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Lophocampa maculata - Development Sequence and observations - Lophocampa maculata

Lophocampa maculata - Development Sequence and observations - Lophocampa maculata
Elkton, Douglas County, Oregon, USA
September 8, 2011
09-03-11: No new molts today. The cat on the wall is still waiting. Hopefully, I'll be able to photograph the entire event. I won't count on it, though. They seem to do most things at night, which makes sense if you're a tasty little caterpillar. It could also explain why I've never seen one in my yard - I'd like to figure out where they hide during the day. The rest of the cats were doing their usual napping.

The cat on the plum yesterday was still there this morning. I looked in on it several times yesterday. If it wasn't sleeping, it was munching. By this morning, it had eaten quite a bit of plum. Big-leaf maple is still the leaf of choice for the others. They ate quite a bit.

After I cleaned their container and added fresh, misted leaves, three cats came to drink.

Five cats are now 3cm or bigger. Three appear quite fluffy. Each cat now appears distinctive, its coloration and dorsal pattern as unique as a face. For example, the cat that has been sitting on the plum has acquired a rusty look to its redness - that was also the first time I saw a cat groom its underside. An interesting thing to note is that its curled forward position reveals a darkness to the skin that doesn't show up in yesterdays picture, or anytime the cat straightens out. When the cat is straight, it shows only a faint darkened dorsal stripe that has nothing to do with the color of the setae. It looks like just a sparseness of hairs, a space between two circular rows of setae, with dark skin beneath. I believe two other cats also have dark skin.

09-04-11: Another cat molted, and again, I missed it. I looked in on them first thing. The cat on the wall was still sitting there. After making coffee and feeding the turkeys, I checked again. The molt was over. I'm beginning to wonder if they're intentionally avoiding me capturing the molting process.

The newly molted cat measured 25mm, all scrunched up. The largest cat measures 37mm. Walking, it measured 42+mm. Two other cats measured 35+/-mm. The remaining three measured 30 to 34mm.

Eating and frassing were good. Lots of big-leaf maple eaten. Some plum eaten - didn't see who did it. Added a Himalayan blackberry leaf and several native blackberry leaves, just to see if they're interested.

One thing I noticed today, though it's been there for a while, is that not all cats have the same number of red segments; some have more black - two seem to have three red segments; some have five red segments. I'll have to watch and see if that changes on subsequent molts.

09-05-11: The cats were again lazing around. The cat on the wall was still sitting there. The three largest cats were on plum. One cat was on maple, one on Himalayan blackberry, one on native blackberry. Still eaten the most is big-leaf maple. A fair amount of plum was also eaten. The native blackberry was nibbled at. The Himalayan blackberry was more than nibbled at, a snack perhaps.

Size-wise, for the most part, no length changes; actually a tiny shrinkage - but such are the ways of the Slinky. They do, however, look a bit bulkier, but that's probably a result of pulling themselves in lengthwise. In appearance, they still maintain unique faces.

Today's curiosity: How differently would these cats have grown had they been raised in the fluctuating outside temperatures, rather than a constant 66 to 68 degrees with controlled, higher humidity?

09-06-11: The cat that was sitting on the native blackberries molted. The cat on the wall is still there and will probably molt by this time tomorrow - I'm assuming it'll wait until I'm asleep, so I can miss getting pictures of that one, too. Three cats were on the big-leaf maple, and two were on plum.

Quite a bit of maple was eaten, as was a fair amount of plum. Again, someone snacked on Himalayan blackberry. The native blackberry, except for being molted upon, was ignored. Total amount of plum and maple consumed seemed higher than the last few days, so was the amount of frass produced.

Hardly any activity when I cleaned their container. Only two of the larger cats explored the newly added, misted leaves. After taking a few sips of water, they settled in for a nap.

Didn't measure anyone today. The largest cats look about the same as yesterday. The next smaller cats seem to be catching up to the larger cats. The two smallest cats (the one hugging the wall and one hiding under a leaf, both of which look like they could molt) will probably start catching up after their next molt.

I've noticed all the larger cats are taking on a slightly rusty hue. I'm wondering if the largest cats have had their final molt, and might be soon ready for pupating.

09-07-11: No molts today. The two smallest cats, however, are still sitting idle on the container wall, as though they're getting ready. Four cats were sitting on big-leaf maple, and one was on plum.

At rest, the largest cat measured just over 40mm, a bit later it measured 38mm and yet later, it measured 42mm. The others I measured only once. Four were between 32 and 36mm. The two waiting to molt were 27 and 29mm. The smallest are still the most yellow.

Lots of eating and frassing going on. I check on the cats several times a day. Last night, my final check showed they'd already started eating, and consumed a good deal of maple and some plum. That was the first time I had to feed them twice in one day. By this morning, about a quarter of last night's additions were consumed. Again big-leaf maple was their first choice. The cat I often find on the plum was on the plum again; I assume it's the one that consumed most of the plum leaves. Interesting how they all still seem to at least munch on plum, while one still seems to prefer it. Neither of the blackberry leaves were touched, so I removed them. Another interesting thing about leaves in general is the cats seem to prefer the larger leaves. (With the larger maple leaves, I cut the leaf into 4 x 6 inch sections; small leaves, some only three inches across, I leave whole.) If I offer just smaller leaves, they will eat them, but if I offer both large and small maple leaves, they always eat the sections of large leaves first. They also seem to prefer the larger plum leaves, often totally ignoring the smallest.

Only the largest cat came exploring and sipping when I cleaned the container and added freshly misted leaves. At the moment, it's munching moist maple.

09-08-11: One molt today, and again I missed it (top right). There's still one cat hugging the wall, so I should have another chance soon. The rest of the cats, the five largest, were sitting together on maple. This is the first image with all the large cats together. Usually, they're scattered, and I have to cut and paste separate shots. In this image, you can actually get a real size comparison. The largest (left) measured 38mm. (The photo was taken from approximately three feet away.)

A fair amount of big-leaf maple was consumed. The plum was untouched. The usual amount of frass (teaspoon +/-) was removed. No one came running for water droplets when food was added, though four of the large cats did start eating the old leaf they were on. One large cat (top center) wandered off and hid under a maple leaf on the far side of the container.

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