I wrote about gathering 15 eggs on Monday. I ended up putting them in 4 ziplock bags with moist paper towels. One egg was dark, so I kept him alone in case he was either sick or ready to hatch The other 14 I spread between 3 bags. I had cut up the leaves in two of the bags and left them intact in the others. This was because of space limitations. If I had more room, I would have given them all their own bag. On Wednesday, with eggs hatching, I realized that the ones on tiny leaves would need more room so I went out to get more leaves. I ended up finding four more baby caterpillars. Most looked under a day old, one looked about a day or two old. I took them back to the house as there were many predators in the patch of milkweed. This is the patch where I have found all my caterpillars. It was hard finding nice leaves though.
I ended up changing most of the bags, even though I didnt want to disturb the caterpillars. I put a whole leaf in the bags and put 3 or 4 caterpillars on their little pieces of leaves on top of the leaf. I think I kept the eggs separate. With the addition of the new caterpillars, I must have had somewhere between 11 and 13 caterpillars. Every day when I would check on them, there would be less and less caterpillars! I dont think they ate each other. I think what happened was that they would crawl off the leaf into the damp paper towels and become stuck there. That is what looks like happened when I took the paper towels out. It looked more like dead caterpillars than excrement on the papertowels, though I could be mistaken. I dont know if this happened because I disturbed them checking on them or the paper towels were too moist or if not all survive even in the best of condistion, which I certainly dont have the knowledge to provide!
I took the six survivers today and lined a clear dollar store box with moist paper towels and put them on five leaves. I didnt want to touch the caterpillars so I ended up cutting out the pieces of leaves they were on and putting them upside down on top of the leaves. I put them upside down because I noticed they like to be out of sight. Interestingly enough, four of the survivors are the four I found outside, already hatched. One of the six caterpillars is darker than all the others. A mutant perhaps? Since I didnt notice that till I had them all arranged, I dont know if he was one that I found outside.
I have no lid on the box because my friend cant find his drill. I assume that is how to get holes in the lid? If there is another way, I would love to know. I also bought small containers at the dollar store, but couldnt punch holes in the lid with a fork. I dont want huge holes either.
Sorry this is so long, but I am trying to describe accurately the conditions in case any one has imput to offer. Their chancs might be better in the wild!
For people who keep them in ziplock bags, how big do they have to be before they can be moved? There was a lot of excrement all over the paper towels. When I had the bigger caterpillars, I cleaned the cages twice a day. With the babies, I really didnt clean them other than when I got the fresh leaves after two days. That was because I didnt know if they were too little to transfer to fresh leaves. The excrement probably didnt help matters either.
So if anyone can tell me how often to change the paper towels and ziplock bags, that would be helpful. Or do I just leave them there and not touch them for several days?
On a happier note, caterpillar number five emerged yesterday while I was at work. It was a beautiful boy. It was obvious he wanted to be on his way so I released him last night.