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Wyrm's Greed Caterpillar/Lantern Moth

Life Cycle

Egg Stage

The eggs of Lantern Moths are described as silvery reflective crystals which hang from the baughs of the Iron-Wood Tree. The eggs start out hard and sturdy, made ridgid by a secretion from the Lantern Moth. The eggs soften near instantly when heated by fire or more slowly when made wet, typically by seasonal rains. If the eggs become soft too soon after being laid, the caterpillar inside will not be developed enough, and will die on impact with the forest floor when the bottom of the egg gives way to its weight. Its believed that the larva inside of the egg can wait indefinitely to come out. Once the larva in the egg has fully developed it appears to die or enter extreme hybernation until the egg softens enough to drop it to the forest floor below. Upon impact the larva appears to revive itelf and begins its life as a caterpillar.  

Caterpillar Stage


Wyrm's Greed Caterpillars are typically between 40cm and 90cm long, they have a typical circumfrance of 36cm to 48cm and weigh between 4kg and 16kg depending on age. Most members of the species have metallic colored scale-like patterns on their exoskeleton that resemble the skin of equivallently sized reptiles. Their bodies are decorated in numerous spines that grow longer with age. The head of a Wyrm's Greed Caterpillar is shaped like a spade, and sports two long articulatable protrusions that mimic the appearance of the horns of a great wyrm. From a distance they look like Wyrmlings, a fact that works to their advantage, scaring off anyone who wouldn't want to tussle with a mother Great Wyrm.  


Under normal circumstances Wyrm's Greed Caterpillars will eat the bark of the Iron-wood Trees they're hatched near. The bark of the trees is naturally heavy with plenty of minerals, and as the name of the tree implies, filled with Iron that the plants pull from the ground they grow from. The natural source of iron is critical for the caterpillar's growth, as it will not grow without a diet rich with metals. The Caterpillar's body redistributes the metals it eats to reinforce its exoskeleton, building armor for itself and making it harder to hurt as the caterpillar grows larger, slower, and more vulnerable to predators.  

Domestication History

The caterpillar was once know as the Armorer Caterpillar before traders attempted to domesticate them. The name was changed when the traders realized that not only did the caterpillars eat their own sheddings when they grew, but they also preferred to eat precious metals over iron, and would devour a traders entire inventory and savings over night after devouring their cages. They were renamed for their wyrm like appearance and percieved greedy behavior. Other domestication attempts have been made, most seeking the nearly pure-iron shells the caterpillars shed. But the high cost of feeding the Caterpillars and their habit of devouring their enclosures make domestication prohibitively expensive. The slow growth and reproduction rate of the species is also partly to blame, making it difficult to breed them for desirable traits, and putting profitability potentially decades out for anyone looking to try.  



Once a caterpillar has gained enough weight and concentrated enough metals within its body, it will climb the tallest structure nearby (usually an Iron-Wood tree) and begin the long process of building itself a cocoon. Some of the metals ingested across the lifetime of the caterpillar are woven into the fine silk strands, granting them the strength to hold the absurdly heavy caterpillar aloft, even in extreme weather conditions. The silk is not only incredibly strong and light but also conductive to electricity, making it highly desirable for artisans across a wide variety of professions. While most cocoons will contain largely iron from the ironwood trees, domestication attempts have revealed that the silk can contain any metal fed to the caterpillars, and that some metals will naturally alloy inside of the caterpillar's body.  


Upon completion of the cocoon, the caterpillar will shed its exoskeleton one final time, depositing a treasure trove of valuable metal on the inside of the cocoon. The soft body of the pupa will begin to harden on the outside as the inside begins the process of metamorphosis. This process typically takes an entire year during which the cocoon must keep the developing moth safe. Pupation is the most dangerous time in the life of a Lantern Moth, because shortly after pupation begins, the majority of the value of a Lantern Moth is available for harvest, but harvesting the cocoon and pupal shell before the moth emerges naturally will kill the moth. The long wait between this availability of value, and emergence is often too much of a temptation for common-folk who find them, making the Lantern Moth a species whose continued existance is threatened by The Tragedy of the Commons.  

