Mating Promethea Moths and resulting Caterpillars

Promethea ranching
Location: South Illinois
May 16, 2012 9:02 pm
Sent you a picture of a female promethea earlier this spring. She found a date, and now I’ve got about 40 caterpillars. Here is a picture of date night, and 3 instars of promethea caterpillar and one aphid.
Signature: -Bert

Mating Promethea Moths

Hi again Bert,
We had your photo of this Promethea Moth and a Cecropia Moth together on the screen featured on our homepage for several weeks.  We are going to feature this submission as well in anticipation of drumming up interest in National Moth Week events from around the country.  You didn’t provide us with much additional information.  Your subject line indicates that you are raising the caterpillars.  Do you have them in a habitat?  Are they feeding directly from trees in your yard?  What trees are they feeding upon?  Young caterpillars feed in groups.  It is interesting that your photo shows three different caterpillar instars.  Are they from different parents?  We would expect that all eggs from one mating would develop at the same time.  Here is a photo from BugGuide that shows the socially feeding caterpillars.  Please provide additional information.

Promethea Moth Caterpillars

May 17, 2012
All these caterpillars are from the same pairing. Don’t know if the slower-growing ones are sickly, or if this is a survival strategy, or if it is a result of how they are being fed. I keep them indoors in a terrarium with three baby-bottles full of tulip tree twigs harvested from around the neighborhood so I don’t make too big a hole in any one tree. One lesson learned so far is that the very young caterpillars like to go walkabout and if there is too much room in the tank and they will find a way to drown in all but the best-sealed water bottles, or get too far from a leaf and starve/dehydrate before they get back. Which is why I have about 40, instead of about 80. Attached are a few more bug pictures: group feeding, the cecropia from last month, and a small one for scale.

Promethea Caterpillars:  Social Feeding

Thanks for the update Bert.

First Instar Promethea Caterpillar


2 thoughts on “Mating Promethea Moths and resulting Caterpillars”

  1. The current copy of Natural History (June, 2016) has a long and incredibly interesting article about these moths by Berndt Heinrich. I strongly suggest that you find a copy if at all possible and read the article – I think you’ll be amazed as well as fascinated.

    • PS – The article is actually about metamorphosis – the particular moth in question is discussed toward the end.


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