Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Possible problems

I had two more females emerge last night. I got a video of one as it was emerging.



Commentary provided by my four year old daughter, Lily. In case you can't understand her, she said "Lady, don't step in the poop!"

My first female ended up laying about 70 eggs, then decided to recouple with the male. I put her in a bag this morning to lay some eggs, and she was dead this afternoon. I'm sad about that.

One of the other two females was coupled this morning, but was separated this afternoon. I put her in a container and not a bag, and she has laid one egg. I hope she lays some more.

The last female has yet to couple. None of the males seem interested in her, so I put the first male (the one with the crumpled wing who has already mated with the now deceased female) in with her and he's the only male who is all over her.

This project might not be as successful as I once thought.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

At last

I had a female emerge late last night. This morning, her wings were fully expanded, and she was beautiful.

She didn't waste any time finding a suitor. It's the first male with the crumpled wing.

**WARNING!** Graphic bug sex images ahead.

This is a shot of her after I moved them to another container. The male pretty much just fell off. I don't think he'll last long. However, she looks very good. I'm excited!


Sunday, April 27, 2008

A decision made

I just helped a male moth out of his cocoon.

The picture shows how droopy and soft the wings are upon emergence.

I decided to cut the remaining five pupae out of their cocoons. I hadn't wanted to do it, but since it's so important that I get a breeding pair I didn't want any of the possible females to die trying to get out of the cocoon. It's not likely to happen, but it's a possibility and I need to increase my odds if success.

It looks like three females and two males. I just have to wait a little longer for them to cook and then I should be in business.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Unfortunate demise

I found that the female moth had died this morning when I checked my bugs. None of the male moths were around her, and I could tell from where she was laying that she still hadn't ejected her mecomium or scented at all. This makes me think that she couldn't have been able to breed either. It makes me a little sad.

I had no other moths emerge today, so there are still six possible dates for my three bachelor moths.


Friday, April 25, 2008

Late update

I have another male moth. I actually watched him emerge from the cocoon. I wish I had the camera so I could have taken a short movie clip, but I didn't bring it down with me. It was really cool. He's completely normal and I put him in the breeding chamber with the other two males and the female. One of the males keeps trying to breed her, but I don't think its going to work. She seems too compromised. So sad.

The soggy moth (#2) ended up being totally normal. Here are some pics of him.

Six cocoons left. Six more chances for a breeding pair. Just one is all I need, but two would be great.


Two new moths

Today I had two new moths emerge. One is another male and was completely soaked in his meconium. He was laying in a puddle when I found him so I got him up and in the breeding chamber. He seems okay but his abdomen is droopy and squishy. I hope nothing is wrong with him.

However, I know something is wrong with moth #3. It's s female, but I think she had an incomplete pupal case because it looks like her back stuck to the inside of the cocoon. Also her wings are very tiny. I put her in the breeding chamber but I don't know if she'll breed or lay eggs. She seems very out of balance with the small wings and huge distended abdomen.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Early arrival!

I checked my cocoons and found that I had a moth emerge. It's days before I thought it would happen, and I think it's a male. He didn't have anything to crawl up on, so he was laying on his side which made one of his wings crumpled. I moved him to the breeding chamber and I'm hoping that since he's now hanging on a piece of fabric that his wing will expand. Since I don't know how long he'd been lying there his wing might not ever fully expand.

He's heavier than I remember the moths being from last time. But he's beautiful!

Also here's a shot of some of the meconium that he ejected after emerging. There was a lot more of it but I cleaned it up before I thought to take a shot of it.


Starting the A. pernyi cocoons

My Chinese Emperor Oak tree has decent sized buds on it, so I took the A. pernyi cocoons out of the fridge last night and put them in my bug room. They are in the emergence chamber, ready to go.

