How long can a caterpillar last without food?

MTA

Arachnosquire
Joined
Aug 1, 2016
Messages
86
I caught a slug moth caterpillar and its going to be a day or two until i can get more leaves.
 

chanda

Arachnoking
Old Timer
Joined
Jun 27, 2010
Messages
2,059
Are you completely out of leaves now? I've never tried slug moth caterpillars, but I've raised Luna moth, Sphinx Moth, Mourning Cloak Butterfly, Monarch Butterfly, and Tussock Moth caterpillars. At various times I've run out of the appropriate host plant (or it dried out) and they went maybe a day without food and still pupated successfully. I wouldn't want to go much more than that, though - caterpillars tend to have such a high metabolism that a prolonged fast might prevent them from developing correctly.
 

MTA

Arachnosquire
Joined
Aug 1, 2016
Messages
86
Not completely out i just only had the chance to grab the one it was on.
 

billrogers

Arachnoknight
Joined
Jan 18, 2016
Messages
216
Well, if you don't have food, and you can't get any right now, there is Jorginho you can do. But I would do everything possible to get more leaves quickly though. You can pick extras and store them with wet paper towels in a ziplock in the fridge. One reason it's necessary to keep a food supply is when they are almost mature and the food supply runs low, they can pupate early which produces smaller adults. This has happened to me several times.
 

Ranitomeya

Arachnoknight
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Messages
250
Younger instars can't last long without food and all instars decline very quickly without food if humidity isn't sufficiently high to keep them from dessicating since they obtain their water from the leaves they eat. If you do run out of food, make sure not to keep caterpillars around their frass as they will eat it out of desperation, get sick, and die.
 

Jsutsboctwerp

Arachnopeon
Joined
Apr 29, 2020
Messages
7
Are you completely out of leaves now? I've never tried slug moth caterpillars, but I've raised Luna moth, Sphinx Moth, Mourning Cloak Butterfly, Monarch Butterfly, and Tussock Moth caterpillars. At various times I've run out of the appropriate host plant (or it dried out) and they went maybe a day without food and still pupated successfully. I wouldn't want to go much more than that, though - caterpillars tend to have such a high metabolism that a prolonged fast might prevent them from developing correctly.

You've raised Spinx Moths before? Could you give me some tips, if you don't mind? I'm trying to raise two Great Ash Sphinx Moths, one of which hatched today and the other soon (I hope). I really don't want them to die, but I'm not sure what I'm doing here. I'm not sure what to feed them, and the one who has already hatched doesn't seem to be eating at all. He's gotten really slow, now, and I'm concerned.
Thank you for your time
 

chanda

Arachnoking
Old Timer
Joined
Jun 27, 2010
Messages
2,059
You've raised Spinx Moths before? Could you give me some tips, if you don't mind? I'm trying to raise two Great Ash Sphinx Moths, one of which hatched today and the other soon (I hope). I really don't want them to die, but I'm not sure what I'm doing here. I'm not sure what to feed them, and the one who has already hatched doesn't seem to be eating at all. He's gotten really slow, now, and I'm concerned.
Thank you for your time
Where did you get them? Did you find the eggs? If so, what plant did you find them on? If you don't have a suitable food plant for them, they will die. Suitable food plants include the leaves of ash, lilac, and privet. BugGuide and some other sites suggest they may also eat the leaves of plum, cherry, or quaking aspen. Leaves must be fresh, so keeping the cut twigs/stems in water will help prevent them from drying out - but you need to make sure the caterpillars can't fall into the water and drown. Rather than using an open-topped vase, I would suggest something like a plastic beverage bottle with small holes drilled in the lid for the stems, or stuffing paper towels or fabric around the stems, to prevent the caterpillars falling in the water.
 

Jsutsboctwerp

Arachnopeon
Joined
Apr 29, 2020
Messages
7
I got the eggs when their mother got caught in a spiderweb in my window - her wings were destroyed, so I took care of her the last few days of her life, as she couldn't fly and I have cats that would eat her the second I let her go. But she laid two eggs (at least, that I found), and now I'm trying to take care of them.

Ash, Lilac, and Privet...okay, thank you. I'll remember your suggestion, and see if I can find these. I'll check Star Nursery. Do you know if i can try to give them similar things in the meantime? I have a peach, an apple, and an orange tree in my backyard. Would any of these be a suitable substitute for a short while?
 

chanda

Arachnoking
Old Timer
Joined
Jun 27, 2010
Messages
2,059
I got the eggs when their mother got caught in a spiderweb in my window - her wings were destroyed, so I took care of her the last few days of her life, as she couldn't fly and I have cats that would eat her the second I let her go. But she laid two eggs (at least, that I found), and now I'm trying to take care of them.

Ash, Lilac, and Privet...okay, thank you. I'll remember your suggestion, and see if I can find these. I'll check Star Nursery. Do you know if i can try to give them similar things in the meantime? I have a peach, an apple, and an orange tree in my backyard. Would any of these be a suitable substitute for a short while?
You could try offering apple, peach, or rose - they are at least related to plum and cherry (Family Rosaceae).

Be careful about buying plants from a nursery for caterpillars - many of the plants are treated by the nursery or the growers (or both) with pesticides to keep them looking pretty for the customers. Sometimes they use systemic pesticides that remain in the plants for a very long time afterward, affecting new growth as well as the leaves that were present when the plant was sprayed. Even plants labeled as "organic" may still be treated with organic pesticides. We had problems at my kids' school when the teachers put in a butterfly garden, because all the milkweed plants they purchased had been treated with neonicotinoids by the growers - and killed off the monarch caterpillars I gave them in a matter of days. They had to rip out the entire garden and start over with new plants from a different grower that did not treat the plants with pesticides.
 

Jsutsboctwerp

Arachnopeon
Joined
Apr 29, 2020
Messages
7
You could try offering apple, peach, or rose - they are at least related to plum and cherry (Family Rosaceae).

Be careful about buying plants from a nursery for caterpillars - many of the plants are treated by the nursery or the growers (or both) with pesticides to keep them looking pretty for the customers. Sometimes they use systemic pesticides that remain in the plants for a very long time afterward, affecting new growth as well as the leaves that were present when the plant was sprayed. Even plants labeled as "organic" may still be treated with organic pesticides. We had problems at my kids' school when the teachers put in a butterfly garden, because all the milkweed plants they purchased had been treated with neonicotinoids by the growers - and killed off the monarch caterpillars I gave them in a matter of days. They had to rip out the entire garden and start over with new plants from a different grower that did not treat the plants with pesticides.

Oh, duly noted - I'll definitely try that, thank you.

I didn't even think of that - thank you for the warning. I'll look around and do more research. Perhaps I can find pesticide-less plants nearby soon. Thank you again - this is a big help.
 
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