Sources of Materials
M. sexta can be purchased from Carolina
Biological Supply Company as eggs, larvae (pack of 12,
25 or 50), and pupae (pack of 6).
Vials of larvae are shipped from Carolina
with pre-made media in a container and newly hatched larvae
are transferred to the vials. The amount of food is
sufficient to carry the larva to its pupal stage. They will
also sell food separately.
Tobacco hornworm food is also available in bulk from the
Entomology Division of Bio-Serv.
It does require some preparation, but is less expensive than
Carolina's if you are using more than a few liters. We have
used catalog #F9783 with success.
It is important to be extremely careful when handling the
early instage larvae. We have found that you can use very
light forceps to transfer them when necessary. We use
"featherwieght forceps" from Ward's
Natural Science Establishment (catalog # 14 W 0520).
A typical rearing temperature for M. sexta is
27oC. It is possible to rear larvae on a bench
top by placing their containers approximately 25 cm from a
100 watt light bulb (instructions are provided by Carolina).
Alternatively, an incubator or cabinet kept at around
27oC can be used. Temperatures above
32oC can kill the larvae.
Light is also a factor in rearing the insects and a long
day light regime (12+ hr) is required to keep the pupae from
entering diapause (a dormant stage).
Flight cage for rearing adults:
A flight cage at least one cubic meter in size is
necessary if you want moths to lay viable eggs. A simple
flight cage can be made by stapling burlap over a wood
frame. This provides a vertical surface for the moths to
climb. You can also get a flight cage kit from Carolina.
The moths only fly at night, so you will be able to open the
cage during the day as necessary. A small, low-watt
night-light above the cage is a good idea, so the moths can
see to fly.
If you are keeping adults, a humidifier in the room is
useful for keeping airborn wing scales to a minimum.
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