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Jachus Sundby

Lepidoptera breeder, Educator, and Researcher 

Meet The Team

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Gabriella Sundby

Lepidoptera breeder, CNA, Phlebotomist, and Amazing Wifey

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Vanbulance

This is our tiny home on wheels! Our ambulance has been converted into a traveling field station to take us all over North America.

Bio-Jachus

Cecropia larva
Giant moth collection

My name is Jachus Sundby, as a kid I was born crazy about insects. When I was five, I convinced my dad to help me build a moth trap in our backyard using a sheet and a light. I would turn on the light every night before bed and in the morning, I would get up before the sun, run across the wet grass in my bare feet and collect every unique moth I could find. Afterword, I would go back to bed for a few hours.

One morning as I ran downstairs, I noticed an aquarium that had been placed on the counter. My dad had gotten up and left for work already so I knew he must have put something inside. As I looked my eyes were drawn to something hanging from the top. Suddenly I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was a huge moth sitting right there in my house. I can truthfully say that it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen in my life. Up until that day I thought that big moths could only be found deep in remote jungles.

 

Relatively soon I had acquired every book in the whole liberty system with any reference to giant moths. I learned that the moth that we had found was a Polyphemus, and I also learned that it was the second largest moth we had in our region. That was it there was only one thing I could do; I had to find the largest moth in North America.

 

That summer began my giant moth obsession with the hunt for the elusive Cecropia moth. All summer I would wake up and lay out all the library books across my bed open to the pages featuring the cecropia moth I would then spend my day search for the moth and the giant caterpillars. From the pictures I thought the caterpillar looked dangerous and spiky so I would often daydream of all the different ways I could capture it if somehow, I did find one (side note they are not dangerous! Not at all).

 

After two months of caterpillar searching, my parents decided to take my family to the Washington County Fair. At the fair I dragged my family strait to the 4-H building and over to the entomology section. There were some great collections with lots of giant silk moths in them, they were so cool that at the end of the day I made my family go back to see them one more time. As we left the 4-H building and headed back to our car we passed the master gardens my mom saw something and ran back to check it out. She quickly came back to us and told me to follow her. As we headed towards a table with a ten over it. I could see vases of green leaves. When we got to the table my mom was like “look are these the caterpillars you’ve been looking for”. As I looked sure enough there were giant cecropia caterpillars all over the leaves. Needless to say, we did not leave the fair for another few hours.

 

The guy who had brought the caterpillars was Mr. Paulson. He told us how he found a giant moth that spring at work and had put it in a box to bring home to his family. When he got home, he found that the moth had laid a bunch of eggs inside the box, so he raised them that summer. At the time of the fair the caterpillars were so big and colorful that he decided to bring them to the fair so that kids like me could see them. Little did I know that one of the other master gardeners had worked with my dad in the past and still had his number.

 

After the fair Mr. Paulson got a hold of my dads’ number and called him. He told my dad that he noticed how much I was intrigued by the caterpillars and asked him if he wanted a few of to take home to me. My dad agreed and on his way home from work one day he pick up the caterpillars. When he walked in, he had a big bouquet of leave that he proudly exclaimed were flowers for mom. Me and my sibling who were a little slow to catch on, started telling my dad that he had choses ugly flowers and that he should have chosen something more beautiful for mom.

 

As we sat down for dinner, they put the bouquet in the middle for a center piece. It didn’t take but a few seconds until a giant ball of frass (caterpillar poop) dropped onto the counter. We quickly stared at the bouquet and to my astonishment I saw five giant cecropia caterpillars tucked inside the leaves. Since then we have been raising the giant cecropia moths every year. All kids go through an insect faze I just never grow out of mine I tell people.

Giant moth enclosure
Polyphemus moth