Ruud Kleinpaste: Gum Emperor caterpillars

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Sat, 8 Feb 2020, 10:18AM

Ruud Kleinpaste: Gum Emperor caterpillars

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Sat, 8 Feb 2020, 10:18AM

Gum Emperor caterpillars

I’m growing Gum emperor moth caterpillars. They live and feed on gum trees, but also on liquid amber.  Now’s the time to look for them in the “wild”. In a few weeks they’ll grow bigger and bigger, until they end up being 12 centimeters long and absolutely gorgeous. If you think that daddy longlegs are fascinating, show the kids these caterpillars. 

About 6 weeks from now they’ll spin a cocoon, brown and rather hard. Ironically this moth belongs to the silk moth family, but this Aussie silk is of rather inferior quality, not soft enough to make clothes from. 

These moths will spend most of their time in chrysalis/pupa/cocoon – it is the perfect stage to overwinter. What happens inside the cocoon is that remarkable phenomenon of “metamorphosis”. Think of it as totally re-arranging the molecules (which made a caterpillar) and form those into the shape of a moth. Make a caterpillar from lego blocks, then take it all apart and create from the same blocks a moth or butterfly. That is in chemical analogy what happens inside a chrysalis.

In November/December/January, the chrysalis splits and out comes this amazing brown and pink moth with eye spots; big moth! 15 cm wingspan. These moths mate and the females lay whole strings of relatively large, creamy-white eggs on gum leaves. The eggs hatch in summer and that’s where we are now!

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