Tropical Leafwing (Anaea aidea) Life History

9-10-08, an estimated 2 days old

9-12-08, below and to the right of a larger caterpillar



9-21-08, looking down its rolled-up leaf

9-24-08 , sneaking out for a bite to eat

9-26-08, full-grown caterpillar 

9-28-08, pupating

9-29-08, pupa

Fresh Tropical Leafwing, 10-8-08  

Flapping wings before released from aquarium (wings are bending, not broken)

In September, 2008, I collected a large Tropical Leafwing caterpillar to raise (see the second picture). It was found on a branch of Mexican Croton, Croton ciliatoglandulifer. A day or two after I collected the branch, I discovered on it another, but tiny, caterpillar making a frass chain on the end of one of the croton leaves. This second caterpillar became the focus of this study. It probably was a couple of days old when I began to photograph it (first picture to the right).

These caterpillars, when young, to rest on a long "string" at the end of a leaf. The caterpillars make the string out of their droppings, which are called frass. This caterpillar used its chain for about a week. After that, it would roll up a croton leaf for shelter.

The caterpillar took about three weeks to pupate. The mature butterfly emerged 9 days later.

Below are pictured two other immature Tropical Leafwings. The first is a caterpillar found on what is probably Twocolor  Croton, Croton leucophyllus. This croton species grows in full sun. The bottom photo is of an adult just before it emerges from its chrysalis. The casing has clarified so that the butterfly is clearly visible.

Thanks to Ann Vacek for help with identification of the croton plants.

A caterpillar on field croton, 9-12-08

An adult ready to emerge, 9-24-08