Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Lemonia dumi

Recent DNA research placed the former family of the Lemoniidae within the Brahmaeidae. When you compare the caterpillars of Brahmaea japonica which I showed you earlier this week with those of the European Lemonia dumi, you could wonder why. As you can see, the caterpillars don't even have a remote resemblance. These caterpillars can be raised on salad from the supermarket. Although they are rather ugly creatures, their moths are actually quite attractive. I hope to show you them this autumn, when they eclose.

Lemonia dumi L3 caterpillar
Lemonia dumi L3 on salad

Lemonia dumi L5 caterpillar
Lemonia dumi L5 on salad

Lemonia dumi L5 caterpillar
Lemonia dumi L5 on salad

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Brahmaea japonica

These are caterpillars on steroids. Seriously, you have to see it to believe it. It doesn't take more then 3 and a half weeks to go from a hatchling to an almost ten centimeter big caterpillar. They feed upon privet and consume enormous amounts of leaves, defoliating entire branches in only a few hours. They are very easy and also suitable for beginners.

Brahmaea japonica L2 caterpillar
Brahmaea japonica L2 on Ligustrum

Brahmaea japonica L3 caterpillar
Brahmaea japonica L3 on Ligustrum

Brahmaea japonica L5 caterpillar
Brahmaea japonica L5 on Ligustrum

Brahmaea japonica caterpillar
Brahmaea japonica final hours

Friday, 25 April 2014

Silkmoth of the week: Antheraea polyphemus

You don't have to go to the tropics to find spectacular moths. The north american Polyphemus moth can easily compete with some of it's southern cousins. They are widespread throughout most of the USA and Canada. Antheraea polyphemus caterpillars feed upon a wide variety of shrubs and trees, including oak.

Antheraea polyphemus male - origin: USA

Antheraea polyphemus female
Antheraea poyphemus female - origin: USA

Saturnia (Caligula) jonasii

Some silkmoths you don't breed for the beauty of their caterpillars. Caligula jonasii is definitely one of those. The first two instars are quite ok, with an interesting pattern of green, black and red. However, after a while they turn into green with short bristles of hair. Their bodies become more and more fat and compressed. It stays like that the rest of their caterpillar lives. I just can't help it, but they remind me of moles. I really don't like the way they look. They are pupating now. Can't say I mind.

Caligula jonasii L2 caterpillar
Caligula jonasii L2 on Crataegus

Caligula jonasii L3 caterpillar
Caligula jonasii L3 on Crataegus

Caligula jonasii L5 caterpillar
Caligula jonasii L5 on Crataegus

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Antherina suraka

When you are new to breeding moths, Antherina suraka is probably the best species to start with. Not only are both the moths and the caterpillars very colorful, they are also one hundred procent idiot proof. The caterpillars forgive almost every basic mistake you will make and are almost impossible to kill. Besides that they eat about every shrub and tree you have in the garden. Good choices are privet and hawthorn. Forgotten what you were feeding them? No problem: they go from one kind of plant to another like nothing happened. On top of all that, they grow real quick. The caterpillars go in only a few weeks from hatchling to full grown caterpillar. Moths follow about a month after pupating.

Antherina suraka L3 caterpillar
Antherina suraka L3 on Ligustrum

Antherina suraka L4 caterpillar
Antherina suraka L4 on Ligustrum

Antherina suraka L5 caterpillar
Antherina suraka L5 on Ligustrum

Friday, 18 April 2014

Silkmoth of the week: Automeris naranja

This week's silkmoth is a smaller species from tropical South America. Automeris naranja is not difficult to breed and the caterpillars will accept several Rosaceae (Crataegus, Malus, Pyrus, Prunus, Rosa,  ...). I kept them on Crataegus. Caterpillars are very social and live in groups their entire lives. Because of their small size they can be kept in a plastic box, covered with fine mesh at the top. Getting them to pair is an entirely different story. Not that it requires anything special, but the moths eclose over several months. You need some luck to have a male and a female at the same moment.

Automeris naranja male defensive position
Automeris naranja male - defensive position

Automeris naranja female resting position
Automeris naranja female - resting position

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The next wave

Eggs continue to hatch. Each species adding more and more work. It's becoming rather time consuming, all those hungry mouths to feed. The breeding season isn't even at its peak yet. Yesterday, I received eggs of five more species, all from the good people of The Ovogram Site. I will tell you more about this community later, but if you're serious about breeding insects (and other invertebrates) you should already be a member. Google it and join, it's not a hoax.

