Lophocampa maculata - Development Sequence and observations - Lophocampa maculata
Elkton, Douglas County, Oregon, USA
September 18, 2011
09-14-11: Amazing how much food was eaten. About 85% of the big-leaf maple was consumed, while the plum wasn't even touched. All cats but one were sitting on maple, one was on the wall, but not in the vertical, head down molting position. I wonder, had I not offered them maple, what size and in what condition would they be now?
I suspect there won't be too much more growing, except maybe a bit of catching up by the late molters - and at the rate they're eating, probably some fattening up, too. I'm very curious to find out what will trigger them to start pupating. What are the signs?
As usual, the first part of cleaning the cat's container was uneventful - I transfer the cats that are sitting on leaves out of the container, and they sit peacefully on those leaves waiting for me to put them back. I then clean out all frass, leaf bones and small leaf pieces . . . fortunately, the cats stuck to the walls or bottom hold on pretty good when I dump the refuse, and I haven't dumped a cat, yet. I then add fresh leaves in an askew manor, so the cats have places to go in, under, around and through. About half the leaves are misted. I then return the cats to the top of the pile. Today, within a minute or so, five cats sniffed around and went straight for the fresh, misted maple. After what looked like a brief sipping session by all five, they began eating and are still doing so.
09-15-11: Didn't get to look at the cats until 7:30 PM. I did, however, give them an extra helping of big-leaf maple in the AM.
Cleaned their container. One cat got riled up. It's been pacing the container from end to end, side to side for the past 45 minutes. Almost seems like it's looking for something. In its walkabout, it stirred up several other cats, who then started their own wandering.
09-16-11: The cats are still eating and frassing a lot. About 2/3 of the big-leaf maple was consumed. The plum was again untouched. If they don't take plum by tomorrow, I'll stop offering it.
I didn't measure anyone, per se. I did, however, photograph one cat next to a ruler. I tried to line the head up with the 20cm mark, but the cat kept moving that end. Regardless, it stretches from just under 20cm to almost 24cm (almost 40mm) - this isn't the largest cat, just one that was easy to maneuver next to the ruler. Some cats are a bit bigger, some smaller, all seem to be growing well.
Again after cleaning their container, a cat went on walkabout. A second cat joined in. Both cats are ones without spots. Their wandering still makes me think they're looking for something . . . there's a definite purpose to it. They even push other cats out of the way, or climb over them.
09-17-11: The two cats on walkabout yesterday walked about all day, all evening, and were still on walkabout this morning. So they don't continually disturb the other cats, I gave them their own container, where they promptly continued their walkabout. I still have no idea why they're doing this, but it's so purposeful, there has to be a point to it.
The other 5 cats were idle, sitting on leaves - 3 on big-leaf maple, 2 on plum. A fair portion of plum was eaten, but again hands down, more maple was eaten. Guess I'll continue giving them plum.
Note: After lunch, I checked on the walkabout cats. They finally seem to have taken a break. One is under a maple leaf, the other on a plum leaf that's still attached to a small branch with several other plum leaves. I spread the maple leaves over the plum branch/leaves, tent-like, in case they were looking for a place to hide. Don't know if they had the same idea, but they maneuvered under the maple tent and settled down.
09-18-11: Two cats told me what "Walkabout" means - "I'm looking for a place to pupate." At least that's what it appears to mean to the two cats I segregated. As I mentioned yesterday, they settled down after my lunch. They stayed settled the rest of the day, and were unchanged when I went to bed. This morning they were still in the same place, only now, they were cocoons. Nothing in their container had been eaten, and there was no frass. Interestingly, the first two cats to pupate were the smallest. Another interesting thing is both had only one black spot behind the anterior black section. There's still one cat with only one black spot (upper left insert - it's also now the smallest); I'm curious if it'll be next.
(To relate to which cocoon belongs to which cat, I've paired up each last cat image with its pupa image - a montage. Since I didn't actually watch the process, the cat and pupa images are matched to the locations of the cat and the subsequent cocoon - I'm assuming they didn't trade places at the last minute.) These cats will now be referred to as Cat and Cocoon 1 (CC1) and Cat and Cocoon 2 (CC2). And yes, one pupa is very notably darker than the other. And no, they are not different sizes. Both are about 3/4 inch.
The remaining 5 cats are still cats. All were idle, 4 on big-leaf maple, 1 on plum. Again, a good amount of food was consumed, and again, it was mostly maple. Frass was also plentiful. No one stirred when I cleaned their container, however, in the past 15 minutes, one cat has started exploring, and two have started munching. If the exploring turns into a walkabout, I'll give the cat its own container.
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