Identification, Images, & Information
For Insects, Spiders & Their Kin
For the United States & Canada
Clickable Guide
Moths Butterflies Flies Caterpillars Flies Dragonflies Flies Mantids Cockroaches Bees and Wasps Walkingsticks Earwigs Ants Termites Hoppers and Kin Hoppers and Kin Beetles True Bugs Fleas Grasshoppers and Kin Ticks Spiders Scorpions Centipedes Millipedes

Upcoming Events

National Moth Week photos of insects and people. Here's how to add your images.

Photos of insects and people from the 2019 BugGuide Gathering in Louisiana, July 25-27

Discussion, insects and people from the 2018 gathering in Virginia, July 27-29

Photos of insects and people from the 2015 gathering in Wisconsin, July 10-12

Photos of insects and people from the 2014 gathering in Virginia, June 4-7.

Photos of insects and people from the 2013 gathering in Arizona, July 25-28

Photos of insects and people from the 2012 gathering in Alabama

Photos of insects and people from the 2011 gathering in Iowa

Pupating caterpillars

My five year old daughters and I discovered two species of caterpillars today: a greenstriped mapleworm and an American dagger moth caterpillar, (don't worry, I'm aware it cannot be touched). My girls are obsessed with bugs and I'd really like them to be able to observe part of the life cycle of these insects. Right now we have both in separate containers with air holes and fresh maple leaves. This may be a shot in the dark, but I'm looking for guidance on caring for them.

For the greenstriped mapleworm, it's head is red, so I think it is in the final instar, though it's a bit smaller than described in the sources I read. From what I've researched, they burrow into soil under maple trees to pupate. Can I dig soil from under our maple and put it in the bottom of the container for it to burrow into, or is it not possible to raise the caterpillars into Rosy Maple Moths in captivity? If I can use the soil, how deep should it be?

For the American dagger moth caterpillar, I read that it likes to spin a silken cocoon in a sheltered area. If I put large chips of bark and twigs propped in the container, would that suffice?

In general, how big should the containers be? Do I keep them inside or put them outside? Do caterpillars drink water? Is there anything else I need to know? If it's not possible to raise these caterpillars, we will release them, but it would be a great learning experience for my kids. Thanks!

I added soil to the greenstriped mapleworms's container shortly after posting and it immediately started burrowing. It buried itself completely and I have not seen it since, so hopefully it's doing what it should be and is not dead. Do I need to mist the dirt periodically to simulate rain or just leave it be? I'm going to have cut the container down and put it inside a bigger critter keeper since I didn't have time to get another before it burrowed.

I added bark to the other container and a few hours later, the dagger moth caterpillar started spinning silk. As far as I can tell, it's cocoon was fully finished by morning. So, now we have one definitely cocooned caterpilar, and one that hopefully is as well.

Anyone have any clue if they'll emerge soon or overwinter? We're in Virginia. My kids asked the next morning if they were out yet and I had to explain that it's not that fast, haha.

Avoid Mold
Avoid mold at all cost. Acidic soil such as peat moss aids in this greatly but soil itself is only required in the minority of species. A slightly moist paper towel and darkness works quite well for a large amount of species. Regardless do not add water. Everything they needed for success was accumulated when they were actively feeding.

The Dryocampa are probably done for the year. They overwinter as pupae so you can use a soil strainer if you want see the pupa. Just wait around ten days after pupation.

The Acronicta might not be the last generation of the year. I can occasionally find them here as larvae into November munching on leaves that are turning red or yellow. That is very much local though. Search for records from your state on BugGuide and plan accordingly. For members of this genus that bore in to wood to pupate I generally let the pupae be. Too hard to find the actual pupation site and too easy to mess up when poking around decaying wood. Regardless they too overwinter as pupae so if you think you can fish out the pupa without damaging it give it a go as it is more interesting for the kids to see the entire process. Just give it ten days or so to harden up.

For both species I wouldn't expect adults anytime before eighteen days. If you have pupae you can make a better determination as they change subtly as they age. If you don't get a moth after a month presume they are overwintering. In which case store them near ambient temperature. Either a structure or a room that isn't heated or outside resting against a structure that is heated. Give them something in their enclosure to climb up when they emerge and check often.

Wait for a moth expert ...
Very interesting! I look forward to seeing how this goes.

Comment viewing options
Select your preferred way to display the comments and click 'Save settings' to activate your changes.