Cecropia cat? Photo and questions

christie_sw_mo(Z6)August 3, 2011

I'm pretty sure this is a Cecropia, right? Does it look like a fifth instar? I'm wondering if it will change again and I need to know whether to put dried leaves in the container or will it wrap green leaves around itself? Right now it has lots of wild cherry sticks and leaves but those leaves are small. What do they like when they make a chrysalis?

It's grown quite a bit since I took this photo but the coloring is the same I think.

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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

The big front tubercles look orange in the pic so it should be a 5th instar.

You do not need to worry about putting anything extra in for cocoon making. Cecropias will make a cocoon where ever and they may or may not wrap themselves in leaves. The wild cecropia cocoons I've found have been on houses, with no leaves in sight.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2011 at 7:46AM
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bananasinohio(6OH)

I always love that last molt on these guys. All that extra skin makes them look like they have baggy green pantyhose on.

Just make sure you continue to give it lots of fresh leaves. I have had some that ran out of food for a period (maybe half a day?) and they went ahead and pupated even after I put fresh food in. They were really small and made really small adults.

Pupation is really cool. If you put it somewhere that the cocoon is backlit, you can watch the caterpillar make it.

Good luck,
Elisabeth

    Bookmark   August 3, 2011 at 8:20AM
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christie_sw_mo(Z6)

Thank you Kcclark and Elisabeth.
I'm keeping lots of leaves in the container. They do eat a lot. It surely won't be long now. The thing looks like it swallowed a hot dog. It's huge. lol Ok not that big but huge compared to my other cats.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2011 at 4:58PM
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christie_sw_mo(Z6)

I found a link that says they grow to over 4 inches long so mine may have a little more growing to do.

I took this picture yesterday. I thought about putting it on my hand to show its size for the photo, but I chickened out. I know it wouldn't hurt me but it looks like it would. lol

They are incredibly fat! Here it is coming after me. ; )

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 9:36AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Great pictures, Christie!
Here's a picture I made a few years ago of a last instar cecropia. Notice how baggy its skin is - it must have just molted into its last instar -

Sherry

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 1:52PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I just compared the picture of mine to yours, Christie.
Since the knobs nearest the head on yours aren't yet orange, still yellow, I think yours has one more instar to go.
Sherry

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 1:55PM
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bob_71(z7 MD)

Superb Photos!

Bob

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 2:13PM
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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

The 4th instar has bright red tubercles nearest the head. Her's is a 5th instar.

KC

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 2:43PM
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Ament(5a SD)

Wow, such an interesting caterpillar! :) Thank you for sharing your pictures.

~Tina Marie

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 4:12PM
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ladobe

The Saturniidae were one of my main interest areas for about 40 years starting from the 60's, During that time I reared a lot of different species from six continents. Most of the species from North America and Europe, and some from Asia they were reared in very high numbers over the years. With long experience and high numbers you tend to pick up on what is the norm, and what the common variations are, so maybe I can add some comments that will benefit someone here.

Size? As in any lepidopteran species, size/plumpness of larvae is not a given for determination of what instar they are at, just a generalization. These characteristics both depend entirely on DNA, the health of the larvae, its environment, the volume and quality of LFP available, and even with what species of LFP the larvae consumed. The later can be a huge factor with Hyalophora, especially cecropia, because they are very polyphagous feeders and some of the plants they will use are hard for them to process effectively.

The larvae of all species (and their ssp) of Hyalophora in this country might appear to be quite similar to a novice with short experience and low numbers reared, but they all do have specific differences that can be readily seen by at least third instar (if not before). You do have to take into account for normal species/colony variation in them naturally, and whether they are early, mid or late in that instar phase (if known). But you can still determine whether they are a fourth or fifth instar AND what species with a high percentage of certainty just by the color and size of the dorsal tubercles (scoli) on TS2, TS3, A1, the color of the lateral and remaining dorsal tubercles and to a point the basal color or cast of the skin. It's common for some or all of the tubercles to change colors during an instar phase or just prior to a molt, as well as the basal color. It's also common after a molt for the tubercles to be pale, but usually they will darken or intensify in a few days. Some can also turn very dark, even black in a 5th instar just before pupation.

The above refers to mid line characteristics. When you rear them in high numbers you will be more likely to see the variations and any polymorphism in the larvae. And the characteristics can also be colony specific, why those folks who only rear from a single colony may see slightly different common characteristics than the norm. For example I've had polymorphic cecropia cats that remained with a black or bright yellow basal color instead of green/blue all the way to pupation. Might have been a recessive gene or the individual larva's reaction to the chemicals and toxins in the particular LFP they consumed, or both. And I've seen different but common characteristics that were colony specific.

To stir the pot even more, in places where species ranges overlap their can be natural hybrids between two species. The larvae of these natural crosses can have the traits of either one or both parents, or completely new traits not seen in the larvae of either of the parents.

