Friday, 31 October 2014

Silkmoth of the week: Actias luna

For decades now, Actias luna is in the top three of most popular and most bred silkmoth species. This must be everyone's favorite and you can't say that you are a moth breeder unless you have done this Actias at least once. It's without any doubt one of the best species to start this hobby with. If you are new, I would say this is the top five to begin with:

1. Samia ricini
2. Actias luna
3. Antheraea pernyi
4. Samia cynthia
5. Antherina suraka

The rest of the top ten would look like this:

6. Actias selene
7. Antheraea polyphemus
8. Automeris io
9. Saturnia pavonia
10. Actias artemis

With these species you can't go wrong. Of course there are plenty of other 'easy' species as soon as you have gained some experience. Most are not so difficult as long as you know what you are doing. That's why there are no Attacus species in the top ten, although every beginner wants to start with them. Don't let you tell otherwise: Attacus species are not easy to breed and not suitable for beginners. They require more attention then the average silkmoth. You best practice a while with other species before you start breeding an Attacus. You will avoid some disappointment.


Actias luna male
Actias luna male - Origin: USA

Actias luna female
Actias luna female - Origin: USA

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Trabala vishnou guttata

There ain't that many popular Lappets in captivity. Only a few tropical species are more wellknown, although not always easy to obtain. Some of the Asian members of the Trabala genus are amongst those. That's because both the caterpillars and the moths are quite colorful. These species are not very large, certainly not the males. The difference in size between males and females is that obvious, that you can even see which caterpillars are male and which are female. Breeding in the summer months isn't difficult in large plastic boxes with a mesh cover. They have multiple generations a year and will even brood continuously when kept warm. In the summer the best food plant is oak. Rhododendron, Rubus, Eucalyptus and Camelia are good alternatives during the winter months.


Trabala vishnou guttata caterpillar
Trabala vishnou guttata final instar on Quercus robur

Trabala vishnou guttata caterpillar
Trabala vishnou guttata final instar on Quercus robur

Trabala vishnou guttata caterpillar
Trabala vishnou guttata L4 on Quercus robur

Trabala vishnou guttata caterpillar
Trabala vishnou guttata L3/L4 on Quercus robur

Trabala vishnou guttata caterpillar
Trabala vishnou guttata L3 on Quercus robur

Trabala vishnou guttata caterpillar
Trabala vishnou guttata L1 on Quercus robur

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Hippotion celerio

Getting the eggs of Hippotion celerio became a rather long story. Because eggs develop in only a few days when warm, the first batch hatched in the mail. The second got lost, the thirth batch wasn't fertile and the fourth hatched in the mail again. It finally took five attempts to get some caterpillars. Of course, once I had them, all the next batches arrived safely, so I ended up with three unrelated broods and a lot of caterpillars.  The caterpillars are very easy to keep. Young instars do best in small plastic boxes on Epilobium, but should be moved to netted cages from the thirth instar on. Then they will also more easily accept other food plants like Oenothera, Fuchsia, Rumex, Polygonum, Arum, Cissus, Impatiens and many more. Full grown, the caterpillars reach a length of seven centimeters and come in different colors from almost black to green and everything in between.


Hippotion celerio caterpillar
Hippotion celerio L5 on Oenothera

Hippotion celerio caterpillar
Hippotion celerio L4 on Oenothera

Hippotion celerio caterpillar
Hippotion celerio L3 on Epilobium

Hippotion celerio caterpillar
Hippotion celerio L2 on Epilobium

Hippotion celerio caterpillar
Hippotion celerio L1 on Epilobium

Friday, 24 October 2014

Silkmoth of the week: Saturnia (Caligula) jonasii

Aah, autumn, I really hate this season. Usually, I still have quite a lot of caterpillars going and have to go cut branches in the rain, each day reminding me that I have to learn to time this better so that I have less work when it gets cold and wet. It's also the season that a lot of species eclose. Caligula jonasii from Japan is one of those. When temperatures drop and humidity rises the moths start flying. This is one of the smaller Caligulas. The eggs overwinter in the fridge and can be brought out somewhere in april or as soon as the Crataegus has leaves again. The caterpillars, which I posted earlier this year, are not very interesting, reason why I will not continue this brood, even though the moths are quite nice.


