Spring has sprung, although here in Nebraska we've had a lot of cold, wet weather. But temperatures are getting better and the insects are starting to emerge.
Last spring, I raised some Cecropia (Hylephora cecropia) caterpillars. One of my colleagues found a female and she laid eggs, so he took some to raise in his lab and I raised about 10 of them in my office. This is the largest moth in North America, but they start out as tiny black caterpillars:
Once they are this big, it's time to pupate! They spin a cocoon among the branches/leaves of their food source, then pupate within it.
I put the cocoons in the refrigerator all through the winter, as this emulates the cold months when they are in diapause. This April, I removed them and 3 weeks later, the first of the four emerged. It was a male I named Titus.
Unfortunately, I could not release him as we've had a few cold, rainy days, and it would have been certain death. The adults do not feed and only live about a week, so their main purpose is to find mates and lay eggs. I was hoping a female would emerge, and one did a couple days later. Here is Athena. She is much larger than Titus, and he was large enough!
Sadly, when I got back from the weekend, Titus had banged his wings up all around the cage, and did not have a lot of time left. I am not sure that he and Athena actually mated. I released both of them yesterday when it was warmer. I wanted to give Titus some time outside before dying, but Athena I am hoping found a chance to mate.
I still have two cocoons left and hopefully these moths will emerge as well. It was an amazing experience being able raise this insect from caterpillar to moth!