Another predicament to confuse the novice and lep researcher as well is classification, ie the number of Hyalophora sp/spp there are in North America. Some use 3 species and lump the others under them as subspecies or race; some 4 and some 5 species with some subspecies. I follow that if a natural hybrid establishes itself as a dominate colony with the characteristics firmly set in its offspring, it has become a new species. So I use 5 myself. A good example of one is H. kasloensis, a natural hybrid that has established itself as the dominate colony in some locations in the west. IMO it should be given species level taxonomy instead of the various confusing ssp/race names it now has. IOW everybody doesn't even agree on what the parental stock was that created it, let alone how it should be classified.

Anyway, enough with Hyalophora 101.

As KC suggested, this one pictured by Christie looks like a fifth instar before the scoli have darkened. If they have the yellow tubercles on TS2 and TS3 are probably a colony specific trait where it was collected. Just speculation on my part though… you can't make a definitive determination from only one specimen.

FWIW,

Larry

    Bookmark   August 7, 2011 at 5:56PM
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christie_sw_mo(Z6)

Thank you Larry! And welcome back! I'm curious if anyone keeps track of the "largest on record" for moths and butterflies. I've wondered because the size can vary quite a bit for some.
Every morning when I look in the container, I keep expecting to see a cocoon, but it's still eating. I think the blue spikes may be a little darker now than they were in the photos above but not sure. It may just be the flash that makes them look lighter in the photos.

When I found it, it was on Wild Black Cherry but when I put it in the container, I added several other host plants to see which ones it would go to and after a few days it had only eaten the Wild Black Cherry so I stuck with that. At our butterly festival here, they said Elderberry seemed to be their favorite which I didn't try.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 9:45AM
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ladobe

Christie,

Thysania has the longest known wingspan of all the Lepidoptera, followed close by Ornithoptera goliath females, but Attacus has the most wing surface.

Even very polyphageous feeders like cecropia will stay on the plant that they started out on if given the chance and its quality and quantity remains good. So IMO calling any of the very long list of plants that H. cercropia will use naturally in the wild a favorite LFP of the species has no basis beyond what they "seem" to prefer at a specific location. And that choice most likely because that LFP is what the female chose to lay her eggs on (and possibly feed on as a larva herself). If food quality or quantity reduces naturally some individuals will move to something else, some won't and will wander until they die. Kind of a I'd rather eat cake than liver thing.

Larry

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 3:06PM
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TomatoWorm59

Excellent reading, Larry. I've been rearing Io's and sphingids for over 40 years, but only in last 5-6 years, expanded into other species of sat's, simply due to lack of access. The Io was the only really common one at the time. My first sphinx were Hemaris and I was only 6 years old!

I simply love leps, but I prefer macromoths over butterflies any day. I left this forum for a while, just before you arrived, so am just now getting to connect with you. I live next to 65 acres of hardwood forest, and there are six species of saturniids here, as well as a host of sphingids.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 7:09AM
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christie_sw_mo(Z6)

Finally starting to spin its cocoon this morning.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 10:55AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Woo Hoo!!

Sherry

    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 11:18AM
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ladobe

TW59, nice to meet you. I didn't recognize your nick, but then I only first joined this forum 5 years ago.

I can't say I prefer the Heterocera over the Rhops, the Parnassinae were always my first love. But I too reared many of the Sphingidae, Arctiidae and Sesiidae, and in the Saturniidae by far reared more of the Hemileucinae than any of the other subfamilies.

.

Christie, glad to see you are getting cocoons. It's hard to beat a freshly eclosed cecropia for shear beauty and awe, or their larvae. I often took this species as show and tell to public lep seminars I did at libraries, schools and natural history museums, a main reason why I continued to rear them so many years. I'd give away their cocoons and a care fact and disposal sheet to any children, adults or teachers who wanted to try lepidoptera. And sometimes larvae and their care sheet to those I thought could and would care for them. They are so easy to rear, eveybody has one or more of their LFP's in their yard or close by. If a cecropia can't inspire an appreciation of nature or a budding new lepidopterists', nothing will. LOL

    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 3:10PM
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TomatoWorm59

Ahh..the Automeris species! I love them. In the past, I have A. randa, A. zephyria, A. louisiana, A. pamina and of course, the ever-present and abundant. A. io. Io and Lousiana have the prettiest larvae, too. Io's are the top. Had I been where you were, 40 years ago, and with greater resources, it would not have been nearly as difficult to get a foreign species across the border. We really got cheated on sat's and sphingids, considering we may only have the above Automeris, when latin America holds some 80 species! We get two Xylophanes. They get 14.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 11:11PM
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ladobe

Almost all the folks here don't pursue life history studies much past what comes to their yard luckily, as times and the red tape have certainly changed But during all my active years with foreign species it was really quite simple to bring non protected foreign species into the US, and even protected species if you could obtain the correct permits. None of it cost you anything but your time to fill out the paperwork, get it approved by the USFWLE and either have it shipped to you or hand carried in when you came back to the US. All of those in my synoptic collection came in on permits that I keep on file. Other than dealing with a customs agent now and then who didn't know squat about their own regs, what was allowed and wasn't and by what proceedure, but by following the bouncing ball I was never refused the permits for entry or export of lepidoptera. And with our resident species from anywhere not protected in this country, across state lines was like across town in those days. In a way I'm glad I can't/don't do them anymore.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 5:09PM
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christie_sw_mo(Z6)

What are the odds that I will have to wait until spring to see it emerge?

