Lophocampa maculata - Development Sequence and observations - Lophocampa maculata
Elkton, Douglas County, Oregon, USA
August 21, 2011
08-17-11: Everyone seemed mellow this morning. The cat hugging the wall was still on the wall, right under its old, shed skin - it molted. The rest of the cats were all just sitting around, occasionally wriggling a centimeter or two then just sitting. They seem to have done a fair amount of eating and frassing. I think they liked yesterday's artificial rain. I didn't give them any rain today, but I did dip several leaves in water, leaving them in random spots. Length-wise the largest cat still measures just under 17mm (not including hairs). Perhaps it's wishful thinking, but they do seem a little fluffier.
As for their interests in the added leaf variety, they completely ignored the cherry and apple. The maple (a broad-leaf variety, not vine maple) was a hit. Four of the cats were sitting on what was left of two leaf parts. Today I added birch and lilac. When I've gone through my experimenting, I'll add any new preferences to their daily diet - after all, in the wild they get to chose something new simply by migrating to the next tree.
08-18-11: From the looks of it, the cats were all relaxing after a hearty meal - except for the one still hugging the wall. I suspect it'll join the others by tomorrow. It's still the largest cat, though now possibly tied with another. They both measure 17mm.
All was quiet until I started changing their food and cleaning their container. They actually became quite animated. The two maple leaf pieces I'd left the day before yesterday were almost completely gone. The little plum branch showed signs of fairly heavy feeding, but not as aggressively as the maple. The lilac and birch were untouched. I'd left the cherry and apple in an extra day, as well. The cherry had one corner nibbled; the apple was untouched. I find it interesting they're so willing to add (big-leaf) maple to their diet. (The leaves average about 10+ inches wide by 8+ inches long. Some on the tree appear well over a foot wide.) I'm thinking of trying blackberry, as well. In fact, I'll eventually try most deciduous leaves . . . though if they secretly prefer poison oak, well, that's just too bad; I'll never know.
After cleaning their container, I added another small, fresh, wet plum branch. Two cats took to it right away. I then added half a fresh, wet maple leaf. I guided a few cats to it, and just like last time, they aggressively started exploring and lapping at the little pockets of moisture. I also added a fresh, wet white oak leaf which two cats curiously explored. I've got black oak, too, and I'll try that later. Once all the leaves I'd added had mostly dried, the cats did the same sit-and-stare routine as on the 16th. To help maintain a good humidity, I've started to lightly mist the container lid before I seal them in.
08-19-11: Everyone was laid back this morning, doing nothing. A new, smaller cat has taken to hugging the side of the container; I assume preparing to molt. The largest cat, which was hugging the wall until yesterday, was back on plum, and one other was on plum. Five cats were on maple.
From the look of things, they're now eating more maple than plum. Considering they wouldn't touch maple in the first week, kind of makes me wonder where their new willingness came from. My first guess is they're not too unlike us, following cravings and what tastes good, some tastes not appreciated until later in life, others discarded . . . perhaps receptors (newly grown or old ones being turned on for the first time) triggering a new instinct - stimulus and reaction to some foods, no stimulus, therefore no reaction with others . . . could even cause them to shun old favorites. Regardless, I believe it's safe to say that by their 5th week they're willing to switch food - kind of in line with what I've been thinking they might do in the wild.
Other than yesterday's exploring of the wet oak leaf, they weren't interested in tasting it. So far, they only care for the (big-leaf) maple and plum. Today I added a wet leaf from a purple ornamental maple - the leaves start in spring as purple, grow 5 to 6 inches across then change to a dark green. One cat beside the leaf checked it out right away, but it looked more like a drink of water run than a taste test.
The biggest cat measured 18mm, the smallest 12mm.
I'm wondering again if they'll all wind up the same color, or will some never turn the fuller red, staying instead yellow with a few red, hairy spots? Time will tell, or not.
08-20-11: The small cat that was hugging the container wall appears to have fallen off the wall. Lying on its back with its little feet pointing up, it looked like it was dead, like it might have even struggled a little to right itself. But looking at its image in the camera's viewfinder, it still looked supple and internally moist. I think it's just in its frozen molting posture. I don't know if being on their back for molting is detrimental, so I carefully righted it. It moved, just enough to smooth out the kink it had from lying on its back, then continued its frozen posture.
The rest of the cats were on the other end of the container, sitting quietly on their food. One was on plum. The rest were on or under maple. Hardly any plum was touched, but they had eaten well the (big-leaf) maple. (I'm almost certain it's big-Leaf. Gathering more leaves today, I measured some at more than 15" across. I also noticed some have started to yellow.) From appearances, the cats have switched from eating plum to eating maple. They, however, did not touch the purple leaf maple. Today I added sugar maple.
In changing their food and cleaning their container, I inadvertently prodded several into wandering. The largest cat stopped part way up the wall, making it easy to get a measurement through the clear plastic. I couldn't believe it. It measured 22.5mm. It looked a little more stretched out than when I usually measure them, but still, it's nice to see some good growth. Another looks close in size. The smallest cat is still the one I thought was molting on the wall yesterday. Didn't measure it - didn't want to disturb it again.
08-21-11: Six cats were sitting quietly on their food. One cat was hugging the wall - my guess, another molting. The cat that fell from the wall yesterday looks a little poorly from a distance, but up close (lower right insert of montage), it looks fairly normal, to me. A few setae can be seen lying around the cat. This was common in other molts, so I assume everything is going well - I always worry about the runt in the litter, and this one is very tiny compared to the others.
Two of the cats were sitting on plum. Only a bit of plum showed nibbling. The rest of the cats were on maple. The sugar maple I offered yesterday seems to have been met with some favor. The remains were hard to distinguish from the chewed up big-leaf maple. I wonder if their eating preferences will change as all maple turn color. As I mentioned yesterday, some leaves are already turning. Maybe the cats are at a stage in their development where maple's changing chemistry is found attractive/necessary to eat? Curious, when I offered big-leaf maple in their first week, they wouldn't touch it; now they love it.
Today the largest cat measured just over 20mm. It didn't look as stretched as yesterday, but more relaxed and fluffy. Two other cats are also in the 20mm range. All three are the most red. The yellower ones, depending on their stretchiness, are all between 15 and 18mm. The runt seems stuck at 12mm.
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