Saturday, July 02, 2016

Hans Christian Andersen comes to mind...

Since my last update (yes I know it was ages ago now) I have been lucky enough to have a number of Emperor moth caterpillars (Saturnia pavonia) to look after and observe. This spectacular moth is fairly common over much of Britain. I had a few of these once before, but managed to allow them to escape at pupation time. They wandered off into the garden somewhere, never to be seen again. 

This time around I ensured they were secure and got them through to pupation in quite large numbers. The emperor caterpillar overwinters as a pupa and should emerge in April or May the following year, although I have read they can sometimes take 2 years. I am hoping for a mixture of male and female as they are both impressive looking moths.

Not much to add and so I will just let the pictures do the talking. You will see just how much they change as they continue to moult, and how varied they can be. It is in fact the very reason caterpillars can be tricky to identify, changing with each moult as they do.

May 14th

I was convinced this one was drinking the water...

May 20th

Freshly moulted for the first time...

May 21st

Part moulted...

May 23rd 

May 25th

May 28th

May 29th

May 31st

June 5th

June 6th

June 8th

June 9th

June 10th

June 14th

Final instar and moult...

June 16th

June 18th

June 25th




Early stage cocoon.

A completed cocoon.


  1. Replies
    1. Many thanks for your comment as always...

  2. Stunning a joy to look through...
    Amanda xx

    1. Thanks Amanda. Apologies for delay in replying here but had a few health issues...

  3. Fabulous series of shots! They change so much don't they? I found the early instars once (all black) and had no idea what they were at the time as had only seen images of the older instars previously.
    The footage in fascinating too! The feeding looks as though it's been speeded up (no wonder some species are regarded as pests!!), yet the cocoon building one speeded up 4 times looks quite slow, until you see the unspeeded version and you realise how slow they actually are. But then it is a rather intricate structure!
    Already looking forward to their emergence, hopefully next spring! :-)
    PS especially love the pics with droplets! Lush!!

  4. Yes Maria, I thought exactly the same thing about the various speeds. It amazes me how they produce such a structure and just how hard it becomes when complete and dry. Hopefully there will be more to share come spring of 2017. Thanks as always for your lovely commenting.

  5. Excellent documentation and photographs. Each instar is really attractive! But then it jolly should be for this stunning moth. It's a real coincidence because I've just posted my moths from May (in the trap) - yes I know I am behind somewhat) and the star of the moth is the Emperor which I was lucky enough to catch! I knew there was one of your posts I hadn't read so I looked in and guess what you'd posted..... :-)

    1. Thanks Mandy. Yes, I have JUST got notification of your blog and so will take a look, probably tomorrow. The adults are stunning eh. I have been running my trap on the few good nights we have had but until the last catch which was good, nothing much to report.

      Apologies for lack of activity here and elsewhere but I have been having some health issues and YOU know what that's like...;-)


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