Shocked at cannibalism

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  • #43169

    Sandra CA

    Last night I retrieved four 4/5th instar caterpillars from my milkweed plants. I placed them in a container with 4 very large leaves thinking they are inactive at night and it would tide them over to early am when I planned to put them in my habitat with a potted milkweed plant.

    Very early this morning I opened the container and there were only 3 cats. The lid was secured. The only option was cannibalism and a brief research online showed this is possible if the cats are desperately hungry. I’m completely shocked and feel awful guilt about this. I’m posting to warn others and to ask if anyone has seen this behavior with their own caterpillars.


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  • #49220


    Hi Sandra, Caryl here. I lost contact with you because someone appeared to have hijacked your email or viruses caused odd messages to be sent. Would love to catch up with you. Caryl ( I still have your lovely photo book which has pride of place in my lounge. Kind and warm regards, Caryl


    Sandra CA


    FYI, the day after I posted this my daughter found the 4th cat in the same room as the container. He had slipped out while I was getting the milkweed I guess and I closed the top and he couldn’t get back in. But I did have a cat that viciously attacked and killed another cat. I saw the whole thing and was completely shocked they could be so violent. If I had known they were fighting till death I would have separated them early on. It wasn’t to protect food, they were just too close together, or at least one thought so. I’ve never seen it since even though I’ve had almost identical crowding. How can you tell what’s going on in your garden?



    I was also shocked to see this on my plants today….never seen it before even during critical food shortages. My plants still have quite a lot of foliage so it wasn’t due to lack of food…



    I was also shocked to encounter this today on my plants…..never seen it before even during critical food shortage!



    Yes this is very true, they do not like to be too close together even on a stem with plenty of food if another caterpillar comes on to the same leaf they will wave their heads back and forth to keep each other apart.

    Your comment about not needing much food for the night I find they eat a lot during the night.

    Another important thing to remember when shifting a lot of caterpillars they need to be in a reasonably large container with eaten stems, stems with leaves even if they are old a tatty and any old seed pods you have to keep the caterpillars apart other wise you will have a lot of “Green Blood” just be aware, they will, if very hungry eat the seed pods that is OK but keep them apart. Happy days learn from others experiences so you do not have to feel guilty


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