Easter Emperors

Despite the lock-down I got a bit of a treat over the Easter weekend. If you’ve got a very good memory you might remember that two years ago the excellent Martin of Martin’s moths gave me 5 emperor caterpillars. These had hatched from eggs laid in his moth trap. Martin did a very good job and ended up with lots of caterpillars, so he very kindly gave me some:

The caterpillars in their tub two years ago. I fed them on hawthorn from a bush down the road, they grew fast and eventually pupated.

Despite the fact I didn’t have to feed them anymore the pupae still needed looking after. It was my job to try and mimic the conditions outside (to avoid predators I put the tank in the shed). That meant keeping the temperature similar and ensuring that the pupae didn’t dry out by spraying them with water,

Unlike most species that only stay as pupae for a year emperors can take up to 4 years to emerge! Its also really important that the caterpillars eat as much as possible before they pupate as the adults don’t have any mouth parts so have to use the stored energy they have from being a caterpillar.

In 2019 the first of my emperors emerged and I was lucky enough to get both a male and female

Orange and brown male grey female

I think they had already mated and the male didn’t stick about but the female was very calm so I put her on a safe spot in the trellis to see if the male would come back or if she could attract another mate (Emperors don’t usually come to light traps, so if you want to record them you use a pheromone lure which mimics a female).

Female 2019

I had three pupae left in the tank, but I wasn’t sure if any were still alive however this year at Easter another female hatched.

Female 2020

I left the female in the tank until the evening started to draw in in case her pheramones encouraged one of the other pupae (a male) to emerge. She didn’t gain a mate so again I put her on the trelis at the bottom of the garden.

The next morning at 6am when emptying my weekly moth trap (its a light trap, the moths aren’t harmed they sleep in the bottom of the trap and then I empty, identify, release and finally record what came to the light).

Sat where I had left the female the previous evening…. Gentleman caller!

A very happy Easter indeed 🙂

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