Santa Clarita and Northern Los Angeles County Area
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Mendocino Silk Moth [Saturnia mendocino] Rearing Images

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Cocoon images

Pupae images. The third picture shows a female and the fourth one, a male.

This image shows two females side by side. The one on the right is still diapaused with no obvious signs of development. The one on the left is
darker, softer, and shows a distended abdomen (compared to the one on the right), indicating full development, and is about ready to emerge.
Faint color and pattern of the adult moth inside shows through the semi-transparent pupal case if viewed with a bright light.

Getting this species to mate in a small cage turned out to be more difficult than I expected. It seems the males are more interested to light sources than the scenting female. An old male was placed in the cage with a fresh scenting female, but he just flew around the cage for 5 days, beating himself up. A fresh male did the same thing and it looked hopeless. I also noticed that when he would randomly get close to her, his activity would surprise her and she would stop scenting. I had to solve both of these issues...

I placed my desk light (25w compact fluorescent) right on her (about 6" away). She was right in the middle of one side of the cage. I started lightly tapping on the cage screen so she'd get used to movement and continue scenting. Once she got to scenting with the movement, the male came to life, flew right towards the light and smacked right into her. She was used to the movement and didn't stop scenting. The male hooked-up with her within 30 seconds. Total time from setup to mating, about 10 minutes.

In 2006, I used the light technique again with great success. This time in a much smaller cage, but still using the desk light and slightly bumping the cage regularly (every 1-2 seconds) to get the moths used to the movement. Once again, the male went right for the light, bumped into the female and within a minute was clamped-on. 3-31-2006

Meanwhile back in 2005...The pair was together only about 2 minutes, and within 2 hours she to begin laying eggs. Below are some nice images of the freshly mated female ovipositing. Note the variety of surfaces she used; a finger, a "bouquet" of Q-tips, and the upper corner of a flight cage were all acceptable locations. There was no Manzanita host plant within 5 miles!

Note that her wings were "clipped" over her back with a small bent wire and wax-paper, so that she would not beat herself up. It didn't seem to bother her, and when she was done ovipositing and died, she was still in decent enough condition to add to the collection, with only a few small tears.

The female laid 112 eggs the same day she mated. She laid only 5 more in the 3 days that followed, and then promptly died of "old age". 80 of the eggs were placed in the refrigerator at 40F for 2 weeks to delay hatching. In the wild, temperatures routinely drop into the 30's and 40's at night, so this technique doesn't noticeably reduce the number of eggs that hatch. The remaining eggs were left at room temperature. The purpose of separating the eggs into two groups and delaying one of them was so that I would have a second chance to try different hosts/setups if things didn't go well for the first group.

In 22-23 days after being oviposited, the eggs began to hatch. Below are highly magnified images of the freshly-hatched larvae. 3-3-2005

After drying out for a while, the 1st instar larvae take-on a colorful black and red pattern...

Around 3-14-2005 many of the larvae began molting into 2nd instar. Images below show freshly-molted larvae. The rearing container is also shown. It's made from a large plastic jar with most of the lid cut out, and a nylon stocking stretched and glued/rubber-banded in place to provide ventilation. The host plant (Manzanita) is placed in a water-filled smaller plastic prescription bottle with holes drilled into the lid. The holes are just large enough to allow the plant stems to poke through while preventing the larvae from crawling down into the water.

The pictures below show the few 1st instars left along with 2nd instars. They were removed from their rearing container and placed in a temporary cup while the host plant was replaced with fresh. 3-16-2005

Some images of nearly mature 2nd instar larvae... 3-24-2005

Here are some nice shots of 3rd instar larvae - getting more colorful and hairy as they mature. Now pushing 3/4" in length on 3-30-2005.

4-9-2005 Some nice shots of mature 3rd and early 4th instar larvae...

Two shots of 3rd instar larvae taken on 3-29-2005 and 4-4-2005.

These 4th instars were photographed 4-17-2005.

More images of 4th instar larvae images shot on 4-20-2005. Note the color variation. Pink, green, and yellow have been noted so far.

These 4th instar larvae were sleeved on a live Manzanita. The images were shot on 4-22-2005.

Additional images shot in the lab on 4-22-2005.

The first two shots are of a larva which is probably diseased and showing discolored blotches. It died some time later. The next two show mature healthy larvae. Note the color variation, which ranges from lime green to creamy tan to peach-orange. When ready to spin a cocoon and pupate, the larvae (no matter which color) change to a dark reddish hue which matches the branch color of the Manzanita bush (last two images). 5-2-2005

This hi-res image shows a mature cream-colored larva. Note the nearly black underbelly. 5-9-2005

These images are of a pre-pupa, removed from a partially-spun cocoon. The dark red color helps the larvae blend in while cocoon-building and pupation takes place. 5-23-2005

Below are images of cocoons and the pre-pupae inside. 5-11-2005

At this point the project has come full circle, from cocoon to cocoon and is now complete. :-)

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