Raising Caterpillars

Hello, this morning I found this incredible caterpillar, I decided to bring it to my house with the purpose of being able to breed it and in this way see its adult form, it is useful because I have seen these caterpillars often and thus I will be able to identify them at the species level . Anyway, my question is this, because I have never bred caterpillars, I do not have much experience, for now the caterpillar is in a large jar, but with what do I feed it? I read that it was best to feed it with leaves from its host plant, but when I found it it was not on any specific plant, it was on a branch of a dead acacia, however I brought leaves from some plants that were in the surroundings (Salvia bogotensis, Eucalyptus globulus and this), in addition to the fact that the jar already had a planted plant (Evolvulus) that luckily is native and is located in the area where I found the caterpillar. The problem is that the caterpillar has been in the jar for a few hours and the only thing it has done is moving around the jart (it has been very active), I have not seen it eat yet, should I be concerned?
I appreciate all the advice you can give me

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If it was on a dead branch perhaps it was about to pupate. Othrewise, i’d try putting on leaves from several nearby species, seeing which one it eats, then giving it more of that.

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I would try checking www.gardenswithwings.com. You can put in your zip code and it will tell you what butterflies/caterpillars can be found in your area and has photos of the caterpillars. If you find yours, then you can check on the same website what their host plants are. Good luck.

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Oops. Think the site just covers the states. Sorry.

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It is a pity, I would love something like that for Colombia. However, I found a paper about the Leucanella larvae of Colombia and their feeding, unfortunately only the abstract was available, I think that tomorrow I will look for the plants mentioned in the paper.

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Try this link for the paper. Looks like most of the caterpillars died on any of the plants though:
https://sci-hub.tw/https://doi.org/10.3958/059.042.0319

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I’m not sure if this is important in Colombia, since the seasonality is so different. But around here, many caterpillars need to undergo the normal seasonal temperature changes as pupae in order to properly develop. So most people who raise them try to find a covered porch or some other screened in outdoor area to leave them.

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Thank you, I had tried with sci hub but I get error messages. Well, in the paper said that the caterpillars died in their first instars, and I think that the caterpillar that I found is in an advanced instar, comparing it with the photos it seems that it is already molted. The amazing thing is that I did not think that the pupal stage would last that long, between 177 and 135 days depending on the diet.

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It is interesting, although there are no considerable seasonal temperature variations here, however since it is slightly warmer inside my house than outside, it would be important to keep that in mind, I think I will leave the jar close to a window.

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Interesting story. Please keep us updated, what is happening. :)

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I don’t think there’s a whole lot of information out there regarding native/wild host plant records for Leucanella (and a lot of tropical Saturniids for that matter). However, there are A LOT of Saturniid enthusiast out there that rear all kinds of species as a hobby and have figured out general host plant trends for most groups (whether they’re actually utilized in the wild is another question). Generally speaking the vast majority of Saturniids are oligo- or polyphagous on common woody trees in their range (so it’s unlikely it will accept the herbaceous plants you tried). Typical host plants for Hemileucinae (the subfamily that Leucanella belongs to) tend to be in the Rosaceae, Salicaeae, Fagaceae, and Oleaceae. A large number of Heliceucinae species can probably be reared on a least one of those host families, so I would give one of them a shot.

As for general advice on rearing, many Saturniids are unfortunately quite disease prone in captive settings, but it really does depend on the particular species. The rearing enclosure needs to be clean and have adequate ventilation for most species, or they’ll get sick. Unless the larva is full grown and ready to pupate, not feeding and wandering around is typically a flag for disease, though in you’re case I’d assume it’s probably because you don’t have the right plant yet.

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Thank you so much! The caterpillar is finally eating. Today I went to the mountain where I had found it and brought many leaves from the families you recommended, Rosaceae (Prunus, Rubus, Hesperomeles), Salicaceae (Salix, Xylosma), Oleaceae (Fraxinus) and I couldn’t find an Andean oak (Quercus humboldtii). However, the caterpillar seems to have rejected the leaves of Rubus and Salix, and is almost completely eating those that appear to be from Hesperomeles (it could also be Ilex kunthiana, I cannot distinguish them without the flowers).

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Well done on raising a caterpillar!
It’s very important for people to raise them and post the various stages to iNat, given only the adults are known (visually) in many cases.
Here’s some general information on raising them:
http://lepidoptera.butterflyhouse.com.au/faqs/care.html
Cheers
Brett

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Yah, this is such a cool observation project. I look forward to further developments. Thank you.

Hi everyone, some updates, I think the caterpillar is finally starting to pupate, this morning the caterpillar was very active and has not eaten, Right now it’s on a branch covering itself with leaves and binding those leaves with something like silk threads.
VID_20200725_110050


I will upload as an observation in INat when it has fully pupated

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Bad news, today I decided to shine a flashlight on the cocoon to see what was inside, and I just could see the shape of the caterpillar, nothing had changed, so I decided to cut the leaf cover with scissors, and unfortunately the caterpillar was dead and dry. I’m not sure what happened to it, but I think it was some kind of parasite, because a few days ago I found some things that looked like fly pupae on the floor of the caterpillar’s terrarium (see the observation), but I’m not sure. What do you think.

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Oh no, sorry to hear! Those do look like fly pupae, probably some sort of tachinid.

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Sorry you lost your caterpillar but it was a learning experience for all of us. Thanks for sharing the ride.

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