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 9:33AM
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TomatoWorm59

Agree, Larry. It is such a shame I did not know you back in the good old days. I'm sure you reared leps from around the world, too. Today, I'm in touch with a few folks here and there, in charge of major aboretums and botanical gardens [public] and even they cannot [without major expense] bring in the exotic species of butterflies and moths whose larvae feed on the various plants therein.
Agree with you on the NATIVE insects. It STILL should be that way. There should be no more an issue sending monarchs, swallowtails, saturniids or sphingids from California to new York, than there is, shipping baby chicks across state lines.
Even just sneaking in outside bugs was likely way easier before the towers fell, too.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 9:50AM
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ladobe

Christie, this species is single brooded in the wild, with the cocoon overwintering for eclosion the following season. But like with most lepidoptera, it can be forced to be multible brooded. At the level you folks do leps here, there is no point though.

TW, yes it would have been nice to know you back when. I had lots of worldwide contacts that I did rearing projects with and some I collected with.
I agree, impossing the strict bans on resident species is pure catterstench when it impedes those doing serious life history work that have the sense not to release them in uncolonized locations for a species. Hobbyists don't really have a valid need, but being able to do so often turns hobbyists into serious amateur lepidopterists.
I knew some people who commonly would "sneak" foreign leps and their livestock into the country; who collected in protected locations, including endangered species and sold them for huge profit. Most of those clowns got away with it, but a few paid the price eventually, where caught and prosecuted. Unfortunately all they got was what amounted to a slap on the hands... confiscations, some stiff fines and had to do some community service. IMO they should have been given new quarters at the Hard Rock Hotels in San Quentin & Folsom, CA and Beaumont, TX. For me doing leps legal was just too easy not to. Permits where free, left no possibilty of legal problems down the road AND "grandfathers" those on permits if any are kept for synotic reference.

LArry

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 12:05PM
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TomatoWorm59

Agree 100 percent, Larry. Ixne on trade of endangered/rare species, period! However, none of the moths I ever wanted, were endangered. It is only because of red tape that some smuggling took place. It was bringing in some sat's in from Mexico or Belize. Not for me. I heard about it, some 15 years ago. USDA just needs to let up and STOP treating Automeris or manduca as they would the Med fruit fly. Geesh--it was THEIR big bungle in the 1920's and '30's, that gave us the tachinid fly [deliberately imported] to kill off some 33 species of sat's and maybe a few sphingids. In central Oklahoma, few Manduca sextas survive this fly and in Pratt, Kansas, the fly takes out 9 of 10 Hyles lineata.

Of course, this started as a curiosity. Later a hobby and now, it could be a viable business, if not for oppressive gubment regs.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 1:24PM
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ladobe

Even 15 years ago Belize required a permit to collect leps, and a CITES permit for listed species. And then there's Mexico where the required permits are next to impossible to get unless you are working on a project with one of their own bona fide Lepidopterists', or if you have a grant approved by their government. Any that were smuggled in from those countries were in direct violation of the Lacey Act, and the laws of those countries, period. Now days I think all the countries in North, Central and South America require permits.

Accidental AND intentional introductions of new species have been not only allowed since the beginning of time, but propagated by our government. A couple of the best examples are FL and HI where endemic speasies are being replaced by non indigenous species. I guess they think APHIS will stop it, it won't. It's not the would be hobbyist who is the threat, it's our own customs department and those seeking the almighty buck.

Personally, I consider any business based around selling any species of wildlife as exploitation of the wildlife. Licensed so called butterfly farms where only those reared in excess are sold do probably take some of the pressure off some of the species, but far to many who sell them for profit only acquire them from wild populations and decimate them. Wouldn't bother me a bit to see every lep for sale company shut down worldwide. Will never happen though... too many countries count on lepidopteran sales to strengthen their economy. Luckily many of them do protect the wild populations though, and those sold only come from butterfly farms. PNG is a good example with the ever present demand worldwide for their "Birdwings".

We've strayed a long ways and hijacked this thread pard. Out of respect for Christie, and those who think when they open the thread they'll find out all about H. cecropia (and probably don't care about where we're going)... I think a new thread (and moving these posts to it - Larry Gene?) would be a good idea.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 2:55PM
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christie_sw_mo(Z6)

Yeah guys - Get a room. (you know I'm kidding) I truly appreciate your expertise.
I'd love to see my Cecropia when it emerges but I think I will find a spot for it outside for the winter.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 5:04PM
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TomatoWorm59

Works for me, Larry. You can e-mail me any time.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 8:00PM
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