Clumps of gray furcula moth (Furcula cinereoides) eggs mysteriously showed up on our kitchen walls and curtains.
Two months ago at the beginning of May we had a prepupal last instar gray furcula (Furcula cinereoides) larva disappear. It had been left in a small petri dish that it somehow escaped from when it was wandering about and trying to find a pupation site. It was quite disappointing at the time, but we had quickly forgotten about it.
Somehow, the larva must have survived and successfully built a cocoon in a safe and hidden spot in our house. Because today we found heaps of gray furcula eggs laid haphazardly on our kitchen cabinet, wall, and curtains.
These really could have only been from that larva that now managed to emerge. Sadly, there is no way that it could have ever called in a male while inside the house so these eggs are infertile. However, if we could only find that female back, there may still be a chance to do something. . . Or if there isn't anything that we can do, at least it would be nice to see just how the moth looks like.
Rearing notes for our gray furcula (Furcula cinereoides) fifth instar larva. It was collected on willows (Salix) along Cerrito Creek (El Cerrito, California)
Rearing Notes 4/29/17-5/5/17:
We found a gray furcula (Furcula cinereoides) egg on the willows (Salix) growing along Cerrito Creek (El Ceirrito, California).
Cerrito Creek is just the best. Almost any of the common Salix feeding Lepidoptera can be found on the willows there if you take the time to search. A few weeks ago we found a fourth instar Furcula cinereoides larva, and today we found what looks like an egg.
The egg is laid on the upper side of the leaf and is black and flat dome shaped. The shell has a rough texture ti it which can be seen in the light of the camera. There is a small circular indentation in the center. Hopefully it will hatch soon so we can common our identification.
Rearing notes for our gray furcula (Furcula cinereoides) larva. It was collected on willows (Salix) along Cerrito Creek (El Cerrito, California).
Rearing Notes 4/23/17-4/28/17:
We found a gray furcula (Furcula cinereoides) larva on the willows (Salix) along Cerrito Creek (El Cerrito, California).
What a nice find on willow again. The common riparian trees never disappoint with the diverse number of species that can be found on them. We haven't seen one grey furcula larvae since last year, but that one turned out to be parasitized. Well, now we've found another one on the willows along Cerrito Creek, and hopefully this time it isn't parasitized.
The larva is very unique and interesting, having a long forked tail at the end in place of claspers and a set of prolegs. The head is squarish and bears two scoli right behind it. The body is granulated and green and the back has a brown saddle.
Today, the 17 brachonid wasps that came out of our gray furcula larva (Furcula cinereoides) have emerged.
The gray furcula moth larva (Furcula cinereoides) that we caught on 6/19 and turned out to be parasitized on 7/3. 17 unidentified species of parasitoid brachinoid wasp maggots bit their way and crawled out of the caterpillar to spin cocoons. These cocoons finally emerged today, just about a week later as we had predicted (the weakened caterpillar is still alive after all this time!). We had kept them just for the sake of seeing what the adults would look like for future reference and for identification purposes (we still have not identified them yet though) and immediately after they emerged, we threw them in the freezer to kill them. Of course we took some nice pictures of them though.
Today we found out that the gray furcula larva (Furcula cinereoides) we found on 6/19 had been the host of some braconid wasp (Braconidae) maggots. What a lovely surprise.
It has been 24 days since we first collected our first gray furcula larva on 6/19. When we first collected the little guy, it was only in second instar and in apolysis for third. For such a small caterpillar, we expected it to grow pretty fast. Though we had never had any experience with the species prior to finding it and did not know how many broods they have in our region, with the summer heat at 70+ degrees on most days we didn't expect it to take more than two weeks in the larval stage. But, of course we were wrong.
By the 24th day, today, the little prominent still had only began feasting in the fourth instar for a few days. The caterpillar was very small, to say the least though we cannot say for sure that it was undersized. In any case, both slowed growth and being undersized are notorious symptoms of being parasitized. And boy, was this caterpillar parasitized. This afternoon, we counted a total of 17 very fat braconid wasp larvae (family Braconidae) crawling out of its body and spinning their characteristic oval-shaped, white cocoons. Despite the warning signs, we simply had no idea. But then again, the parasitism rate can be alarmingly high among wild-caught caterpillars.
