecropia pupa :( Hope you have better luck with the other one...
Can't tell if it's heavy or not because of the location it's in. But I won't mess with it. You've given me hope that it might still be OK; I just wasn't sure if I'd be maybe helping it by taking it out of harm's way, or something. And if it's already been hit, then it certainly won't make a difference if I wait till the end of July, will it? :)
Well, if possible, I would have already removed the entire cocoon, so no other predators could get to it. I keep all my cocoons safely in a cage, then give them all the time they need.
Yes, but you're the butterfly/moth expert; I'm just the gardener. I'm more often thinking - "is this caterpillar going to hurt my plants?" :)
Cecropia and Luna larvae mostly eat the foliage of hardwood trees, not flowers and herbs.
Thank you, John - good to know. Though, considering I've only ever seen one of those beauties once in my life, I know I wouldn't have the heart to do anything even if it was eating up my garden. :)
A friend of my teenage daughter was making conversation and asked what I was reading about. I told her about these huge moths and she said, "Oh, I just saw one of those outside my apartment yesterday!" And she had a perfect photo of a cecropia on her phone camera. I was so jealous. But, it was fun to talk to her about my interest in raising such gorgeous creatures and how I garden for them. Maybe someday I'll have the cool photo.
that's fun that she'd just seen one and had a pic to prove it! I'm still hopeful that I might get to see this second cocoon hatch out.
OK, I was bad and you can all beat me up verbally later. I got impatient, figuring the cocoon was no longer viable and I opened it. Well, started to open it. I breached the outer cocoon and had just started to expose the pupa when I suddenly got that sense of...weight that you mentioned before. This felt decidedly heavier than the other empty cocoon and pupa. And I stopped right there!
So - here I am with a baby on my hands and I don't know what to do with it. I have rigged a cage as you can see in the pic, and the thing is presently in a room by itself with fresh air coming through the window. That's the closest I can approximate to same conditions of temperature and humidity. It will be slightly warmer than it was outside, but not by much. Without the lights on, the room is in about the same lighting conditions as the shady area it was in before. I've changed the orientation of the cocoon somewhat when I attached it to the cage - is that a problem? And what do I do next??? Will it need misting or anything since it would be getting that outside? And once the moth starts to emerge, which hopefully it's still going to - how long a process is it till it's ready to be set free? Is it more likely to do this during the day or the night? I don't want to stress it out by being caged and I don't want to miss taking a pic either. :)
You don't need to mist it. You don't need to worry about which way it is pointing.
It should elcose during the daylight hours.
It appears that you have it suspended somehow. Make sure that it is able to crawl upwards if it falls from the cocoon.
Let it go when it is dark outside.
kcclark - thanks for your quick response. Could I ask: what does elcose mean or is that a typo for something else?
The cocoon was attached to the loose bark on some logs stacked under the trees. I removed the piece of bark and wired it to the plastic mesh of the box you see. The box is a special sifter that goes with a cat litter box - I never used it, though. The moth should easily be able to climb up that plastic grid.
Eclose just means to emerge, in this case, from the pupa.
Sherry - you're not castigating me for messing with the cocoon - though, actually, you did say that if it were you, you'd have already removed it and put it someplace safe from predators. It's safe now...I just hope it's safe from me. :)
He's out!!!! And it's night, but there's a thunderstorm going on out there - what should I do?
Five nice photos.