Pearl Crescent Life Cycle

misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)April 15, 2014

Since the life cycle of pearl crescents is so rarely photographed, I thought I'd give mine their own thread.
We're due to have a record breaking 36-degree cold temperature here tonight, so I brought in the hatchlings to raise myself. I had tested the asters, both a stem and a single leaf, and they both held up beautiful in a water pick. So I cut off the leaf the hatchlings are on, put the leaf in the water pick and put them in a cage in the unheated guest room in my house, where my other caterpillars and chrysalides will spend at least one night. I'll crack the window in the room, so it'ill still be cold in the room, but not as cold as outside.

Here's a picture of the eggs -

It looks like there are only 9 hatchlings in this picture I just took, far less than the number of eggs laid. I think it's this cool spring weather - many of the pipevine swallowtail hatchlings apparently died also.
I cropped this picture several times for the caterpillars to look even this big!
Anyway, here they are - squint!

I checked the other, much bigger cluster of recently laid eggs this morning, and about 3/4 of them were gone. There was a nasty look green thing (a slug?) at the end of the leaf, which I promptly squished. If I bring in these eggs, and they take as long to hatch as the first group, the leaf will be too old to have much nutritional value left for the hatchlings, I'd think, may even be wilted. So, I'm going to cover that side of the asters with a bucket, held in place by a brick - it's windy out there. I've saved other plants that way, hopefully it'll work tonight. I'll also cover my tomato plants the same way. They've grown well and are flowering, so I sure hope they don't go!

Sherry

P.S.

Two days after Mother's Day, l'll add this picture of the pearl crescent who laid the eggs -

This post was edited by misssherry on Tue, May 13, 14 at 20:43

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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

Good luck, Sherry. And thanks for posting the photo.

Sandy

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 5:00PM
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bandjzmom(7 NWGeorgia)

Really interesting and absolutely thrilled for you! Thanks for sharing with us, and they do definitely need their own thread. Wow. Which Aster did you say they used? I know that I need one in my yard too! Supposed to be in the 20's here tonight. Brrrrrrrr.... I have 4 little Black SWT cats inside. :)

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 6:08PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Assuming my memory is correct, I got this aster from Pine Ridge Gardens as a Georgia aster/Aster grandiflorus. On other sites, Georgia aster has a different scientific name, though, so I'm not really sure what they are, just that they are vigorous, tall growing asters that make nice sized blooms in October.

I've ordered and planted some New England asters and A. oblongifolius in my garden, also. I've read that PCs will use these two, and I like to have a variety.

Now they're saying it'll get down to 34 degrees - they keep changing the number!

Sherry

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 7:05PM
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bernergrrl(z5 IL)

Wow! Thank you for posting the pic of the little babies--love them! Can't wait to watch them grow. :)

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 8:47PM
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dr.liz(7 NJ)

How interesting! Keep us posted.

We have a ton of pearl crescent around here in the fall. I didn't even know what the host plant was, but we have lots of asters in the park. I guess it's time to stick a couple of new England asters into my new butterfly bed.

Liz

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 8:25AM
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Leafhead

Cool babies, Sherry :) Please keep us posted on their progress. My Dwarf Cultivar Asters haven't come up yet (everything's late) but I usually seen one or two Pearl Crescents hanging around the front garden where they're planted. I'll have to watch for an ELF and bring in some eggs too.
Good luck with those little cuties.

John

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 12:37PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I got a new camera, a Nikon Coolpix L830, so of course I'm playing with it -

Sherry

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 12:54PM
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Leafhead

Professional shot of some precious caterpillars. Still first instar?

John

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 4:30PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I don't know, John. This is all new to me, and I don't know of any pictures to check, other than The Life Cycles of Butterflies by Burris and Richards - the caterpillar pictures in that book look to be late instar cats.
These cats are SO TINY!

Sherry

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 7:12PM
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Leafhead

They're super cute and I hope you get all nine butterflies, Sherry.

