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Even good moths can make bad choices
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rjlittlefield
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Joined: 01 Aug 2006
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Location: Richland, Washington State, USA

PostPosted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 1:04 pm    Post subject: Even good moths can make bad choices Reply with quote

Normally moths are pretty good about laying their eggs in appropriate places. After all, the survival of the clutch depends on it.

But once in a while, there's an exception...







That's right -- mommy moth laid her clutch in the middle of a plain white wall, fully 20 feet from the nearest vegetation of any kind. This is certainly among the strangest situations I've ever seen.

I have no idea what these things eat. They're doomed. Sad

--Rik

Technical: Canon 300D camera with 80 mm f/4 Olympus bellows lens at f/8, slightly over 2:1 onto the sensor, detached flash with paper towel diffuser. First two images are the same frame, second one cropped tighter. Last image is from Canon A710 IS, two shots layered.
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Hairyduck



Joined: 07 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 1:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

let's hope they don't eat wall coverings Laughing
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lauriek
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 1:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Might they eat each other 'till there's just one big one? Or could there be some plant fibre or other organic material they could eat in your wallpaper?
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rjlittlefield
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 2:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, it's not wallpaper --- it's white latex paint over texture consisting of sprayed clay. I've never heard of any caterpillar eating that, and as much of that wall material as there is in this community, such a critter would be big bad news.

Alas, eating each other 'til there's just one big one doesn't work either, at least as an exclusive strategy. The remaining big one would still be smaller than mommy, unless there's some other food somewhere along the way.

I'm still betting on a simple mistake.

--Rik
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Cyclops



Joined: 05 Aug 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 3:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You gonna move em into the garden Rik or do you have a nice big houseplant around?
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rjlittlefield
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 4:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No houseplants near these caterpillars. I was serious about that "20 feet" estimate.

I'd like to leave them alone and see what they do. Disperse, move around as a group, stay in one place, eat the paint??

But I'm not sure how this is going to work out. I'm not the only person who lives here, and there's a bit of debate going on. Laughing

--Rik
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Cyclops



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PostPosted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 4:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well I'm guessing there'll be a heap of dead caterpillars in the house soon
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rjlittlefield
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 5:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cyclops wrote:
Well I'm guessing there'll be a heap of dead caterpillars in the house soon

Could be, but there are other possibilities.

Perhaps the most interesting one is that these caterpillars use the strategy of "hatch and hibernate". In other words, they may not need anything to eat until spring. If that's the case, then they'll just hang around on my wall, not doing much of anything, until I get tired of looking at them and move them outside.

I don't know when these critters hatched. I remember noticing a dark spot a few days ago, but I did not investigate until today. Of course the dark spot that I noticed earlier might have been just eggs getting close to hatching.

--Rik
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P_T



Joined: 19 Jul 2008
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Location: Sydney, Australia

PostPosted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 5:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Where's the mommy anyway? Maybe the moth just couldn't hold it in anymore. Very Happy
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rjlittlefield
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 6:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

P_T wrote:
Where's the mommy anyway?

Not a clue. Don't even know what she looks like.

The caterpillars have an "inchworm" style of leg pattern, but I haven't tried running these critters through the rest of the keys to see what else they might be. Probably won't, either, unless I get a lot more curious than I am right now. Trying to key out caterpillars this small is tedious at best.

--Rik
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P_T



Joined: 19 Jul 2008
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 7:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

rjlittlefield wrote:
Not a clue. Don't even know what she looks like.

Well Rik, they're your responsibility now. It's like finding a litter of kittens on the side of the road only they're much smaller with more legs an arguably not as cute. Very Happy
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Harold Gough



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PostPosted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 10:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Captive moths will often lay their eggs on the mesh (mosquito netting etc.) of the cage.

Harold
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Ken Ramos



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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 3:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well if there is no cellulose in the wall material that rules out a meal, I would think but then I again I don't know about moth caterpillars or caterpillars in general either. Laughing We have an ant/termite here that is capable of eating "dry wall," "sheet-rock" and some other building materials. Nasty little buggers that can really wreck a home. Sure is an unusual place for a moth to lay eggs though. Then again if the moth was trapped inside your home, well any port in a storm as they say, when you gotta' go, you gotta' go. Laughing Really like that "wall hanging" inset. Wink
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Cyclops



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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 7:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ken Ramos wrote:
Really like that "wall hanging" inset. Wink

Yea i like that too!
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rjlittlefield
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 21, 2008 1:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, here we are 5 days later, and I still have some caterpillars on my wall. Most of the original bunch were still there last night, but this morning there's only a few left. I notice a few new small spiders on that wall too, looking maybe just a bit smug. I don't know whether all this is related. Anyway, the few caterpillars that are left seem to be just fine, despite 5 days with nothing to eat. Hatch-and-hibernate is still looking like a good bet.

Thanks for the comments about the "wall hanging". I didn't really intend it to look quite like that, but when I was done clicking the mouse, it struck me exactly the same way. I kinda' liked it, so I just left it that way instead of trying to rework it.

--Rik
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