Friday, 21 July 2017

Silkmoth of the week: Antheraea yamamai

Another classic and a lovely one. Antheraea yamamai originates from Eastern Asia (Japan, Korea, the Russian Far East and parts of China) and has been introduced in Europe (Italy, Austria, the Balkan, Hungary, Slovenia and the Czech Republic) where they now slowly spread northwards. Yamamai is a very variable species, both in size and in color. The wingspan goes from eleven to fifteen centimeter. The color ranges from grey, over yellow to chocolate brown. This Saturnid has only one flight per year, late summer/early autumn, depending on local conditions. In captivity, the earlier you take the eggs out of the fridge, the earlier the caterpillars will spin their cocoons and the earlier the moths will emerge (as early as late June, in those cases when you really couldn't resist kickstarting your breeding season early March and started rearing them on for example Crataegus).


Antheraea yamamai male
Antheraea yamamai male

Antheraea yamamai female
Antheraea yamamai female

Antheraea yamamai male
Antheraea yamamai male

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Phyllodesma japonica

This wasn't the most successful brood of the year. Everything started well. They simply rushed through the first four instars. That was because we had a fairly cool start of the Spring. But, then suddenly temperatures started rising and it stopped raining for weeks. When the heatwave reached its peak with temperatures around 34°C most of the caterpillars started to die. Too extreme breeding conditions, it rarely ends well. Especially not with Phyllodesma species which generally prefer more moderate conditions, with temperatures between twenty and twenty five degrees Celsius. They are best kept in netted cages when they reach the fourth instar, to allow for a good airflow. The pupal stage is short after the first generation. Under warmer conditions they almost always produce a second flight in August. The pupae of the second generation will overwinter.


Phyllodesma japonica caterpillar
Phyllodesma japonica L5 on Salix cinerea

Phyllodesma japonica caterpillar
Phyllodesma japonica L5 on Salix cinerea

Phyllodesma japonica caterpillar
Phyllodesma japonica L5 on Salix cinerea

Phyllodesma japonica caterpillar
Phyllodesma japonica L4 on Salix cinerea

Phyllodesma japonica caterpillar
Phyllodesma japonica L4 on Salix cinerea

Phyllodesma japonica caterpillar
Phyllodesma japonica L4 on Salix cinerea

Phyllodesma japonica caterpillar
Phyllodesma japonica L4 on Salix cinerea

Phyllodesma japonica caterpillar
Phyllodesma japonica L3 on Salix cinerea

Phyllodesma japonica caterpillar
Phyllodesma japonica L2 on Salix cinerea

Phyllodesma japonica caterpillar
Phyllodesma japonica L1 on Salix cinerea

Friday, 14 July 2017

Silkmoth of the week: Samia luzonica

Ever wondered why you so rarely see other Samia species in captivity? Other then ricini or cynthia I mean. Easy. For many of these species, the pupal stage is very short and the moths have the nasty habit of emerging in the mail. The import of species like Samia luzonica, from the Philipinnes, is actually a rather big risk. More then one hobby breeder has lost a lot of money this way. As you are never sure how old the cocoons are that you're trying to import, it's always safer to get them by express delivery, which will cost you an awful lot of money. But that's usually how it goes: if you want something rare or different from what's offered over and over again then you have to be willing to pay the excessive shipping costs. Unless you buy wholesale quantities, the shipping costs often are higher then the total value of all the cocoons in the shipment.  Yep, breeding moths can be a very expensive hobby.
Back to Samia luzonica now. This is one of the two philipinnian representatives of the Samia genus and occurs on most of the islands, except Palawan. The second species, treadawayi, only occurs on Palawan. The wingspan is between ten and twelve centimeter. Males and females can be distinguished by the much larger body of the female (twice the size of that of the male) and the somewhat less elegant appearance. This species broods continuously.


Samia luzonica male
Samia luzonica male - Origin: Philippines

Samia luzonica male
Samia luzonica male - Origin: Philippines

Samia luzonica female
Samia luzonica female - Origin: Philippines

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Graellsia isabellae

It's always interesting to see how larvae of the most diverse species come up with similar camouflage patterns when feeding on the same host plants. The camouflage of the Spanish Moon Moth, Graellsia isabellae, is typical for a pine feeder. The caterpillars grow to a size of seven to eight centimeter. The cocoons are spun at the base of the food plant (in captivity at the bottom of the cage). Young caterpillars are best kept in not too large plastic containers, older ones prefer a good air circulation and are better housed in very large plastic tubs or in netted cages. This species is best reared at moderate temperatures. Avoid sudden peaks in temperature, the more stable the breeding conditions, the better. Cooler nights are beneficial. The cocoons will now overwinter and require cool conditions to hatch in Spring. Keep the cocoons in the fridge or make sure they go through a cool period (0° - 5°C) for at least a couple of weeks.


