Santa Clarita and Northern Los Angeles County Area
Butterfly and Moth Site

Piatrix Underwing [Catocala piatrix] Rearing Images

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This C. piatrix female was captured in Bouquet Canyon on 9-2-2006. She was placed in a large plastic container which was lined with crinkled paper grocery bag to simulate the rough texture of tree bark. Two plastic lids were placed at the bottom of the jar; one with a water-soaked napkin, the other with a 10% honey and water solution-soaked napkin. Within a few days, she had laid quite a few eggs. Mostly on the paper. 9-12-2006

Here is an adult piatrix female having lunch. This one is near the end of her lifespan and is somewhat lethargic, so can be handled to some degree without a panic reaction. The 10% honey / 90% filtered water "feed" solution dispenser are shown.

Also pictured are close-up images of her "frenulum" - an appendage on the base of the hind wing which aids in connecting it to the forewing for flight. The male has one thick spine where the female (shown here) has finer, multiple spines. This difference can be used to distinguish gender. 9-25-2006

On 9-26-2006, the piatrix female finally died of "old age", after nearly a month of ovipositing well over 500 eggs. Most of the ova were attached to the paper grocery bag liner inside the large plastic jar in which she was kept. (top 3 images) Less (perhaps 10% or so) were found on the plastic jar surface itself, the paper towel at the bottom, and also crammed into various corners, narrow gaps and seams, in an obvious attempt to hide them from predators and the elements.

The center row shows the female's ovipositor, retracted (left photo) and extended (middle photo), which resembles a stinger. It is long and thin, allowing her to insert the tiny eggs deep into cracks in tree bark and other tight places where they are better protected. The right photo (center row) shows the considerable size difference between piatrix ova (left half) and junctura ova (right half), even though the adults are roughly the same size. 9-27-2006

The bottom row shows high magnification images of the ova, with a scale for reference.

About 2-3 weeks after being oviposited, the eggs were placed into a sealed plastic vial and stored in a small refridgerator at about 48F for the winter. The ova were fairly dry when they went in, and no water was added, nor was the vial opened during the overwintering period.

On April 27, 2007, the refridgerated ova were warmed to room temperature, and began hatch 15 days later. A video of newly hatched Catocala caterpillars can be seen here: Catworms! Note that the video shows C. junctura, not C. piatrix, but they look and act very much the same. By June 6th, they were eating and growing well. They were kept in a small plastic tray with a very fine screened (ladies nylon stocking material) lid to prevent escape. Catocala caterpillars are masters of camouflage and escape. These images show the larvae resting during a food change.

As they grow, their coloration changes from a greenish to a tan or light brownish tint. The length-wise stripes really help them blend into the woody stems they prefer to rest on. 6-16-2007

More images shot 6-17-2007, showing some of the subtle color variation.

6-20-2007 Some individuals had moved to the top of the cage to molt. They seemed to prefer the rough surface of the screen to help them shed their old skins.

6-23-2007 Some of these guys are getting pretty big as they near maturity. Note the interesting spotted pattern on the belly.

6-27-2007 OK this is getting scary. These critters are getting big! Note the color variations.

On 7-2-2007, some started spinning-up. They pulled loose material around them and stitched it together with silk to form a fairly light-weight and loose-fitting cocoon. Some used leaves while others preferred the paper towels at the bottom of the container. It seemed to more of a shelter than a capsule. These images show the final product. Note that the larva can easily be seen through the many holes and gaps in the structure.

Not long after spinning the cocoon, the larva settles down and begins the pupation process. These "pre-pupa" have a grub-like quality, and can no longer grip or crawl. Their movements are already limited to the basic wiggle of a pupa. 7-6-2007

7-7-2007 These images show freshly molted pupae (green/yellow) and others (amber/brown) which are 24-28 hours old. Time Lapse videos of the pupation sequence are coming soon!

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