Brahmaea japonica L2 caterpillar
Brahmaea japonica L2 on Ligustrum

Eriogaster lanestris L2 caterpillars
Eriogaster lanestris L2 on Betula

Epiphora mythimnia L2 caterpillar
Epiphora mythimnia L2 on Ceanothus

Acanthobrahmaea europaea L1 caterpillar
Acanthobrahmaea europaea L1 on Ligustrum

Lebeda trifascia L1 caterpillars
Lebeda trifascia L1 on Quercus

Monday, 14 April 2014

Aglia tau

Aglia tau or the Tau Emperor is one of the three species of Saturniidae that can be found in Belgium. They are not difficult to breed as long as you give them enough space. In all stages caterpillars dislike company. Overcrowding is the fastest way to kill them all. As long as you keep this in mind you will have no problem seeing caterpillars develop. They start as a strange creature with long spikes on their front section. With each shedding of the skin these spikes become shorter and shorter, making the animals less and less interesting to look at. Nothing would suspect that the green, inconspicuous adult caterpillars will next spring turn into one of Europe's most attractive moths.

Aglia tau L1 caterpillar
Aglia tau L1 on Corylus

Aglia tau L3 caterpillar
Aglia tau L3 on Corylus

Aglia tau L5 caterpillar
Aglia tau L5 on Corylus

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Silkmoth of the week: Bunaea alcinoe

Bunaea alcinoe or the Cabbage Tree Emperor Moth is a large silkmoth not uncommon in most part of tropical Africa. The caterpillars grow quite large and are black with white and red thorns. They accept a wide variety of food plants, including most fruit trees. African people collect and eat the caterpillars.

Cabbage tree emperor moth Bunaea alcinoe female
Bunaea alcinoe female - origin: Tropical Africa

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Saturnia pyretorum

The first of the Saturnia pyretorum caterpillars started spinning its cocoon yesterday. The rest of them will follow soon as they are all in the final instar. I have raised them on Liquidambar in mesh cages with a lot of air movement. Pretty much as you would do with Saturnia pyri. At room temperature they grow very fast. As you can see, the caterpillars are very striking. This particular strain is from Taiwan. They will now hibernate untill late winter/early spring next year.

Saturnia pyretorum caterpillar L3
Saturnia pyretorum L3 on Liquidambar

Saturnia pyretorum caterpillar L5 close up
Saturnia pyretorum L5 on Liquidambar

Saturnia pyretorum caterpillar L5
Saturnia pyretorum L5 on Liquidambar

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Lebeda mystery solved

Lebeda trifascia male
Lebeda trifascia male - origin: Northern Thailand
Yes, that was fast. Today Dr. Vadim Zolotuhin mailed me that the Lebeda I showed earlier this week is definitely not nobilis. It is for 100% sure Lebeda trifascia. This species has 2 generations a year and moths from the spring generation are always smaller then those in autumn. I think we can trust that the identification is now correct. Dr. Zolotuhin is one of the rare entomologists on the planet specializing in Lasiocampidae.

So mystery solved. That's a good thing. Bad thing is that I bought eggs of Lebeda trifascia last week ...

Lebeda trifascia - origin: Northern Thailand

Friday, 4 April 2014

And some not so tiny ...

Coscinocera hercules has always been one of my favorites. For a very long time this species was difficult to obtain in Europe, but recent years it is offered more often, although still rather pricey. When kept warm enough (25°C or more) it is not difficult to breed. Caterpillars feed upon Prunus species, Salix, Ligustrum and even Cotoneaster. Within a few weeks I will be able to post some pictures of the imagines.

Coscinocera hercules L4 caterpillar
Coscinocera hercules L4 on Prunus laurocerasus 
Coscinocera hercules L5 caterpillar
Coscinocera hercules L5 on Prunus laurocerasus

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

A blast of tiny caterpillars

Caligula simla hatchling on Betula

Actias isis hatchling on Ligustrum

Attacus atlas L2 on Ligustrum

Caligula jonasii L2 on Crataegus

Rhodinia grigauti L1 on Crataegus

Antherina suraka L2 on Ligustrum
Spring has come early this year resulting in an explosion of young caterpillars. Hundreds of eggs have hatched the last few days. And a lot more is yet to come...

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Saturnia (Caligula) japonica

Caligula japonica L3 caterpillar
Caligula japonica L3 on Salix

Caligula japonica L4 caterpillar
Caligula japonica L4 on Salix

Caligula japonica L5 caterpillar
Caligula japonica L5 on Crataegus

Caligula japonica cocoon
Caligula japonica cocoon

Almost all the Caligula japonica caterpillars have made their cocoons now. This species is very easy to breed on osier willow (Salix viminalis) or hawthorn (Crataegus). They prefer cages with a lot of air movement and normal room temperature. Moths will eclose this autumn.