I'm going to keep the room at around 78 degrees, and I got the idea from wild silkmoth guru Bill Oehlke's site to give them 16 hours of daylight. He states that a similar moth, A. polyphemus, will not go into diapause (winter hibernation) in the cocoon state if fourth instar caterpillars (the stage before spinning the cocoon) are exposed to 16 hours of light, but will go into diapause if they are exposed to 12 hours of light. This makes perfect sense, because the shortening days of fall would tell the larva that winter is coming so it would be a good time to shut down for the winter. However, if there's enough light the larva will be able to emerge without a cold snap and will be able to have more than one brood in the summer season. I'm hoping for at least two broods, but I'm getting such a late start because of the weather here in Ohio that I might not be able to squeeze in three.

I'll be checking the cocoons daily (probably more than once a day) for any activity. I'll need to get them out of the emergence chamber and into the breeding chamber as soon as they emerge so I can check for parasitoid wasps. My great emergence chamber should make this easy!

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Weeping Mulberry problems

Last year my mulberry sapling didn't get any leaves, so we dug it out of the ground and bought a more mature weeping mulberry. Since we saved the stump of the sapling in the container that the weeping mulberry came in, I was able to inspect the remains of the sapling. The whole top looked dead, so I snapped the top off, and here is what the trunk looked like on the inside -

Certainly I had insect damage. I broke off a small piece and took it to the tree farm that I bought the sapling from. The man there confirmed that it was wood borer damage, but which kind of beetle he couldn't say. He said it looked like the tree died first and then the beetle ate the wood, and not the other way around. He said I could treat the weeping mulberry tree if I was worried that it might get infested too, and suggested an insecticide that was systemic and would get absorbed into the whole tree. I was all set to buy it when I suddenly remembered what I had the tree for - to FEED BUGS. Luckily I didn't buy anything or treat the tree at all, and I seem to have buds on it.

Unfortunately, the squirrels find these buds delicious! The little buggers have been up in the tree munching on the buds. I chased them out of the tree numerous times just by yelling out the back door, but when that stopped working I had to actually go out to the tree and holler at them. One time the squirrel jumped over to the next tree, and, hanging about three feet away from me at eye level, had the gall to chatter angrily at me!

I asked for helpful suggestions about keeping the squirrels out of my tree on the silkworm rearing Yahoo group that I belong to (Catherders) and some smart soul told me that I could put bird netting on the tree. I netted up the tree and I haven't seen a squirrel in the tree since, but they could just be getting up there when I'm not looking. However, it looks like the buds are getting bigger and not getting eaten, so I'll order some Bombyx mori eggs soon!

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Finally an update

With some help from my hubby, the bug room is almost finished. We painted everything and put the floor in. Now all we need to do is seal up the edges, mop the floor, and move bugs in.

Here are some pics of the room. It's small so I can't take photos inside the room, and if I stand outside you don't get to see much. But you can get the idea. I'm going to set up a table or two for right now, but eventually the plan is to install a counter top for work space and some shelving. I'll get the light on a timer, set up a small oil filled heater, and I'll be in business!

Also, here is the emergence chamber that our buddy Farthegn built for me. It's white on the inside and clear on the top so that I can easily spot and kill any parasitoid wasps that happen to be hitching a ride inside my cocoons. The front has a round opening that I'll put a double tube of panty hose over, which will give me a sleeve to allow me access to the inside of the chamber without opening a large hole through which the wasps or moths can escape. This is something that was a requirement for getting my USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) permit for having wild silkmoths and worms that are not native to the USA.

And, today those wild silkmoth cocoons arrived!

Those are 10 cocoons of Antheraea pernyi, the Chinese Oak Silkmoth. Right now we don't have leaves on the trees and it certainly doesn't look like spring yet around here, so I put the cocoons in the fridge. I'm nervous because I don't know how they were treated before they got here, and I'm hoping that they didn't get too warm and start developing. I really don't need them emerging in their box while they are still in my fridge. Or dying.

I'm going to wait until my oak tree gets some nicely developing buds before I take them out to develop. I hope I get the timing right or I might mess this up. I also hope I can get a breeding pair this time around. I only see one really big one, so I'm hoping I don't get one female and nine males. That would not work well. I'll update again as things progress!

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