This spring I captured an American Angle Shades (Euplexia benesimilis) and kept it in a container for a day or two. During that time it laid quite a few eggs. After reading up on what the caterpillars eat, I learned they are fairly generalist in their diet. Rowan said she wanted to take care of them for a while rather than release them, so she kept track for the week or so until they started hatching and then provided them with some leaves from a blueberry plant. I thought they might just eat the whole leaf, but instead they filled it full of holes, leaving just a frame work of veins. I suspect when they are larger, they will not leave so much. I also suspect that if there had not been so many of them in an enclosed environment with limited resources, they would not have eaten so much of the leaves before moving on.
Some moths (and insects more generally, I guess) seem to lay a bunch of eggs all together, and the larvae then will hang together as well (at least sometimes). In this case, the pattern of eggs suggested the female deposited them mostly separately, and I suspect the caterpillars are more geared toward solitary work and not making themselves an obvious meal for birds.
I’m planning to hold on to these for at least a while longer, but will release them if/when it seems like I’m not keeping up with their care.
- What is the feeding strategy of these caterpillars in a more natural setting?
- To what extent is it possible to identify a caterpillar species by its feeding sign? (I imagine it really depends on the species.)
- What is the survival rate, and what is the most common cause of mortality for these caterpillars (in a more natural setting)?