Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillars

bandjzmom(7 NWGeorgia)September 3, 2010

Just thought that I would share the little Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillars that I kept. I was curious about them and wanted to observe them. I only pulled 3 little cats off to raise. I think there were a gazillion on my Common Milkweed plants! They were really easy to gently handle with a plastic spoon if I needed to move them for cleaning out frass. They just curl up and play dead. :o) They also drop immediately to the ground with any disturbance at all. I was surprised that they didn't get bigger before they pupated. It was easy to know when they were ready to pupate because they just stopped eating completely. I put in a little container filled with shredded paper, and they just crawled and crawled all around it. Finally, I scooped one up with a spoon and set him on top of the paper. He burrowed right in and pupated very soon. I will "try" to post a pic of the little cocoons here somewhere. They are such adorable little cats, aren't they? "Look, but don't touch" definitely applies here though!

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bandjzmom(7 NWGeorgia)

Ok then, I guess I failed at getting the pics to post inside the body of the post. Let's try a different route.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   September 3, 2010 at 7:49AM
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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

They also stop eating if they have a parasite which will pupate within maybe 8 days. I currently have a milkweed tiger attached to a white sac of parasites. I'm expecting a bunch of small wasps. The milkweed tiger is still alive.

Decent chance someone is allergic to milkweed tiger hair but I've yet to meet anyone that is. I've handled them for 40+ years and my kids love holding them. That said, when I do my school caterpillar talks, I do not let kids hold them since I don't want to invite problems.

KC

    Bookmark   September 3, 2010 at 10:19AM
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bandjzmom(7 NWGeorgia)

Thanks for that wonderful info KC! I think that I shall refrain from handling them..just in case. Oh, your poor Milkweed Tiger. How awful. I always feel sorry for the poor Tomato Hornworms with those wasp cocoons all over them. Well, I will watch the little Tussock cocoons to see what happens. Now, if all goes well and normally, I would not expect to see the moths until next spring. Is that right or no?

    Bookmark   September 3, 2010 at 2:40PM
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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

I don't expect my milkweed tiger cocoons to eclose until July (I did have 2 early ones out this year in May). Since you are in zone 7, your tigers' biological clocks may be on a different schedule.

KC

    Bookmark   September 4, 2010 at 10:31AM
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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

Meant to post about this earlier. I had a confused milkweed tiger eclose 8 days ago so keep an eye on your cocoons.

Today, my daughter found that an equally confused luna had eclosed. The luna was from a gravid female I caught so I'm very disappointed that I will have one less wild female for attracting males next year.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2010 at 10:28PM
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bandjzmom(7 NWGeorgia)

Oh wow. Thanks kc! I have them in a conspicuous location in my garage so that I will look at them often as I pass through. I also have a Tersa Sphinx Moth pupa in a container next to them!

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 6:45AM
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coolbutterfly(5A)

I have a shocking confession....I'm a tussock killer!

They completely RAVAGE the milkweed and there's none left for the monarchs.

This year I removed one tussock covered leaf from the common milkweed.

Later in the season I found an egg-covered tropical milkweed leaf and the little terrors were just starting to hatch. I did an internet search to determine that they were tussocks since I'd never seen the eggs before.

However, when I came back the next day ALL the eggs and cats had been devoured by either bees, wasps, or spiders. I'm guessing wasps since they really like the tropical milkweed flowers.

Tussocks are like little milkweed piranhas.

Long live the Monarchs! :)

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 3:04PM
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bandjzmom(7 NWGeorgia)

Oh coolbutterfly, you really made me giggle! They certainly are milkweed piranhas, and I was actually dismayed when I found ALL of them on my Common Milkweed plants which were meant to be a backup food source for my Monarch cats. Then again, they are soooooooooooo cute! I was curious about their eating habits and pupation, so I brought 3 of them into a container to check it out. My solution may be to grow more milkweed!

    Bookmark   September 17, 2010 at 6:46AM
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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

"Reflections" is a national art contest run by the PTA. My son's Polyphemus moth picture last school year finished 2nd in Ohio (only 1st moves on to the national level). The picture he will enter this year will be of a bunch of milkweed tigers on a milkweed leaf.

Milkweed tigers have been my favorite caterpillar since I was a kid. They're cute and they run fast. My daughter shares my love for them. She would much rather find a milkweed "tigey" than a monarch.

KC

    Bookmark   September 17, 2010 at 9:49AM
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coolbutterfly(5A)

Here are the little piranhas feeding on their milkweed prey and below is the aftermath. While a couple might be cute, the school will strip your milkweed bare!

    Bookmark   September 17, 2010 at 3:06PM
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