Monday, August 4, 2008

The Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar

O LORD, how manifold are thy works!
in wisdom hast thou made them all:
the earth is full of thy riches.
Psalm 104:24

Among the trailing vines that wrapped themselves around and around the old rusted fence, moved a small creature. It’s eighteen feet moving forward inch by inch. Stiff black bristles shone in the sunlight that beamed from a cloudless sky. It had bright red markings on it’s back that showed when ever it moved across the leaves, or curled into a defensive position. The creature was a Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar.


The Giant Leopard Moth Larva after we found it. :)

My sister found the Giant Leopard Moth caterpillar while gathering vines to use in making a basket. She showed it to me, and I was quite excited to see it. Several years ago we had found an identical looking caterpillar happily munching on our cabbage plants in the garden. While not too happy about the cabbage, we nevertheless determined to look up what kind of larva it was. After much searching in our book entitled Butterflies and Moths by David Carter, (a great book to have on hand if interested in different kinds of butterflies and moths.) we came to the conclusion that it was a Giant Leopard Moth larva. Because it was a beautiful moth, we decided to keep it until it completed its metamorphosis. So when my sister found this caterpillar I thought it would be neat to keep it to observe once again one of God’s amazing creatures change from a crawling insect to a flying moth of beauty. Science has always been fascinating to me, in school it was my favorite subject, and I still enjoy learning new things about God’s creation. What an awesome Lord He is! There is beauty and wonder all around us if we will only look, from the stars and planets in the heaven, to the lowly insects and worms beneath our feet. :)

This photo shows the Caterpillar with it's web partially complete
(before the parasitic fly larva hatched.)

I was able to keep the caterpillar for a week before it started to “spin” its cocoon. It was neat to watch it slowly weave strand after strand of golden colored “thread” that came from an area near its mouth. It continued to weave until it had imprisoned itself with in the web. It had never done it before and yet it did it with ease like an expert. :) Even seemingly “little” things like the life cycle of an Moth or Butterfly are awesome testaments to our great, wise all-powerful God.


I found this beautiful photo of an adult Giant Leopard Moth on the Wikipedia website.

Disappointingly, unknown to me, the caterpillar had become a host for a parasitic fly, which apparently had laid its eggs on or in the caterpillar before I got it. They hatched at this point and killed it. While doing some research online regarding parasitic flies I found that they, for the most part, are helpful insects. They are designed for a purpose to help control harmful insects. It was disappointing to have the Giant Leopard Moth caterpillar die, but on the other hand, it was a new learning experience as I had never came in contact with something like it before. All of God’s creatures serve some purpose, and even the flies are evidence of God’s amazing design.

15 comments:

Sarah said...

Thank you for sharing this, Emily! It was a very interesting (and insightful!) read. The moth is simply stunning . . . yes, indeed, what an amazing Creator we serve!

Nicole said...

That is so neat! The moth is really pretty! Thanks for sharing this, Emily!

Sarah said...

I just wanted to tell you, Emily, that my Mom made the Blackberry Cobbler that you posted the recipe for awhile back, and it was delicious! Thank you so much for sharing the recipe! :)

A HEART OF PRAISE said...

You are welcome Sarah! I'm glad to hear that you all liked it! :)

Anonymous said...

Just a moment ago, I found the Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar on my back patio. I carefully let it cling to a pencil and scooped it onto a book to return it to the butterfly bushes I grow in my yard. He was gorgeous. I wasn't quite sure what he was until I looked him up online. The funny thing is I also found the full grown leopard moth in June of "06, the same week that my mother passed away. Still not knowing what he was, I can say for certainty, it looked exactly like the picture you posted. Since then and even more at this moment, I always thought it was a sign from above, the lord letting me know that my mother, who was crippled with M.S. here on earth was now in our lords hands and he was releasing her from disease and letting her fly. With that said, I couldn't have been happier to read your comments about the beautiful moth and how our lord takes care all creatures. I may sound sound crazy but I feel he's taken care of the sadness I feel of my mom's passing by showing me this little creature and reaffirming my faith that he will makes us new again when we meet in heaven. The lord takes care of all.

hayley hamilton said...

i have had one of these caterpillars for a few months and he came out of his cocoon today. i wasn't sure until a few minutes ago what kind of caterpillar he was. he's really pretty. can you tell me what he eats? i am planning on keeping him until it warms up outside.
babymonkey455@aol.com
thanks, hayley

Renae said...

