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Photo#586434
Lophocampa maculata - Development Sequence and observations - Lophocampa maculata

Lophocampa maculata - Development Sequence and observations - Lophocampa maculata
Elkton, Douglas County, Oregon, USA
August 16, 2011
08-13-11: (There was no status created 08-12-11.) Half the cats are active, exploring and munching. The other half are doing their usual thing, sitting there, looking pretty. I would think they had their turn exploring and munching, too, because half their food is gone, and their container is carpeted with frass. Today's measurements appear about the same as last status - 10 to 15mm. When exploring, the bigger cats stretch to about 17mm.

When the cats were younger, they had about 13 segments. I'd wondered where the extra segments went. Watching them feed today, I noticed 3 of the missing segments - most noticeable on the yellow cat. Not only does it appear the front 3 segments behind the head are tucked in when the cat is not feeding, those segments also have claws, rather than cute little gripper feet, like the aft segments. It appears they use the claws to hold fast to the leaf while their jaws bite and head rocks side to side, cutting through the leaf. Interesting little creatures.

08-14-11: Not too much eating today, but a fair amount of exploring. Growth-wise, one still seems to be outpacing the others, but it seems to be more in getting a bit fatter/fluffier than longer. The biggest cat measured just about 16mm.

08-15-11: Not much activity today. 7 cats are either wandering around their food or just sitting on it. One is hugging the side of the container - a lazy day in Margaritaville. They all seem to be growing, but at the millimeter level it's sometimes hard to tell. I measured two at over 16mm. The one that's mostly yellow seems to be growing hardly at all. They've all got a long way to go before they're big enough to pupate. On a whim, tomorrow I'm going to gather leaves from several other types of trees and see if their tastes change as they get older, maybe fatten them up quicker.

08-16-11: When I opened their container today, not much was going on. The one hugging the side of the container was still hugging the side of the container. One cat was slowly exploring the bottom of the container. One cat was on a serious walkabout. The rest were just hanging out on their respective leaves. They've been eating, but not ravenously; frassing accordingly. Measuring didn't show any growth, but the way they stretch and contract it's hard to say if they've actually grown.

As I mentioned yesterday, I gathered new leaves of various kinds, washing and cleaning to eliminate any unwanted predators, etc. First, I decided to give them more than just a few plum leaves. I gave them a small plum branch, for variety in their climbs and exploration. I blotted the branch and leaves dry, to ensure there weren't any droplets large enough to drown a cat. One cat quickly migrated to the branch (there are now several there). Next, I blotted dry an apple leaf which I placed in the path of the cat on walkabout. The walkabout abruptly ended, and the cat began exploring the apple leaf, even nibbling from it. The cat stayed on the leaf about 5 minutes, until I introduced a blotted cherry leaf. The cat explored the cherry leaf, but didn't nibble it. I then cut a section of maple leaf - broad-leaf variety, I believe. This time, I didn't blot the leaf, instead just shaking the excess water off (again making sure there were no drops large enough to drown a little cat head). I placed the wet leaf beside the cat on the cherry leaf. Within moments, the cat raised its head, as though it were sniffing for something. After a brief hesitation, the cat moved onto the wet maple leaf. The moment it noticed the leaf was wet, it stopped in its tracks, dipped its head (as though tasting) and actually started drinking the water from the leaf. The cat worked its way across the leaf until all the water was gone. When it couldn't find any more water, it stopped and just sat where it was. It's still there.

Curious, I thought I'd try a wet leaf on another cat. I cut another piece from the maple leaf, shook it dry like the first time, and slipped it under a leaf with a cat sitting on the leaf's curled up edge (bottom center insert of montage). Within moments, the cat raised its head and started sniffing about just like the last one did (I assume when it smelled the water). Within moments it extended itself straight down to the wet leaf and started drinking its way along the veins of the leaf until all the water was gone. Then, like the first one, it just sat there.

So, I tried it one more time, just to be sure. I found two cats together (top right insert of montage), and placed a wet apple leaf - a variable to see if it was the maple leaf or the water that was the attractant - beside them. The closest cat did just like the others - sniffed around, moved to the water, then started drinking its way across the leaf. A minute or so later, the second cat did the same thing.

The only conclusion I can come to is that my cats are thirsty, and enclosed, non-natural environments may not provide enough water/humidity. I've seen how quickly a leaf left in their container dries out.. If the leaves dry out too quickly, I think the cat will, too. In the wild, the leaves are kept moist by the action of the tree. Condensation on cool mornings could also help. Unless the food in their container is kept moist, like in the wild, I think they will start to dehydrate. Why else would they sniff out the water, then lap it up until it's all gone?

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