Rearing notes for our cecropia moth (Hyalophora cecropia) cocoons. Stock originated as eggs from New York, June 2016; currently in the F1 generation.
Alan Liang is a student at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York pursuing an undergraduate degree in entomology. He is co-owner and a main contributor of the Liang Insects blog and photographs.
Upon returning back to Albany California, we now have a fresh generation of Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus).
Prior to leaving Albany in August 2017, we found an adult Indian stick insect that began laying eggs while we were away. Now that we are back, there are a dozen or two young nymphs that our mother has been looking after. Good thing for her, these require extremely low maintenance to care for even while we are away. They just need a clean plastic container with some rose or bramble cuttings which last 2-3 weeks before they need to be changed if the nymphs are young. They seem to like bramble cutting better since the leaves are softer and easier to bite, but it's quite difficult to find any leaves at all during this time of year. Luckily, our mother has been able to get by with some decent rose cuttings from our backyard. Th nymphs look quite healthy and vibrant green but are growing slowly due to the cool weather.
We collected another promethea moth (Callosamia promethea) cocoon at the Mundy Wildflower Garden today and decided to begin overwintering it and our other pupae in the refrigerator.
It's been weeks since we last posted, but there really hasn't been much going on lately due to the cold weather. Most of the leaves have dropped their leaves and there isn't anything flying these days. We saw snow for the first time this week which was pretty awful but quite something at the same time since it never snowed back in California. The past few weekends have either been busy or raining, so we haven't gone out much, but since today wasn't actually a reasonably clear day, we decided to check some of the old places we used to go regularly.
We started at Beebe like we always do and worked our way up to the Botanic Garden. There really wasn't much to see along the trail except bare trees and dead leaves. The Botanic Gardens looked pretty dead as well, and unlike before, there weren't many visitors today. All the nonnative, non-cold-hardy plants seemed to have been removed as quite a few plants were missing. The remaining plants were mostly all dead or dying.
Next, we headed back down to the Mundy Wildflower Garden which is where all the spicebushes are at. We weren't expecting to see much at that point, but we did find a handful of promethea cocoons when we visited the place back in August, so we were hoping to find some more now that the leaves have fallen. After looking around for awhile, we managed to find one, which isn't much but still very nice.
When we got home, we weighed it to see if it was still alive or not. It was 1.7 g which seems fairly normal if it is male, but we can't say for sure. We then put it in the container with all our other cocoons and pupae and decided to stick them all in the refrigerator since they would normally be experiencing very low temperatures outside by now. We'll probably keep them in there for the next six months until the weather warms up again.
Rearing notes for our giant swallowtails (Papilio cresphontes). Originally found as eggs on rue (Ruta graveolens) in Ithaca, New York.
The falls in Ithaca are very colorful.
It's mid October and the leaves here in Ithaca have been starting to change color and drop. As California natives, we had never known that fall could be so attractive and colorful, since back home, most trees were either evergreen or semi-evergreen, and any trees that did drop their leaves weren't very colorful. Here in Ithaca, however, virtually all the trees here are deciduous besides the conifers, creating a beautiful display of colorful leaves. Walking down the Cornell campus, there was a huge spectrum of colors from green, yellow, orange, to red. The reflection of the trees in the water of Beebe Lake was spectacular. The crabapple trees also have a very ornamental appearance now that their leaves have fallen but their fruit have not.
At this time of year, there doesn't seem to be many insects around anymore. All the more common ones (hymenopterans, dipterans, etc.) are still fairly common, but collecting has definitely become much harder even when the weather in warm and sunny. As far as leps, there aren't really any flying except cabbage whites, clouded and orange sulfurs, monarchs, and recently, painted ladies. There are still some small moths left as well.
Rearing notes for our Virginia creeper sphinx (Darapsa myron) fifth instar larva. It was collected as a fourth instar larva on grapevine (Vitis sp.) on August 31, 2017 in Ithaca, New York.
Rearing Notes 8/31/17-9/8/17:
Rearing notes for our silver-spotted skipper (Epargyreus clarus) larvae. Originally found as larvae on black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) in Ithaca, New York.
Rearing Notes 8/31/17-9/3/17:
While collecting on the Monkey Run Trail here in Ithaca, NY, we found a Virginia creeper sphinx (Darapsa myron) fourth instar larva on grapevine (Vitis).
We finally find our first sphinx in Ithaca - the Virginia creeper sphinx, Darapsa myron, supposedly one of the most common sphinx moths around here. Unlike back at home where there was literally only a single sphinx you could actually find (Smerinthus ophthalmica), there are probably over a dozen of them here. At least four or five of them (all Macroglossinae of course) feed on grape and related vines. It all makes since now that we've explored this place why there are so many grape feeders here - the vines grow wildly all over the place unlike back home in Albany, California where there were only cultivated grapes grown in gardens. Up until now, though, we hadn't found any larvae on the many grape and Virginia creepers around campus and many have minimal feeding damage.
