First timer about to raise Polyphemus caterpillars

BydarwinsBeard

Arachnopeon
Joined
Aug 12, 2010
Messages
3
Hey everyone, last Sunday I was working my graveyard shift at a gas station when a large beautiful moth landed on the window by my register. I've always loved moths and working the grave shift it a well lit gas station on the outer edge of town means I get to see a lot of them, but this was the biggest I've ever seen. To make this even better, she started laying eggs on the glass right there in front of me! After laying her eggs she dropped off the window onto a pile of firewood and died.

After my customers cleared out, I went outside and collected the moth and the eggs, knowing that come morning they'd be unceremoniously scrubbed off the glass by one of my coworkers. I went home and identified the moth as a Polyphemus, which I have mounted in a shadowbox, and now I am in possession of 37 eggs that will probably hatch in about a week.

I've never raised caterpillars before and I was hoping you guys could give me some advice. I don't know much about trees so identifying a suitable food source has been a challenge so far. How hard are these guys to keep alive? It seems like they get most of their water from their food, considering that I'll be feeding them leaves I've picked off of trees, will I need to supplement their water intake? Am i a fool for jumping into this with so little fore knowledge?
Any advice would be much appreciated!
Thanks!
 

Galapoheros

ArachnoGod
Old Timer
Joined
Jul 4, 2005
Messages
8,985
It's pretty easy and interesting, the caterpillars get big and eat a lot. I've used a 15 gal terr and a Rubbermaid tub too. 37 is pretty many, you may find you let about half of the caterpillars go later. You have to get them fresh short branches daily when they get bigger, you could mist now and then but I didn't. I used Elm and Live Oak leaves, I just broke off the tips of branches, leaned them here and there in the container. You could stick the branches in water somehow or have a little bit of moist substrate you could stick the ends in to help the leaves keep water a little longer.
 

BydarwinsBeard

Arachnopeon
Joined
Aug 12, 2010
Messages
3
Good new is that my biggest hurdle, finding a suitable source of host plant has been cleared. A friend of mine who comes into my store lives in a wooded area just inside of town. His property is full of oak trees with big low hanging branches, and he's given me permission to take what I need!
So assuming these eggs are viable I should have a terrarium full of fat happy caterpillars in a couple weeks!
I can't wait!

Thanks for the info, do they prefer a warmer climate? I plan on putting the terrarium in a far room where the air conditioner doesn't reach so much.
Up until now I've only kept mammals, and I think of how a cat's seasonal coat only grows in if they are exposed to colder temperatures. I assume the caterpillar overwinter pupa isn't temperature triggered so I won't have to worry about them crawling out of their cocoons at a time when the outside climate isn't suitable for them, simply because the climate they're exposed to is warm.
Sorry if some of my questions seem a bit stupid to some of you who are old hats at this. It's my first crack at raising inverts and I want to make sure I do it right.
 
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