Does anyone else think it's weird that there are ads for pesticides on this forum?
Scroll down past the Follow Up box and you'll see an add for Terminix. Just sayin'

John

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 10:17PM
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runmede(7a Virginia)

Sherry,

Let us know how you like your camera. I need to upgrade, too.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 4:17PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I love it, runmede! It's basically a point-and-shoot camera with better color and clarity and a MUCH bigger zoom! I wanted the long zoom, so I could take more bird pictures - birds didn't let me get close enough to make a picture with my little cheapo camera without much zoom.
It's VERY easy to use, which is good for me, being tech challenged.

The only negative thing about it is that it's bigger than the other one and won't fit in my pocket, well, at least not jeans pockets. It might fit in real big pockets, but I'm not sure I have any clothes like that. So, when I'm out gardening, I have to hang it around my neck, and it bangs back and forth, which is aggravating, plus I'm afraid it'll get damaged that way. I'm going to look on line for fanny packs that might work - a fanny pack that could be worn backward would probably do the job. This camera isn't big, it just isn't the credit card size thing I'm used to.

It cost more than my little one, but, like my husband said, we can't take it with us! :)

Sherry

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 7:10PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

The pearl crescents have moved on to another leaf and changed, though I have no idea what instar they're in. This picture and the one before only show 8 cats - one must have died.

They're beginning to look like the only picture I've seen of PC cats, so I assume that photographer had a camera with a good macro lens, too -

Sherry

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 2:02PM
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Leafhead

Nice shot, Sherry. And what fun, raising new caterpillars :)
Judging by their heads, I'd say they are new 3rd instar. Maybe #9 is late molting and shows up later, I hope...

John

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 11:56AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

You're probably right, John, about them being 3rd instar, but you can't believe how tiny they still are!

The Mama PC, or maybe another one, was hanging around the Georgia asters today. My neighbor came over to talk just as she landed, which I guess scared her off, because she left. Hopefully, she'll come back. The second cluster of eggs still hasn't hatched.

I saw my first red-spotted purple today, so I'll be on the look out for eggs on the tips of cherry leaves.

Sherry

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 2:55PM
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Leafhead

Cool, Sherry :) I'm sure your PC ELF will be back with lots more eggs. Good luck finding RSP eggs :) My Asters just broke ground, so I may see some PCs myself this Summer...
I just bought some 4" pots of Fennel for the BSTs and some more Pussytoes for the ALs at the job.
I just LOVE my Farmers' Market!!

John

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 9:07AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

The PC cats got still, then after about a day or so, started eating again, so obviously they molted. They've begun to separate from each other off and on, and they can actually be seen with the naked eye with no squinting!

There are still eight. Here are two of them -

Sherry

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 2:28PM
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Leafhead

Congrats on your 4th instar cats, Sherry!!
8 out of 9 is a very good count indeed. Keep those updates coming :)

John

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 6:50AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I went out to the asters to get another branch for my PC cats. I noticed a caterpillar nearly as big as the cage cats sitting right on top of a leaf -

I also found another one about his size underneath a nearby leaf. It wasn't surprising, as I had figured there would be more caterpillars out there than I knew about. I saw the Mama laying eggs several times, making me wonder how many times she laid eggs when I wasn't there to see her. There are also the little bitty ones on another leaf.

The cats in my cage have started eating bites of an entire section of a leaf, like other caterpillars. 'Til now, they just eat the top half or bottom half of a leaf, never going all the way through. They're bigger but still eating - 'don't know when they'll pupate.

Sherry

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 8:07PM
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Leafhead

Great, Sherry, you've taken raising the little known or seen Pearl Crescent caterpillar to a whole new level. Keep us posted and keep up the fantastic work.
I'm still waiting for the first ELF of the season, most likely an American Lady. Hopefully, I'll get my camera working by then...

