Thursday, 2 April 2015
Emperor Moth Caterpillars and an Interesting Book on Living Churchyards
I promised Amanda the other day that I would post some photos of the cages I've used/will use for rearing my Emperor Moth caterpillars. You don't really need any fancy equipment to raise caterpillars - when the children were little we often used to collect 1 or 2 caterpillars and raise them to adulthood and we just used a very large empty bottled water container or you could use a large sweet jar. The reason I bought a "special" cage (well, actually in the end I had to buy 2!) for the Emperor moth caterpillars was because they grew very large and I also had a large quantity (I can't remember the exact number but it was between 40 and 50). I also had to take them on holiday with us so I could keep them supplied with food (they were voracious eaters of bramble leaves) and it was far easier to transport them in cages with handles than in a sweet jar!
As I am eagerly awaiting the emergence of the adult moths from pupae I thought I'd also do a little recap of the caterpillars.
They started to emerge from the eggs about the 13th May last year and they were tiny - at this stage I was able to keep them in large moth pots!
Getting bigger on the 24th May.
On the 3rd June
and 16th June. It was very interesting to see how they also changed colour as they developed.
They started to pupate at the end of June and the process continued into mid-July.
Here's a photo of one of the cages I used to rear the caterpillars - now full of pupae. Sorry about all the kitchen paper - its an attempt to keep out any predators such as spiders!
At the moment they are still outside in the coal house but I will bring them indoors in mid-April, put them in a new large "cage" and start spraying them with tepid water each day. Hopefully, they will then start emerging at the same time as the wild population. The person who gave me the caterpillars has advised that they need a cage with mesh sides so that the freshly emerged moths can crawl up the sides and dry their wings. Initially, B was going to make something but when I looked into the price of cages on the internet we decided it would be almost as cheap to buy one.
So here's the new "cage" - rather OTT I am afraid!! but luckily it folds flat when not in use so won't take up too much room. I've bought the cage mainly because the adult moths are large with wingspans up to 41 mm and once they start emerging I will need a cage where they can fly around until I take them to the release site (where there is already a resident population). I also plan to put a female in the "cage" in the garden in the hope that if there is a population near to where I live the males will be attracted to the pheromones the female produces and will visit the garden.
I've recently bought an interesting little book from NHBS on the Nature of God's Acre Project. Its entirely different from the Francesca Greenoak book (which is one of my favourites) but if you are interested in wildlife in churchyards its well worth buying (its only £4.99 plus postage and packing). The project explored the relationship between the spiritual and natural value of churchyards. Churches in Sussex were sent questionnaires on wildlife found in their churchyards and the value visitors put on this. The book details the results of the survey with a section on each of the churches and their churchyards that participated. Its a pity I don't live nearer to Sussex but I am really enjoying reading the book and it is full of interesting information that can be related to your own local churchyards.
Thanks so much for your good wishes by the way - apart from E who was the last to go down with the virus, we are all a lot better and had a day out locally today which I think was just what we all needed.