Coyote Cloudywing (Achalarus toxeus) life history
Coyote Cloudywing (Achalarus toxeus) Life History

egg, 3-12-11

pre-emergent egg, 3-16-11

New caterpillar,  3-17-11

Body becoming deeper green, 3-19-11

New instar has brown head (it will darken a little), 3-20-11

Next instar has reddish-brown head and yellow stripes, 3-28-11

Body has changed color, 4-4-11

Body attains mature color; neck band no longer red, 4-17-11

Mature caterpillar, 4-25-11

New chrysalis, 4-29-11

Chrysalis on 5-9-11

Pre-emergent chrysalis, 5-12-11

Fresh adult female Coyote Cloudywing, dorsal, 5-13-11

Fresh adult female Coyote Cloudywing, ventral, 5-13-11

One of the reasons I started raising caterpillars is that so many disappeared when I tried to observe them in their normal surroundings. In 2007 I watched a female Coyote Cloudywing deposit an egg on Blackbrush (Acacia rigidula). I was able to observe the growth of the caterpillar for a week, and then it was gone. In the intervening years I never again found eggs or a female ovipositing. So, in the spring of 2011, I decided to capture a female in the hopes she would give me a few eggs.

It is difficult to sex Cloudywings, but eventually I caught an older specimen that I hoped was female. Things did not go as planned: she died the day after I caught her. I decided to open up her body and, inside, were several eggs. I removed them and one (only) eventually eclosed. I consider this the worst way imaginable to get an egg, but at least she did not die totally in vain.

The caterpillar grew quickly for the first few days, and then things slowed down. By steps the head and body became progressively reddish, and then brown. At first the caterpillar stayed in a leaf shelter that it made by sewing two leaves together. It remained in that shelter long after the leaves had turned brown, and sewed the leaves back together whenever I opened them to take a picture. I was putting branches of the host plant in a plastic-wrap covered bottle to keep them fresh, so I just moved the leaf shelter whenever I replaced the branches. Eventually, the caterpillar moved down the branches and started nesting in the plastic wrap. This gave me the idea to put some leaf litter and bark chips in the bottom of the container; soon, the caterpillar was nesting among the bark chips. Since older caterpillars are too big to hide between Blackbrush leaves, perhaps they move off the plant when not feeding as a safety mechanism.

The caterpillar fed during the night, but I never discerned any distinct pattern. Sometimes I found it out of the nest late in the evening, and once early in the morning, but there was no consistency.

The egg, once removed from the female, took 5 days to eclose. The caterpillar took 43 days to pupate; the adult emerged 14 days later. Thus, it took a full two months for the Coyote Cloudywing to go from egg to adult.

Coyote Cloudywing Page