1-4) The three pipevine swallowtail caterpillars I saw in McDade
5) My second batch of io moth caterpillars molted for the second time
6-8) My first batch of io moth caterpillars also molted, for the third time
9) When I got back from McDade, I found a few tawny emperor escapees. I was gone too long and their leaves dried up. They always start escaping when they’re hungry.
Found eggs on Monday, figured out they were io moth eggs. Looked up io caterpillars, and I had seen one a few weeks ago! Just today I was lamenting how all these io moths are coming to my yard but I never get to meet them.
Well. I needed to get some fresh food for the stinkbabies. Went out on what would have been a quick trip out back, but I found a tiny baby giant stick insect and really wanted one I could (1) fit under the microscope (2) raise through a few molts to document physiology changes (3) have a fun developmental stages visual at the sanctuary on Saturday. I cut the stem the stick insect was on, walked straight over to the stinkbabys’ favorite food. The bush they like is by the mountain laurel.
The mountain laurel had an enormous moth on it.
I knew INSTANTLY what moth it was, even only seeing the underside. So, I had my mini-freakout, trimmed some stalks for the stinkbabies, fiddled around to keep the baby stick from falling off, and trimmed the branch the io moth was hanging off.
Carried the moth and stick insect to the porch with better lighting. Got lots of closed wing shots, then I poked it (I lift up the outer wing on sphinx moths to ID them more easily, tried this on the io too). Apparently poking ios results in some… Defensive behavior.
This was too fun to not to video record, so I waited for the wings to close, then recorded the video. Problem is, hands were full of bugs and phone. So I made due.
Io got fed up and left after I’d been poking for a while. But oh man. This was the best. I have officially seen three life stages (larva, eggs, adult). Now I’m just missing the cocoon.
1 & 2: If these tawny emperors asked for my life savings I would drop everything and go to the bank. If they needed a kidney, I’d carve mine out with a box cutter. I would forego weeks of sleep to ensure they were happy (OH WAIT)
3: Chrysalis Watch status: 5! Did you know chrysalises will shake violently if they sense danger? Mounting these was basically a series of jump scares. I screamed every time, and yesterday when they were especially bad, I curled up in the fetal position the corner of my kitchen until I could breathe again.
4 & 5: Io moth molt day! Batch 2 (19 caterpillars, photo 4) are now 4th instar, batch 1 (10 caterpillars, photo 5) are 5th instar. That might be the last one before they pupate! I need to look into it–they make cocoons from leaf litter so I’ll want to prepare :3
6 - 8: Introducing a grass skipper caterpillar! I found this poor baby on my back patio yesterday morning. I looked him up and he eats St. Augustine (my mortal enemy in grass form). He is also a champion at camouflage.
9: The grass skipper caterpillar will probably become one of these. Which one? No idea.
So these were my io moths. I was hoping they would breed, but the female was too old by the time the male hatched. you can tell she doesn’t look as fuzzy and is a bit tattered around the edges in these pictures compared to the fresh yellow male.
They were the smallest moths i’ve had and they were delightful little fuzz fairies <3