Leaves were kept moist with a floral tube water supply and contained in a pie plate. Once hatched, the caterpillars and the leaves they were on were inserted into bunches of cherry branches where they could transfer themselves to fresh leaves.
June 17th. Caterpillars shortly after hatching. About 3mm long.
Several days later, at 5mm. When young, the caterpillars feed as a group.
Collapsible rearing cage with easy zipper access from Nasco. Large enough to hold four 1-gallon milk jugs with cherry branch "bouquets".
After a molt, the caterpillars look quite different but are still spiny and striped.
They gradually lose their spines and stripes.
After the final molt, the caterpillars have orange-red tubercles on the 2nd and 3rd thoracic segments. Note the shed skin that the caterpillar has just stepped out of.
Promethea caterpillar spinning cocoon - Part 1. Rolling Leaf. (Time-Lapse - 1hr 14min). Recorded at 1 frame every 3 seconds and played back at 24 fps (frames per second).
Promethea caterpillar spinning cocoon - Same as Part 1, above, but slowed to 15 fps.
Promethea caterpillar spinning cocoon - Part 2. (Time Lapse - 56 minutes).
Spinning the cocoon requires attaching the leaf petiole securely to the branch so that the leaf doesn't fall in the Fall.
Promethea caterpillar attaching cocoon to the stem by spinning silk around the leaf petiole. (Normal speed.)
The caterpillar curls the leaf into a tight tube and continues to spin the cocoon inside it, leaving a one-way exit at the top: the adult moth can emerge, but ants or parasites can't get in.
August 11th. Newly emerged male. Seems late in the year to start a second brood.
Underside of the male.
Males are much darker than females. They're rapid daylight fliers and appear to be part of the North American swallowtail mimicry complex.
Newly emerged female. So far, I've had four males and two females emerge from this year's caterpillars. I had expected all to overwinter in their cocoons.
Underside of the female.
In addition to the color difference, note her much larger abdomen and smaller antennae.
The male's antennae are huge by comparison.
Scale detail of female underside.
Scale detail of male underside.
The scales resemble a mosaic with colors mixed to achieve subtle shading.
Close up, you can see that the scales differ in shape as well as in color.
August 17th. A female that emerged today found a wild male mate. (Impossible to say if this was a brother from males released in previous days, versus a truly wild male, but it did show signs of wear.)
Cocoon above, female to the left.
The male looks pretty laid back.
A second male rested nearby, also attracted by the female.
August 18th. Last night the female deposited eggs on a cherry leaf...
...and on a stem.
A few of her abdominal hairs cling to the eggs.
(As of today, 17 adults have emerged of the 70 cocoons I have here.)