Recently, in more than 20 years of breeding butterflies and, to a lesser extent moths, we finally bred what can only be described as a humungous caterpillar.
The photo below is of the female Hercules moth caterpillar we had in our laboratory, or at least we assume it’s a female, because all female Lepidoptera (ie butterflies & moths) are usually bigger than their male counterparts. The reason for this is that they have to carry a belly full of eggs – sometimes up to 300 of them.
The moth caterpillar below was the first time we’d been able to feed our Hercules moths right through on their preferred food plant, the leaves of the rainforest tree Homalanthus. If you give them precisely what they want and prefer, they’ll put on the weight and become quite sizable. Now, all our Hercules moth caterpillars are fed on Homalanthus and our program is so successful that we almost always have Hercules cocoons, caterpillar or moths on display – and sometimes all three at the same time.
The largest Hercules moth ever recorded was a huge female caught at Innisfail, just south of here, in 1948. The Guinness Book of Records states that it had an incredible wingspan of 360mm (14.17 inches).