Moth Stage

Upon completion of metamorphosis, the once Wyrm's Greed Caterpillar, is now a Lantern Moth, and must break open its pupal cage, and cocoon. When it does so it leaves behind a treasure trove for anyone who finds it. The moth will crawl up the surface it cocooned on, and begin to unfurl its wings. The wings of a Lantern Moth have a mirror like shine to them, and any light which scatters across them is reflected back into the environment as if it were bounced off of a thousand tiny mirrors. The moth gets its name from its own soft yellow bioluminesscence, which reflects off of its wings when active. From a distance the moth appears like a dancing lantern in the woods, and when enough moths gather in the canopy, its like having festival in the forest.   Now full adults, the moths outsize even large eagles. Males typically have a wingspan of 2.5 to 2.7 meters, while females have wingspans of 3 to 3.5 meters. Though they've left most of their armor behind in their cocoon, their bodies still have a thin metallic shell, and their wings are made out of the shiniest, purest metals the moths ate as caterpillars. Male moths will have large antenna which appear like ferns made from dozens of knives, while females have larger bodies and wingspans, as well as brighter bioluminessence.    


Lantern Moths typically live eight to twelve months after reaching adulthood, surviving off of the food stores built up in their earlier life stages. At night the moths court potential partners before copulating. A female will store the male reproductive cells inside of herself for several weeks, all the while courting new moths each night. After courting nearly a dozen males and storing their reproductive cells, the female will find an appropriate place to begin laying her eggs. She will deposit the eggs hanging from the bottom of Iron-wood trees, using the reproductive cells of only the best males she courted in the weeks prior. On the way out the eggs are coated in a fluid that will help them harden long enough to let the larva inside develop. A female will lay a new clutch of eggs every six to eight weeks until she becomes too weak to fly. Once she can no longer fly, she will land on a nearby tree and die. Over the next few days after her death, her body will become a hollow metal shell. In the natural order of things, her wings would be devoured by hungry caterpillars, happy to find a good source of high purity metals.   Males have a similar but simpler time reproducing. Male Lantern Moths spend their adult lives finding and copulating with as many females as they can. Between copulations males will follow the scent of the female's egg hardening excretions, hoping to spread their reproductive cells to eggs they may not have had a hand in making before the shells harden. Its hard to say if this is effective for them, or if it has other benefits to the species.  

Cultural Significance


Despite all of the failed attempts at domestication, the presence of the moths at night is still considered a good omen in Chuthain. The city holds several festivals each year where the moths are celebrated or honored in some fashion. During the summer months the villagers conduct The Procession of Lights , and walk slowly in a line through the forest while carying paper lanterns decorated like moths, in hopes of guiding the moths to their ancestral home in the Iron-wood Forest. In the last days before the winter snow, the village conducts The Silk Hunt . During The Silk Hunt villagers climb trees to inspect cocoons, looking for abandonded cocoons to harvest to pay for supplies to make it through the winter. If they find occupied cocoons they're carefully docummented and checked on regularly to prevent early harvest, and the death of the moths inside.  

Products and Economics

Nearly every stage of a Lantern Moth's life offers some monetary gain if taken, but by far the most valuable individual thing about the species is the cocoons it makes. The silk can be processed into lightweight armor, incredible building materials, nearly unbreakable rope, or when gathered in large quantities, cloth that keeps the user cool. The second most beneficial thing the moth produces is the large amout of high purity metals it leaves in the cocoon after emerging into adulthood. Finally, once an adult, the wings can be cut off and turned into ultra-thin mirrors, or turned into highly prized art pieces, or commonly fine hand-mirrors for noble women. Unfortunately the harvest of all these materials hurts the species as a whole. All of the things that could be harvested could also be eaten by the next generation of caterpillars. Over harvesting leads to the caterpillars relying more heavily on eating the Iron-wood trees. It remains to be seen if the forest can handle this added pressure in the long term.
Geographic Distribution

This article was originally written as an entry for the 2024 Crafting Creatures #UnofficialChallenge by Strixxline. Feel free to check out the competition page, and please take a moment to check out their world: Ayun Sovos


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