We just found a caterpillar like this. My children are so excited! Thank you for sharing your story. I think we are going to try to make a habitat for this creature. We would love to see it turn into that amazing moth.

Michael said...

Found one of those last night when I was getting ready to feed my dog and decided to smash the darn thing with my foot!.................Just kidding, it's April's fools. No I scooped the thing on a piece of paper and took it in my garage, didn't know what kind of caterpillar it was and wasn't about to grab it. Did put my magnifying glass to take a better look at it, then took a couple of pictures and released it in a safe place.

Today I decided to google it and found out it's name, the fact that they're not poisonous etc and found you're web page. Like you Sarah, I do understand that even God's smallest creature want to live, except that rats and other pest are still fair game! :)

Anonymous said...

This is my 1st time to your site. My thanks also for the info on the Giant Leopard Moth! I live in Austin, Texas and we have had the hottest summer on record so far, with double digit days over 100 degrees (one day it was 110!) In all of this heat I have seen no less than 25 of the Giant Leopard Moth larvae. You can see them on the streets/roads. There's a lot of buzz, but no clear and concise info like you have laid out. The pictures were of great help! And, now I know which plants to net so they are not eaten. Yeah! I am truly grateful for you today. Being guided to your site is a God thing (as we say). How simply magical He made our world.

Meera said...

I am doing a placement in a kindergarten and we have made a black fuzzy caterpillar as a class pet and have named him "Coco":) Yesterday we saw Coco in two pieces and it wasn't moving but when I poked it gently with a Kleenex, one piece started to move, is it normal occurrence?

Regards,
Early child care educator.

Jane U. said...

Wow, i was looking for a story like this for a while... The exact same thing happened to mine! I called him Leopold and was looking forward to see him transform into this beautiful moth... He started weaving his little web too... Until one day (today actually) i saw 2 big fat ugly flies in there... Very very sad =[

Lucy Lou said...

Hello. A few weeks ago I was entering my home when I saw this beautiful big black and red caterpillar. I admired it for a moment in astonishment from its beauty. I then put it near a tree so it could continue on about its business. 3 wks later I am doing a final mow through the yard and I'm buzzing along when I notice it again! This time I decided to see what it would produce. I just brought it in and had it on my hand. I could ha e swear I could feel it pulsating like it had a heart? So it was kind of magical? I brought it in and thought I would research it. I will tell you, I love butterflies, I hate moths. I don't like to admit because I love all living things on earth including flowers and trees. So once I saw what it was I thought how beautiful but then it creeped me out. I was sitting contemplating and in limbo about watching the process wondering if I should and while right then as I asked myself what I should do, this message came to me Psalms 104:24

Unknown said...

Can anyone tell me when they should be released. My first leopard moth was a female and it was summer when she hatched so I figured the other moths were out so I released her. Today a boy was hatched and its kinda cold out. So I'm thinking its not a good time to let him go. Anyone?

Dennis jacksonville nc said...

I don't know if my last post went through. But I had a male leopard moth hatch today and its kinda cold .I'm trying to find out when I should release the Lil guy. He's walking and shooting his big guns on my hand to show me he's ready to fight lol. So I'm excited for him but I don't know if its the right time. He's approximately 3inches wingspan.if any one can help I would really appreciate it. I'm sure he will too thank you

A Heart of Praise said...

Hello Dennis, I'm honestly not sure! When I found mine it was August, and I lived in Florida at the time, so I never had to worry about it being cold. I'm thinking if you found the caterpillar this time of year maybe it's ok to let go. I'm assuming it's slightly warmer in your location? Right now it's -18 F. where I live with probably two feet of snow on the ground, there are no caterpillars crawling around here right now! :)