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So I got some luna moth eggs…

30 Mar

Luna moth eggs at 80x magnification.

My friend Shawn Hanrahan collected some luna moths last Wednesday, and since they dropped hundreds of eggs he offered batches to anyone interested in rearing some lunas.  I am terrible with caterpillars (-no, really.  The only lep I have successfully reared to adulthood was a pierid that fell to the floor of the container and wound up with useless crumpled wings-) but I decided to give it a go.  So with advice from Shawn (check out his extensive body of pictures and pages on Wikipedia) I have set out on the adventure.  If you don’t hear further you can assumed I failed miserably and am sunk in depression.  On the upside, you can see I am still having tons of fun with the iPhone-dissecting scope photography.

Actias luna hatched egg cases.

Hatched luna moth eggs.

So far, I have successfully hatched luna moth eggs.  Pretty sure that required more work on the caterpillar’s part than my own, but still, points.  Fun fact: luna moth caterpillars eat their way out of their eggs.  I pulled out a cluster of eggshells a day or so after the hatching to take some exciting photos of the empty eggs.  And then I wondered what that green blobby thing in the photo above was.  Had one of the caterpillars failed to emerge properly and died trapped in the egg shell?  (I mentioned my track record with caterpillars, right?)  I detached the grisly relic to get a better look.  (And photos!)

Luna moth caterpillar emerging from egg case (Actias luna).

Hatching luna moth caterpillar.

The grisly relic started wriggling around.  I had actually managed to catch a late-emerging caterpillar in the few minutes of it’s emergence while under a scope with camera iPhone at the ready.


Hatching luna moth neonate and egg pile (Actias luna).

Hatching luna moth with eggs.

Obviously I took lots of pictures, and even managed to snag a bit of video.  Moving target don’t make great subjects for scope photography (especially with an iPhone that has to be held at *just* the right distance and angle to pick up the image through the scope) but I got a number I quite like.

Baby luna moth neonate emerging from egg shell (Actias luna).

Hatchling luna moth emerging from egg.

The spiky little caterpillar wriggle and flopped pretty energetically, apparently attempting to drag itself free of the shell, and it was only a matter of minutes before it finished the process and begin busily creeping around the dish.  After a short period of observation I transferred it back to the container to enjoy a leafy banquet with its siblings.

Neonate luna moth caterpillar and egg case (Actias luna).

Newly hatched luna moth and egg shell.

I realize at this point I failed to provide any kind of reference for how exceedlingly tiny these little guys are*, so next is a photo with an insect pin for size reference.  As an aside, I had no idea my insect pins were so glitzy.

(*and yet baby lunas are still bigger than most first instar caterpillars, which in our lab we sometimes call eyelash caterpillars.)

Neonate first instar baby luna moth with egg and pin for size comparison.

Newly hatched luna moth caterpillar with pin head for scale.

Finally, in the spirit of Adrian’s absolutely adorable pictures of “pinned” baby earwigs over at Splendor Awaits, a pinned baby luna moth:

Neonate hatchling luna moth caterpillar on insect pin head.

How many luna moths can dance on the head of a pin?

Next week: baby pictures! Or something.

>>The Luna Moth Saga