Creating a project for lepidoptera lifecycles

Hi all!
I am interested in creating a project to collate observations that document the life cycles of lepidoptera in Australia i.e. a user has raised a caterpillar through pupa and imago, connecting the caterpillar to the moth/butterfly. This is valuable information, particularly as many caterpillars are currently not identified due to lack of knowledge/resources.

I am just not sure how to get started on such a project. I imagine it will need to be a Traditional project. I’ve been looking at existing observation sets, and sometimes they are linked by the use of tags, observation fields, or copy-pasting the URL into the notes section, or in some cases the whole lifecycle is documented in one observation.

Does anyone have advice from creating a similar project, or experience based on how you organise your own caterpillar raising observations?

Many thanks!


@franzanth and @daviaker I hope you don’t mind me tagging you in here. I’d love to hear your thoughts given your experience with raising caterpillars and documenting the process on iNaturalist.


Hi Claudia!

I personally use tags because I find them easier to view. I’m not very familiar with the options in projects yet, so I believe there’s a lot of benefits that I haven’t explored yet.

But then again, my main organization tool is actually a spreadsheet

I live in an area with slow internet, so I find spreadsheets to be more manageable and easily searchable — no need to wait for the dropdown or images to load, and I only click on the exact iNat link I need after searching it on my spreadsheet.

I know some people upload all the photos in one observation. I prefer to separate them because I think having each life cycle recorded with the correct date under iNat’s system makes it easier for me to compare their seasonality with other species (plants, predators, etc)

I’m sure I’m not the most organized caterpillar person out there, so I’m also interested in reading other people’s experiences!


You might want to contact @suncana - she has a caterpillar rearing project in South Africa.


Check out this thread - this is the method I use for linking observations going from larva to pupa etc:


Wow that spreadsheet is amazing! Thank you for sharing, I am very inspired. I particularly like the comments and nicknames, and I’m glad to see you note which caterpillars didn’t make it (I’ve felt so frustrated when the few I’ve tried to raise didn’t make it through, it’s quite disheartening. But I’m learning so much about caterpillar care!)


Thanks @deboas ! That’s a great thread, because if it I’ve started using a combination of tags and Similar observation set fields for my few caterpillars (but I have yet to finish marking a few as I’m usually on the app).

I wonder what people think about the etiquette of adding tags/observation fields to other users’ observations? Or adding their observations to a Traditional project, for that matter. I’m not really comfortable with adding tags/fields, I feel it could be taken as impolite on someone else’s observation.

Maybe the best solution so far is to simply add all the observations I’ve found so far into the Traditional project as is - and perhaps implement a spreadsheet like @franzanth 's system (linked in the project description?). Otherwise I could make it a requirement that observations must use the Similar observation set field, but that may be overly restrictive.

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Thank you :) I’m not sure which project exactly you are referring to, but I found Reared from larval stage (s Afr), Pupae & Cocoons (s Afr), and Pillar Parade (and here) which are all very interesting! There were also some links to the Caterpillar Rearing Group (and Facebook page) which have great resources.

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Yes, I don’t know if they have an active project on iNat, but the FB group is great, and Suncana can probably point you in the right direction. They do some amazing things, so as a resource I can’t recommend them highly enough.
Are you based in Australia? If so, their information will fit in well. In Canada, moths overwinter in all stages (or not at all), so it adds a complication.

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Plenty to think about here. I’ve had a look at what options you can use when setting up a project. I want to try and strike a balance between not capturing enough information, and making it too onerous to participate. I particularly like how the projects Found Feathers and Fungimap Australia make use of the observation fields. They both have great participation rates.

So perhaps I could set up a Traditional project with

And then in the project ‘About’ section give a guide on using Similar observation set to link observations. Some users will prefer to continue using tags.

I think it would also be best if all the observations in the set were added to the project rather than just one, to capture all that data in one place.

Anyway, I’ll think a bit more about it and definitely ask @suncana if she has any advice!

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Quick update: I created a project -

and I’ve added my own caterpillar rearing observations. If you have any suitable observations, please feel free to add them and let me know what you think! (Noting I have set the region to Australia only).

I gave a few prompted options for linking observations in a set, but maybe it will be confusing to participants. We’ll see, and hopefully it will grow into a successful and useful dataset :smile:

Thank you for starting this thread, @claudiarose! I do this for my personal curiosity and enjoyment here in California but am now realizing other things I could do because you’ve brought the topic up and other people have linked to resources! Thank you very much!


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