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Home made Caterpillar food for Cercropias?

Posted by curiositykat (My Page) on
Fri, Feb 24, 12 at 18:48

I've been raising cercropia caterpillars for two years now. I have 18 cocoons in my parents garage ATM. I need to do an honors project/thesis for college this semester and would really like to do it about something interesting. I would setup a cage for a few of the cercropias on campus in a heartbeat. I'm in Wisconsin and these are native but I know not a lot of people see them. My problem is its currently winter and the moths will not naturally emerge in time. I don't mind bringing 6 of them inside and having them emerge early. But I know once they emerge they will mate and then lay eggs. I can cull all these if I need too, but I was wondering if anyone knows if there is a way to raise the caterpillars on a homemade food? I generally feed them wild cherry, but there will be no trees or anything to feed them from outside. I've seen those butterfly kits with the weird food for caterpillars, you think something similar can be made for cercropias?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Home made Caterpillar food for Cercropias?

1) I just talked to DA MAN at Ohio State that raises insects year round for the university. He does not raise any silk moths off season, so no available advice.

2) I know of no artificial diet you can use with cecropias.

3) I tried to finish raising some cecropias last year on refrigerated walnut leaves. They would rather starve, which is what they did.

4) Cecropias are a 1 brood moth. Hence, their internal clock is more important than the temperature they are stored in. Bringing the cocoons inside is not going speed things up much, if at all. From my experience testing siblings, cecropias kept inside all winter may start eclosing 6 to 7 days before the ones that spent the winter out in the cold. Some of those inside cocoons will eclose after some of the outside cocoons start eclosing.

Now if you want to slow things down, you can definitely use temperature. No cecropia will eclose when kept at 30 degrees.

After some thought, I guess you could try keeping the cocoons at some high temp, like 85 to 90 degrees. I've never tried that so it might work. Cecropias are native to Florida and are still 1 brood so I would not expect the high temp thing to work but it is the only idea I could come up with.


Found the recipe!

I'm glad you posted this question. It has led me to learn a few things about my beloved cecropias.

There is an artificial food. Guys figured it out in '68. Since you are a college student, I figure you can get to the info. You want Science magazine. Vol. 160, No. 3835, June 28, 1968, pages 1461-2. The formulation is good for cecropia, gloveri, and cynthia. The scientist was able to get 80% of the cats to pupation. Cholesterol, formaldehyde, vitamins, and antibiotics are a few of the ingredients. It is quite the recipe and I'm curious how much it costs to make. AFAIK, it is still what scientists use today. The newer articles I saw all refer to this article as the food source they are using.

The scientist tried to raise polyphemus on this stuff but it did not work. Experimentation with the formula got the success rate up to only 25%. Said cannibalism was prevalent which surprises me because I've never seen it (and I had a boatload of hungry polys in confined quarters last fall when the leaves fell).

Found another article from 1972 that talked about blue cecropia caterpillars. The first page is available for free. I had "fun" seeing the rest of the article. Wiley Online wanted some special login I've never seen before. I finally was able to get it through EJC. I'm really going to miss my online journal access when I am no longer part of OSU.

Here is a link that might be useful: Blue cecropia cats

One more thing

I wanted to point out something that is in the article on blue cecropias. I've run into a few cecropia "experts" who will be more than happy to tell you that cecropia inbreeding is no problem. From the article, "From time to time, 'blue' individuals were mated with wild individuals to minimize the serious loss of viability which occurs with inbreeding in cecropia."

I believe an individual in Ohio managed to wipe out all the cecropias within miles of his house by releasing large numbers of inbred cecropias for 20+ years. In his last 3 years, the viability of his stock was near zero, he could no longer attract wild males, and he gave up. He thought he was helping cecropias but in my opinion, he created a cecropia dead zone. And his business was shipping these cecropias all over the US. :(

Reminds me of a Jeff Goldblum line from Jurassic Park II: "Now you're John Hammond."

RE: Home made Caterpillar food for Cercropias?

Note the correct spelling of cecropia when doing your college paper. If you are pronouncing it "cercrophia", that is incorrect also, in case you give an oral presentation.

RE: Home made Caterpillar food for Cercropias?

Hmmm I did not think about them not emerging.... I might still try it away. I know they enclose based on time and not really temp. I always figured they enclosed once they were fat enough and if you stunted some they would probably stay as larva longer but I guess maybe they wouldn't. I raised mine entirely inside this year since I move to an apartment.

Thanks for the journal article. I tried to find it online through my libraries data base. Looks like they might have it on paper and/or microfiche I'll see if I can get a hold of it.

I'd have to run the idea through my adviser and see if they agree to it. The project is totally open and I just need to do something that is worth 2 credits. I'm just trying to test ideas on some projects I actually find interesting vs writing some boring 20 page paper lol. My room mate suggested maybe an experiment to see if I can get them to emerge from their cocoons early. Last year my first moth emerged on 5/30 classes end 5/4 so there is a pretty big difference there. I just don't really feel confident in doing a project that would run to the end of my last semester or perhaps past it.

Thanks for noticing the spelling lol. Looking back is seems I have a bad habit of spelling it that way. I'm pretty sure I say it right, like sic-ro-pia?

My cecropias are at least one generation inbred. I bought eggs from someone in MN about 3 hours away. I got 12 moths from that. Those ended up inbreeding since I was unsuccessful in luring in any wild males. I'm gonna try again to get some wild ones with this generation. I released a few of the adult moths. My mom insists on going on a trip basically the same time the moths start emerging. Last year the moths ended up going with us 3 hours north. I gave a moth and some baby cats to nature center up there. I'm not sure are there any risks spreading the general captive population around like that and releasing them?

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