John

    Bookmark   May 2, 2014 at 4:54PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

This caterpillar is about typical of the bunch, size wise, so they have at least one more instar to go before pupating. You can see its molted skin -

It's interesting how caterpillars are so 'blond' right after they molt!

Sherry

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 10:49PM
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dr.liz(7 NJ)

Fascinating. Such a pretty little butterfly, too. You're a
great foster mom!
Liz

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 11:44PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

The PC caterpillars look HUGE!! I know that sounds impossible, but I measured them - they're a little over an inch long! After dealing with microscopic cats, this is wonderful! When I went out this morning, there was frass everywhere, the asters were nearly all eaten, so I had to go right away and get more food for them, put it in a clean container, plus change the paper towels. I've never really needed to clean their cage, I just did it, because it seemed like the decent thing to do - they didn't poop enough to make much mess.

Anyway, this HAS to be the last instar - if they get any bigger, they'll be variegated frits!

By the way, I ordered and planted New England asters and Aster oblongifolius/fragrant asters. On another thread, somebody said that Sandy had raised some PCs on A. oblongifolius. Well, fragrant asters are even more vigorous than the Georgia asters these PCs are eating. I planted them in the ?second, maybe third week of April, they were about 3" tall, maximum, and now they're about 2' tall with many, closely spaced leaves. They've really taken off! The New England asters have grown to about 6" - 9" tall. It'll be interesting to see if the PCs lay any eggs on my A. oblongifolius - I sure hope they do!

Sherry

    Bookmark   May 10, 2014 at 4:09PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

The caterpillars have been making their chrysalis all over the place, some on the sides and top of the cage, some on the host plant, or what was left of it. They're tiny and bronzy brown, so I made a picture of one by Abe -

Sherry

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 7:17PM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

Love that you have documented this. Have been checking out the photos. I actually raised them on New England Aster. My oblongfolius is a monster. May have some cats, but don't know if I would ever be able to find them.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 8:24PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

That chrysalis is so tiny! I can't imagine how small the first instars must be.

Martha

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 7:55AM
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bernergrrl(z5 IL)

Than you for this thread MissSherry! Will have to keep a closer eye on my A. oblongifolius and A. nova-angliae now--you've given me hope I might actually see caterpillars some day.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 12:20PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Late this afternoon I saw a pearl crescent flitting around in the cage! I intended to wait and release it tomorrow, since it probably didn't emerge until this afternoon, but it continued to flit around like it wanted to leave, so I got my camera, opened the cage, and it flew out before I could get a picture. It was a perfect and very vigorous little thing, looked like its mother, naturally. I don't know how to tell males from females, so I can't say which this was.

Since one has emerged, the others will undoubtedly soon follow, and I'll try to get a picture of at least one of them.

But woo hoo, I've successfully gone through the life cycle of PCs!

Sherry

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 7:28PM
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Leafhead

Congrats, Congrats!!
Keep up the good work, and good luck

John

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 9:00PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Another one has emerged this morning - it's still 'hangin' out' -

Sherry

    Bookmark   May 22, 2014 at 10:03AM
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spiroan

Sherry,

Thank you for posting these pictures and the life cycle. It is very helpful for those of us who are just starting with butterfly gardening, and the pictures are just neat to look at.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2014 at 10:58AM
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Leafhead

Beautiful!! Way to go, Sherry!!

John

    Bookmark   May 22, 2014 at 12:04PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Thanks all!

I just released two more. It's practically impossible to get their picture inside the cage when they're flying, so I'm just going to count them - 3 so far.

Sherry

    Bookmark   May 22, 2014 at 12:29PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

It's up to five released.

There were two pearl crescents nectaring in the garden today, and, since they're not naturally common around here, I'm sure they're two of my babies -

Here's a closeup of one of them -

Sherry

    Bookmark   May 24, 2014 at 5:16PM
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Leafhead

Congrats on a job well done and enjoy the fruits of your labor :)

John

    Bookmark   May 24, 2014 at 5:32PM
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