How to Care for a Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar

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Giant leopard moths (Hypercompe scribonia) have beautiful markings, being white with Dalmatian-like black spots and circles. Their caterpillars, in contrast, are bristly black creatures that look like walking scrubbing brushes. Interesting larval and adult stages make them a good subject for a simple science project. As with most caterpillars, their needs are not difficult to provide. Giant leopard moth caterpillars need lots of the right leaves and a basic house. Most people should have no difficulty supplying these. Giant leopard moths are not a serious pest species in their native habitat, and it is normally safe to release the moths.

Things You'll Need

  • Large plastic box
  • Paper towels
  • Muslin
  • Large elastic band
  • Paper cups
  • Cotton balls
  • Leaves
  • Paintbrush
  • Lay several sheets of paper towel in a large plastic box. These make keeping the cage clean an easy job.

  • Dampen a couple of cotton balls with water and place in a paper cup.

  • Collect suitable leaves for the caterpillar, including the stems. Ideally, collect leaves from the plant you found the caterpillar on. This species also eats cabbage, maple, dandelion, orange, sunflower, cherry and banana leaves.

  • Push the stems of the leaves into the cotton balls in the paper cup and put the arrangement in the box.

  • Move the caterpillar from the holding container onto the leaves, using a paintbrush to gently nudge it if necessary. Do not handle the caterpillars with your bare hands, which could damage them and give you a rash. Secure the muslin over the box with an elastic band to stop the caterpillar from escaping.

  • Collect fresh leaves every day, and put them into a new cotton ball and paper cup arrangement. Put the new arrangement next to the old and let the caterpillar crawl across by itself. Remove the old leaves and save the paper cup for the next day.

  • Replace the paper towels once a week to keep the cage clean.

  • Remove leaves and cups from the cage once the caterpillar pupates. Wait for the moth to emerge and take any photographs you wish. Release the moth at night so birds don't eat it.

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