Dr Robert Hoare, of Landcare Research NZ Ltd, shows us the process he uses to rear moths in the laboratory, using basic equipment such as a plastic lunchbox to grow eggs and caterpillars into moths.
DR ROBERT HOARE
If you want to rear a moth through the whole lifecycle, you’ll find a female moth and put her in a container, give her a little bit of a cotton wool which you have soaked in honey water – a little substitute for the flowers that she would normally feed from – and that will keep her alive, that will give her the energy to produce the eggs on tissue paper. Sometimes you need to provide the correct food plant of the caterpillars and she will lay the eggs on that. The eggs will usually hatch out after a few days into little tiny caterpillars, and you've got to make sure that, when they do hatch out, you've got the right food plant. So you will need to look up in a book what the right… what the right plant is, and be able to recognise that plant and make sure you've got a supply of it near home, so that you can feed up your caterpillars. You usually just keep them in, like, a little lunch box or something like that, and, um, put some tissue paper on the bottom and then put the food plant in, and then you can rear several caterpillars in… in one container. You just have to keep on feeding them and get rid of their droppings, cause otherwise they are liable to get infections. And eventually, if you are lucky, the caterpillars will become full fed and then make a cocoon, which comes from silk, which they make with their mouth parts, and they wrap themselves entirely in silk to make a cocoon. And inside the cocoon, the caterpillar sheds its skin for a final time and turns into a pupa or a chrysalis. And that chrysalis will often stay in that form for a month or more, or sometimes for the whole winter if you are rearing the caterpillar at that time of year And eventually, again if you are lucky and you've looked after it well, the adult moth will hatch out at the end of that time.