Graellsia isabellae caterpillar
Graellsia isabellae L5 on Pinus sylvestris

Graellsia isabellae caterpillar
Graellsia isabellae L5 on Pinus sylvestris

Graellsia isabellae caterpillar
Graellsia isabellae L5 on Pinus sylvestris

Graellsia isabellae caterpillar
Graellsia isabellae L5 on Pinus sylvestris

Graellsia isabellae caterpillar
Graellsia isabellae L5 on Pinus sylvestris
Graellsia isabellae caterpillar
Graellsia isabellae L4 on Pinus sylvestris

Graellsia isabellae caterpillar
Graellsia isabellae L4 on Pinus sylvestris

Graellsia isabellae caterpillar
Graellsia isabellae L4 on Pinus sylvestris

Graellsia isabellae caterpillar
Graellsia isabellae L3 on Pinus sylvestris

Graellsia isabellae caterpillar
Graellsia isabellae L2/L1 on Pinus sylvestris

Graellsia isabellae caterpillar
Graellsia isabellae L1 on Pinus sylvestris

Friday, 7 July 2017

Silkmoth of the week: Imbrasia obscura

Imbrasia obscura is a widespread species, occurring throughout Western and Equatorial Africa, from Senegal east to Kenya. With their wingspan of ten to twelve centimeter, they are not amongst the larger African Saturnids.The adults are quite variable in color, with darker and more pale forms. Even though this species isn't rare at all, they have only recently spread amongst hobby breeders. It is still waiting for the first caterpillar pictures popping up on the internet, together with some reliable breeding reports on European/American plants that can be used as alternatives. I wouldn't hold my breath for it though. Sibling males and females seem very reluctant to pair.


Imbrasia obscura male
Imbrasia obscura male - Origin: Kenya

Imbrasia obscura female
Imbrasia obscura female - Origin: Kenya

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Bombyx mori

Ah well, you can't have a blog about silkmoths and then continue to ignore Bombyx mori, the one and only true silkmoth. The only reason why it took so long is because this simply isn't the most interesting or challenging species to breed. It's nice to teach your children how to take care of caterpillars, but beyond that point, there really isn't any good reason to continue breeding them, unless you are into harvesting your own silk. This is one of the easiest moths to rear as long as you have one of the Morus species. Alternatively, Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) will do too. You must have read about breeding mori on other plants like Malus or Salix and probably wondered whether that would work or not. The answer is yes, both Salix and Malus can be used as food plant. However, the mortality in all stages is that high that it is hardly worth the effort. Stick to their original food plants or even better, move on to one of the more interesting species.


Bombyx mori caterpillar
Bombyx mori L5 on Morus nigra

Bombyx mori caterpillar
Bombyx mori L5 on Morus nigra

Bombyx mori caterpillar
Bombyx mori L5 on Morus nigra

Bombyx mori caterpillar
Bombyx mori L5 on Morus nigra

Bombyx mori caterpillar
Bombyx mori L5 on Morus nigra

Bombyx mori caterpillar
Bombyx mori L4 on Morus nigra

Bombyx mori caterpillar
Bombyx mori L4 on Morus nigra

Bombyx mori caterpillar
Bombyx mori L4 on Morus nigra

Bombyx mori caterpillar
Bombyx mori L3 on Morus nigra

Bombyx mori caterpillar
Bombyx mori L3 on Morus nigra

Bombyx mori caterpillar
Bombyx mori L2 on Morus nigra

Bombyx mori caterpillar
Bombyx mori L1 on Morus nigra

Friday, 30 June 2017

Silkmoth of the week: Opodiphthera eucalypti

The Emperor Gum Moth (Opodiphthera eucalypti) originally only occurred on Australia, but was later introduced on New Zealand and now inhabits both the North and the South Island. This is the most widespread and common species of the Opodiphthera genus. It's a larger moth, with a wingspan between twelve and fourteen centimeter. Wild euclypti emerge in Spring and early Summer (mainly October to December). This confuses many moths when importing the cocoons into Europe. Some cocoons will hatch in the European autumn (their normal Spring flight), some will overwinter with adults emerging in our Spring and early Summer (their normal Autumn and Winter). Do not throw the cocoons away when they didn't hatch the first year. It happens quite regularly with this species that the moths wait for more favorable conditions. Cocoons are known to remain dormant for two to five years, with even an aberrant record of pupae remaining dormant for ten years. So be patient. 


Opodiphthera eucalypti male
Opodiphthera eucalypti male - Origin: New Zealand

Opodiphthera eucalypti male
Opodiphthera eucalypti male - Origin: New Zealand

Opodiphthera eucalypti female
Opodiphthera eucalypti female - Origin: New Zealand