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Name: Sarah
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Question:
Today I noticed that there was a web in a nearby tree and looked closely and there was caterpillars in it! I broke the tree limb where it was and put them in a empty aquarium. I also got a bunch of the leaves from the tree that they we in. I spiked some water on the leaves and scattered them in the aquarium I put that caterpillars in along with some other types of leaves. Is that okay? How long will it take them to turn into butterflies? If they do turn into butterflies and do not die, what would I feed them until their wings are strong enough for them to fly?


Replies:
Ah, yes, I raised tent caterpillars several times when I was a boy. Before you go any further, I should warn you that those pretty caterpillars do not turn into pretty butterflies; they turn into drab gray moths. They are also pests, munching on leaves of fruit trees. So if you raise some of these to adulthood, don't bother to release them.

That said, the caterpillars are fun and easy to care for. All they need to eat are the leaves of the tree you got them from. When they're ready to pupate, they'll spin a cocoon, and a short time (a few weeks, I think) after that, they'll eat their way out as drab little moths.

Richard Barrans
Department of Physics and Astronomy
University of Wyoming


Tent caterpillars that live in webs are moth larvae, not butterflies. It takes a few weeks for them to mature as larvae, and then they pupate - go into a "cocoon" stage for some time, how long they are in the cocoon before becoming adults may depend on the species.

J. Elliott


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