Friday, May 23, 2008

Diminishing returns

Although I started out with ten little worms, I'm now down to four. The ones who have died all seemed to slow in growth, then just die. Thankfully none of them had nasty symptoms of a disease, they just seemed to peeter out and fall over dead. This is possibly the result of them being inbred, which I highly suspect.

The four that I have look good right now, so if I'm lucky I'll have adults. I doubt they'll breed since they are from the same female, and I'm not certain I'd want them to breed anyway. Further inbreeding is not what I need!

I'm thinking about contacting the plant pest supervisor from USDA and asking for advice on how to get this project off the ground. Two years into my three year permit and I'm stalled out.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Poor results

So far I've only had 10 eggs out of 80 that the beautiful female had laid. Two of those worms died, but the rest seem to be doing okay.

None of the eggs from the needy female have hatched. I'm still waiting as it hasn't been two weeks, but I'm not optimistic.

I really think I need to find a new supplier. These were really substandard animals and it's a lot of work for so little return.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

First batch of worms

I only have a few minutes to update, but I got my first batch of worms hatch out yesterday.

This is a picture of five of them, and they were just hatching at dawn. Eventually ten hatched in all. Today there are still ten so I'm wondering if the others will hatch. These are all from the batch of eggs laid by the beautiful moth on 4/28 who died suddenly. That makes eleven days of incubation.

The needy female Laid her first batch of eggs on 4/30, so I'm guessing those will begin to hatch tomorrow. That female finally expired yesterday.

I ended up bleaching everything for fear of viruses since two of my females died suddenly and looked strange. I'll post the protocol I used here when I get time to type it out. Again I got the info from my silkworm yahoo group.


Monday, May 5, 2008

The end of the eggs

Last night I held the Needy female and she laid 45 more eggs, bringing her total up to 200. She was starting to look tired when I stopped, and I think she's just about done. The two males have expired, so when she goes I'll be moth free.

I'll miss them, but I'm ready for little black worms to hatch out of my eggs. With any luck I'll have a decent hatch rate.


Saturday, May 3, 2008


Last night I stayed up very late and held the last female while she laid eggs. I got 67 more eggs from her and then stopped when things slowed down. At that point she'd been laying over a span of 4 days which I don't think is normal. Not to mention the fact that she's not really acting normal either, and I'm not totally sure that she mated at all. All those eggs might be infertile.

She's still alive right now, but I'm just going to leave her alone. I left a branch in her container and she seems very content to just hang on it and do nothing. I also have two males still alive, but they look pretty pathetic. It makes me sad to see them die but there's nothing I can do about that.

Now I'll just wait for the eggs to hatch. It will probably be at least a week before I see the first little black caterpillars.


Friday, May 2, 2008

Maybe I should have pulled an all-nighter...

After I put the female moth back in the bag I went to my yahoo group for help. Nathan again gave some excellent information. He said that he's had females that need to be active to lay eggs. He's had to hold them by one wing to get them fluttering and laying. That's why picking her up and putting her with the males worked - it got her moving. He also suggested putting some leaves of her host plant in with her because that might stimulate her some.

When I checked this morning, little Miss Hold-me-while-I-lay-eggs decided to lay ten more eggs overnight, and then she stopped. I decided I needed to take action. I put the two remaining males (one of them is the first one with the crumpled wing who was keen on mating everyone) in the bag with her, along with a small branch of oak leaves.

I'm hoping those males chase her around all day and get any last eggs they can out of her. She's been laying little batches now for three days and I'm afraid she doesn't have much time left. As it is I'm going to have the eggs hatching over a span of days instead of all at once, which will make it a bit of a pain to care for them.

I realized that I never updated on one of the females. She bred, laid one egg, and then died shortly thereafter. Her abdomen was bloated and she didn't look well, so it wasn't really a surprise.

So far the egg count from my four females is -

First female with pupal case abnormality - 0
Beautiful female - 80
Bloated, sick female - 1
Needy female - 65

Hopefully there will be more eggs waiting for me this afternoon, because I'm fresh out of females!


Thursday, May 1, 2008

Strange behavior

I asked for advice on my moth breeding on the silkworm rearing yahoo group that I subscribe to. Nathan said that it sounded like my moths may be inbred. He said that sibling moths won't breed each other, so that might explain why only one moth seemed interested in breeding. He also said that inbreeding can cause unexpected death of moths or worms. I'm wondering if inbreeding can also cause the wing deformities that I've seen. It's disappointing.

Since I'd really like second generation of these guys I'm going to keep the eggs from each female separate, then try and choose all males from one and all females form the other. Both my females who laid any eggs (more on that in a minute) might be sisters but at least I can keep full sibling from mating. Or I can try at least.

On eggs news...very late last night I checked the last two females. One had started laying eggs in the paper bag that I put her into. I did a quick count and it was about 15. I thought she was probably on her way so I left her alone. There were still no more eggs this evening, so I thought that I might have gotten my females confused and maybe this lady hadn't actually paired up. I put her back in with the males and she immediately laid two eggs. So I put her back in the paper bag and she stopped laying. I waited a bit and then picked her up. Then she laid two eggs on me in rapid succession.

I quickly put her back in the bag, but she stopped laying. Every time I picked her up she would deposit eggs on me. I don't know what's going on with her. Maybe it's her inbreeding, the warmth of my hand, her body position, or just coincidence. But when she seemed to be on a roll I put her back in the bag, which is where she is now.

I hope she's laying eggs in that bag right now, because I'm not holding her all night so she can lay eggs on me. I'm dedicated to this project, but that sounds a little crazy, even to me.