Storytelling : Professor Eric Olson and The Giant Silk Moths.

Thank you so much to our contributor, Professor Eric Olson.

Eric Olson, is a Professor of Brandeis University and today is sharing with us the topic “Raising Giant Wild Silkmoths” -The Cecropia Moth- in West Newton, Massachusetts.

My dad grew up hunting deer and trapping mink in rural Wisconsin, but my mom was not keen on us having guns in the house.  We could collect mini-trophies, though, namely butterflies and other insects.  I still have a framed luna moth my grandfather helped me capture from a window of his country house in upstate NY, back around 1965. 

Around that time I began to raise caterpillars and learn about insect life cycles and host plants.  These childhood experiences with grown-ups I loved and admired set the stage for a life-long interest in the world of insects, that eventually led to my studying with an ecology professor in Costa Rica, and earning a PhD.  

Soon after the Newton Farmers Market began, Green Newton got permission to have an information table there — a table covered in brochures and a sign-up clipboard. Really important brochures, about energy efficiency and pesticides, but few people stopped by.

I figured that with big live caterpillars for bait, we could “lure” visitors to the table, where they would chat and take home information.  It worked pretty well.   That Farmers Market connection led other Newton residents to become involved in rearing our supply of “show and tell” caterpillars — Margaret Ford and her husband Tom in particular have become skilled caterpillar rearers.  

The methods described in the video work best with just one group of moths, the giant silk moths like cecropia and luna, in the moth family Saturniidae.  These are easy to raise once you know the basics.  You can even get them to mate with wild moths from the forest, as shown using the “casita de amor”, from which the female will “call” wild males with her powerful pheromones.  

Thank you JC Giraldo for recording this workshop, attended by Margaret Ford of Green Newton and Ted Kuklinksi President of Newton Conservators among others.