After the maggots had chewed their way out of the exoskeleton to pupate, we didn't expect the poor prominent to have a trace of life left in it. But braconid wasps are actually quite different than tachinid flies (family Tachinidae) that we encounter more often. After they emerge from the host, the host is still very much alive (greatly weakened, but still alive) and brainwashed to defend the pupating maggots by thrashing around violently when disturbed. That's all our caterpillar is doomed to do for the rest of its short life before it finally does die when the wasps emerge from their cocoons about a week later.
So that pretty much does it for Furcula cinereoides -- our only caterpillar has been busted. Probably won't be seeing it around here too much anymore unless we decide to take a few pics of the wasps when they come out.
The only installment of rearing notes for the Gray Furcula Moth caterpillar (Furcula cinerea) we found on willow (Salix). It eventually died before pupating because it had been parisitized.
Rearing notes 6/19-7/3:
Today down at Cerrito Creek near El Cerrito Plaza shopping center, we discovered an interesting caterpillar we had never seen before and have identified it as the larvae of the Gray Furcula Moth (Furcula cinereoides).
Cerrito Creek begins in the Berkeley Hills, serving as part of the border between Alameda (Albany) and Contra Costa (El Cerrito) County and ends in the San Francisco Bay. After suffering from urbanization efforts in the 1900's, a lot of restoration projects have been made on the creek and it looks pretty nice today, consisting mostly of native trees and shrubs with a decent amount of wildlife still around.
At least down at the El Cerrito Plaza, the creek is surrounded by many riparian plants such as willow, cottonwood, live oak, sycamore, and alder, as well as ceanothus. We had decided to visit mainly because a lot of these trees are listed as food plants of the Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus). We also wanted to check out the quality of the ceanothus leaves for our Ceanothus Moth caterpillars (Hyalophora euryalus) but in the end neither endeavor was successful.
However, when we were searching a willow tree (Salix spp.), we discovered an odd looking caterpillar under a leaf. The caterpillar was very small, probably a second or third instar and it was currently in apolysis. Immediately we identified it as some species of prominent because of its characteristic forked tail, but were unsure of the exact species. After we got home we identified it as a Gray Furcula Moth caterpillar (Furcula cinereoides). We also realized that the caterpillar's tails were supposed to be of equal size and length but that was not true of our caterpillar. It is hard to tell, but it appears that one of the tails had been broken at the tip. Regardless, we are interested to see what becomes of this caterpillar and how big it will grow since we have never had one in the past and hopefully we have identified it correctly!
This timeline is a series of daily posts recording our observations on and experiences with various insects in Albany California and surrounding areas, from 2012-2017. Since we did not publish this site until 2016, posts before that were constructed retroactively. Starting in August 2017, we moved to Ithaca, New York; posts from there on can be viewed at Timeline 2017-present: Ithaca, New York.
August 2017 (49)
July 2017 (121)
June 2017 (79)
May 2017 (77)
April 2017 (91)
March 2017 (35)
February 2017 (12)
January 2017 (10)
December 2016 (12)
November 2016 (26)
October 2016 (49)
September 2016 (84)
August 2016 (94)
July 2016 (99)
June 2016 (53)
May 2016 (21)
April 2016 (4)
January 2016 (1)
August 2015 (3)
July 2015 (3)
June 2015 (2)
June 2014 (3)
May 2014 (1)
April 2014 (3)
March 2014 (3)
December 2013 (2)
November 2013 (2)
October 2013 (5)
September 2013 (11)
August 2013 (15)
July 2013 (9)
June 2013 (5)
May 2013 (4)
April 2013 (3)
March 2013 (2)
February 2013 (3)
January 2013 (2)
December 2012 (2)
November 2012 (1)
October 2012 (2)
September 2012 (2)
August 2012 (5)
July 2012 (1)
June 2012 (1)
Full Species List
(Alphabetical by scientific name)
- Not every species we encounter is necessarily presented on this site, rather a selection of those that were of particular interest to us and that we felt were worth documenting.
- We can't guarantee that all species have been identified accurately, particularly taxa we are not as familiar with.
Battus philenor hirsuta
Coenonympha tullia california
Langia zenzeroides formosana
Orthosia hibisci quenquefasciata
Papilio machaon oregonius
Papilio polyxenes asterius
Samia cynthia advena
Papilio glaucus × Papilio rutulus
Papilio polyxenes asterius × Papilio zelicaon
Araneae (Class: Arachnida)