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Photo#586442
Lophocampa maculata - Development Sequence and observations - Lophocampa maculata

Lophocampa maculata - Development Sequence and observations - Lophocampa maculata
Elkton, Douglas County, Oregon, USA
August 27, 2011
08-23-11: Today was another typical day at the caterpillar ranch - no one doing anything, to speak of. The cat on the sugar maple molted and had already preened before I got there.

The runt cat is still just sitting there. Curious if it was still alive, I gently pushed. It still seemed pliable, and its feet seemed to still be stuck to the floor of the container. I gently pushed again, and I could feed its grip release, foot by foot. I tried to carefully flip it over, but only managed to slide it around. Figuring I'd use a small piece of paper as a dust pan, when I tried pushing the cat onto the paper, its feet were again gripping the container floor. Visually, the cat looks even more poorly than yesterday.

It didn't look like there was a great deal of eating, but judging by the amount of frass, at least some had a hearty appetite. Still no return to eating plum or sugar maple, though I did see a few nibbles had been taken from the sugar maple. It would appear they've completely switched to big-leaf maple, with no more than occasional browsing elsewhere.

The largest cat measured just under 22mm. Three others are 20mm or over. Two are in the 18mm range. The freshly molted cat is all scrunched up - no sense in measuring it. Also no sense in measuring the runt.

08-24-11: The largest cat molted, again. It had that same slicked back hairdo, like the last cat on August 22. It also went through the same wriggle motions to fix its hairs - three separate times, with about a one minute pause between each set of wriggles. Then it just sat on the wall, all scrunched up. The molt took place before I checked the cats. I'm hoping to catch one just as it starts molting. I took photos of the 3 wriggle events. They look the same as the last cat. I tried getting shots of the head, but like the last cat, it wouldn't come out from its black fuzz; I even tried blowing on it and gently stroking it, but it wouldn't budge.

I've given up on the runt. Its lost its suppleness, has shrunk even more and is turning dark. Also, it's feet are no longer gripping anything. Underneath it looks dark, drying out, withered. After today, there will be photos of the remaining 7, only.

Another cat has climbed the wall. It's been there about 24 hours. I assume it's next to molt.

The remaining 5 cats have been sitting motionless on their food. Still no return to sugar maple, however, the two cats who molted yesterday on the plum leaves ate a fair amount of plum. A fair amount of big-leaf maple was eaten, too. Except for the freshly molted, scrunched up cat, they all look a bit bigger. I didn't measure anyone today.

08-25-11: Everyone looked like they were sleeping when I arrived. Frass was all over the place - must have been one heck of a party. Heavy eating on big-leaf maple, moderate eating on plum, minor nibble on sugar maple. Sugar maple is now off the menu. Not sure what to try next.

After cleaning out their old food and frass, 4 cats became quite active, for a little while. The largest cat (molted yesterday) finally stirred from its corner. While walking around, it measured 28mm; while eating, 25mm; at total rest, 23+mm. Two other cats came in at 22mm. The rest were between 21 an 19+mm, all measured at rest. Three of the 4 wandering cats went from leaf to leaf. I assume they were checking out the new odors of fresh plum and maple. The large cat and two others found a big-leaf maple and ate for about 3 minutes. The other wanderer crawled under the maple, and now thinks it's hiding. In the past half hour, periodically, a random cat moves, appears to take a few bites, then naps again.

08-26-11: One more cat molted. Everyone spent the day sleeping. They're still sleeping (8:28 PM). Last night's eating was good. Big-leaf maple was the favored choice, by far. Didn't measure anyone today.

08-27-11: Everyone looked noticeably bigger today. The largest cat (top right) was 26mm at rest and stretched to over 32mm when moving. Two others are about 1mm shorter. The smallest was just over 20mm. Last I looked, it was searching the wall, as though looking for a safe place to molt.

Speaking of which, the cat that crawled under a maple leaf the other day, hiding, has molted (top left). The maple leaf no longer covered it; the leaf was eaten away by the other cats. Looks like I missed the hairdo dance by just a few minutes.

An interesting thing I've been noticing on the freshly molted cats is that the front and aft black areas not only have black setae but the skin in those areas is now also black. Originally, I thought the skin stayed yellow, just looking black because of the dense black hairs.

It appears the cats had another party last night. About 2/3 of the big leaf maple pile was consumed, frass all over the place. No plum appeared to be touched, but just in case, I'll keep offering it.

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