Finally, today while collecting on the Monkey Run Trail (as part of the lab for our entomology class), we walked through a forested area and came across a large but not particularly succulent grapevine. At first we hardly bothered checking it since we were losing hope after having already checked many vines with no result, but when we flipped open one of the leaves, there sitting right in the center of it was a stunning fourth instar Darapsa myron larva preparing to molt. It was an incredible find for us, especially since it was the first time seeing this species.
The larva is a granulated bright green with two faint yellow dorsal stripes and transverse lateral stripes - a pretty typical patterning for many sphinx larvae. The caudal horn is well developed unlike in some similar grape feeders such as Eumorpha pandorus and Sphecodina abbottii, but like these species and many Macroglossinae sphinx, the thorax is plump and enlarged, allowing the larva to retract its head into it. Perhaps the most unique marking of the larva are the row of red and yellow spots on the dorsum. As far as size goes, this species is a small one. This larva at fourth instar is only about 2 cm and thus probably won't get too large in the final instar. Big or small, though, this is still a great species that we're very fortunate to have found.
Rearing notes for our silver spotted skipper (Epargyreus clarus) larvae. Originally found as larvae on black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) in Ithaca, New York.
Rearing Notes 8/24/17-8/30/17:
After locating spicebush (Lindera benzoin) at the Mundy Wildflower Garden (Ithaca, New York) for the purposes of finding Papilio troilus larvae, we inadvertently stumbled across promethea silkmoth (Callosamia promethea) cocoons on them!
We had originally gone out today intending on collecting some spicebush swallowtail (Papilio troilus) larvae at the Mundy Wildflower Garden, which is one of the few places around with lots of spicebush plants (Lindera benzoin). It took us a little while to find our very first troilus larvae, but the excitement didn't stop there, as we stumbled across six promethea silkmoth (Callosamia promethea) cocoons hanging from the spicebushes!
Despite that we have reared most of the North American Saturniids in captivity, we have never seen a wild cocoon in our lives. Back on the west there were only two species, Antheraea polyphemus and Hyalophora euryalus, but they appeared to be absent or extremely rare in our specific area, especially the latter one. Here on the east, we now have a strong representation of this family - there should probably be at least six or seven species. It's a complete shock to us that you can find cocoons simply hanging from a plant here so easily. the leaves haven't even fallen from the deciduous trees yet and the cocoons were still quite conspicuous due to the curling of the leaves and brown silk.
All six cocoons were directly on the spicebush plants, which was clearly the larval host, but one of them was empty and looked very old and faded (perhaps last year's assuming they are univoltine here in the north?). The leaves of some of the cocoons had already wilted and died, but the cocoons were still firmly fixed to the branch due to the shiny brown peduncle at the top of the cocoons, which are meant to hold to cocoons on throughout the winter. Though there were dozens of spicebushes along the trail, the cocoons were all located quite close to each other, suggesting they are siblings. It's interesting to note the choice of host here as promethea is a polyphagous species, feeding on mostly fragrant deciduous trees. Like most polyphagous Saturniids though, it is likely a regional specialist meaning it specializes on only a few hosts per region, and spicebush is probably a preferred hosts here.
After taking the cocoons home, we cut off most of the excess leaves and branches stuck to the cocoons, but left some on just to keep the natural look. We did a rough weighing (not accurate, though, since there was still plant material stuck to them), and they seemed all fairly large and healthy in size. Parasitized or diseased cocoon should usually be small and light, though ther's no gauruntee these aren't..
Ithaca, New York
This timeline is a series of daily posts recording our observations and experiences with various insects around the Cornell University campus in Ithaca, New York, starting from the time we moved here in 2017. As this is a personal blog, we try to keep collections for our entomology course work to a minimum, and mainly focus on just the species we catch and raise for our own fun and interest. Posts prior to this time can be viewed at Timeline 2012-2017: Albany, California.
June 2018 (2)
May 2018 (17)
April 2018 (2)
January 2018 (2)
December 2017 (8)
November 2017 (1)
October 2017 (5)
September 2017 (25)
August 2017 (18)
Full Species List
(Alphabetical by scientific name)
Papilio polyxenes asterius × Papilio zelicaon
Full Species List
(Alphabetical by scientific name)
Butterflies & Moths
Common checkerspot skipper
Great spangled fritillary
Milkweed tussock moth
Salt marsh moth
Virginia creeper sphinx
Western tiger swallowtail
White-marked tussock moth
Butterfly & Moth Hybrids
Black swallowtail × anise swallowtail
Grasshoppers, Katydids, & Crickets
Carolina band-winged grasshopper
Lesser meadow katydid
Sword-bearing conehead katydid
Two-spotted tree cricket
Cornell Botanic Gardens
Mundy Wildflower Garden
Albany, California Updates