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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 22, 2011
09-20-11: Not much to report on the remaining four cats today. No cats on walkabout. Everyone seems happy to just sit around on their leaves - before I cleaned their container, while cleaning it and after returning them to the container. Three cats were sitting on maple, one on plum.

A fair amount of big-leaf maple was eaten. Frassing seemed equivalent. Though one cat is sitting on plum, no plum was eaten.

A few moments ago, one cat (the last with only one spot) woke up. It's now slowly meandering through the pile of leaves. Another appears to be quietly munching maple. After a few minutes, the meandering cat settled down under a maple leaf. The munching cat is still peacefully munching, though possibly taking little cat naps between bites. A third cat has also stirred and begun a slow meander to the leaf edge. It too appears to be munching.

I've noticed the past few day, since just before pupating started, an increased amount of setae has been littering the bottom of the container. I've also noticed the thinning of setae on several cats, making it much easier to see the skin under the hairs. One cat today seems to be sporting the thinned setae. CC1 and CC3 also showed a lot of skin before pupating.

09-21-11: Yesterday, everything quieted down after lunch. It stayed that way until 3:45 PM, when another cat started walkabout. The cat is spotted. I moved it to a private container. This cat has not eaten or frassed since moving into its new abode. Based on the last three pupating cats, it would seem they pupate from 20 to 24 hours after starting walkabout. Currently, the walkabout seems rather intense. I hope I don't miss part of the cocooning when I go to lunch.

I've been wondering about the walkabout, the purpose it serves. I assume the first part is to help eliminate all frass. I would think the cat then starts looking for a place to pupate, but I suspect there's more to it than that. I'm wondering if it's not also giving its innards a final churning and blending of material, possibly releasing some chemicals in the process that get mixed into the stew - blending the necessary ingredients for proper cooking, so to speak. I'm also curious about a habit they seem to have during walkabout: climbing to the top of the container, starting to walk across the inside of the lid, then allow themselves to drop to the floor of the container, usually with a fairly audible "thump". They'll do this climb/drop thing several times then continue on the walkabout. A while later, they'll do the climb/drop thing again, returning once again to walkabout - perhaps they're trying to fall to the ground to pupate?. A third curiosity is that periodically, they suddenly stop, rear their head up and to the sides several times, then continue on. The head bobbing is very similar to their response when I put a freshly misted leaf in the container and they appear to sniff out where the water is. I wonder what a pupating cat is sniffing for . . . if it is sniffing.

The remaining three cats still don't seem interested in walkabout - I'm thinking of naming them: Fat, Dumb and Happy. Like usual, they're sitting around, doing nothing . . . until they get bored, when they move a few inches then sit there, sometimes munching, sometimes not. All in all, the three remaining cats seem to still be on their nightly feeding binge. A goodly amount of big-leaf maple was consumed. Several chunks of plum leaf were also consumed. Frassing was equivalent to consumption.

09-22-11: The five-spotted cat on walkabout has pupated. I watched it all day and evening, figuring it would pupate like the others, in 20 to 24 hours. Several times it stopped and looked like it was checking out a spot to pupate, but each time I picked up the leaf for a closer look, it started walkabout, again. Maybe it would have pupated had I not disturbed it, or maybe, just to make a liar out of me, it waited until sometime after midnight - so that makes the length of walkabout a 20 to 36 (or so) hour process. Regardless, I didn't wait up to get photos. This cat will now be referred to as CC4.

Of the remaining three cats, two (Dumb and Happy) are lazing about on maple; one (Fat) (bottom left insert) is doing a slow meander around the container. When I first checked them, all three cats were sitting idle. After cleaning their container, the one cat (Fat) started wandering (11:45 AM). Based on how it appears to be "searching", I suspect a full-blown walkabout will be under way by this afternoon. As soon as I transfer CC4 to a pupation container, I'll move the meandering cat to its own walkabout container.

Eating and frassing were good, considering only three are in a state capable of eating, and one of those stopped eating sometime this morning. Only big-leaf maple was consumed; plum was untouched.

1:00 PM update: walkabout is definitely in second gear; diligent searching going on and head-bobbing very pronounced. The remaining one-spot (top left) is still lazing on a moist leaf. The five-spot (top right) appears to be awake and munching.

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