Caligula jonasii female
Caligula jonasii female - Origin: Japan

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Gastropacha horishana

The Taiwanese Gastropacha horishana is definitely in the top five of this years species I enjoyed most. Lappets have always been my favorites, but this one has a few extras. The caterpillars grow very large, the largest (and last to pupate) reached an impressive length of ten centimeters. They are easy to breed in netted cages on Quercus robur. There is yet a lot to learn about them. This species has not been bred often in Europe, so a lot is still unknown. They have at least two generations each year, but now that they have pupated I have no clue what to do with them. Do I need to keep them cooler so that the pupae overwinter and eclose next year or do I need to keep them warm so that they produce another generation? But what to do when they do produce another generation? The only known food plants are Quercus and Betula, something I don't have in winter ...



Gastropacha horishana caterpillar
Gastropacha horishana final instar on Quercus robur

Gastropacha horishana caterpillar
Gastropacha horishana final instar on Quercus robur

Gastropacha horishana caterpillar
Gastropacha horishana final instar on Quercus robur

Gastropacha horishana caterpillar
Gastropacha horishana L5 on Quercus robur

Gastropacha horishana caterpillar
Gastropacha horishana L3 on Quercus robur

Gastropacha horishana caterpillar
Gastropacha horishana L1 on Quercus robur

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Automeris hesselorum

Last year I kept this species on Quercus robur without any problem. So after hatching of the eggs I gave them oak again, For some reason they weren't very happy on it. Growth was so slow that I eventually moved them to Robinia. After doing that, the rest of the development was normal again. I'm not sure what is wrong with the oak this year, but I had several species that I had to move to other food plants. It's a bit weird, because the leaves look OK. Maybe too much pollution this year? Anyway, the last of them are now pupating after six weeks of growth. The female caterpillars did get larger then last year, to almost seven centimeters. 


Automeris hesselorum caterpillar
Automeris hesselorum L7 on Robinia

Automeris hesselorum caterpillar
Automeris hesselorum L7 on Robinia

Automeris hesselorum caterpillar
Automeris hesselorum L6/L5/L4 on Robinia

Automeris hesselorum caterpillar
Automeris hesselorum L3/L2 on Robinia

Automeris hesselorum caterpillar
Automeris hesselorum L2 on Quercus

Friday, 17 October 2014

Owlmoth of the year: Brahmaea japonica

Oeps, I totally forgot about them and didn't place the pupae in winter storage. Now that temperatures are dropping, circumstances are about perfect for them to emerge. Not that it matter much, there is plenty of privet around here, in case I would have a pairing from them. This species is no longer considered to be a subspecies of Brahmaea wallichii. The difference between japonica and wallichii justify full species status. Only by looking at their caterpillars I think that is the right decision. These owlmoths only occur in Japan and have a wingspan in between eight and twelve centimeters. 

Brahmaea japonica male
Brahmaea japonica male - Origin: Japan


Brahmaea japonica female
Brahmaea japonica female - Origin: Japan

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Actias luna

It's always fun to redo one of the classics. This is the first silkmoth I had when I was still a kid, a long time ago. There is a good reason why this species is so popular. Besides the very attractive moths, they have caterpillars which are nearly indestructable. Everybody can breed this species, even when you know absolutely nothing about breeding insects.  Feed them Juglans or Carya leaves, keep them above 18 degrees Celsius and within four weeks you will have the first cocoons. Only two weeks after that, the first moths appear. You can also choose to breed them on Liquidambar. There are other, less good alternatives like Salix, Rhus and Betula. The mortality on these plants is often (not always) a lot higher, so only use these when you run out of the 'normal' food plants.


Actias luna caterpillar
Actias luna L5 on Juglans

Actias luna caterpillar
Actias luna L5 on Juglans

Actias luna caterpillar
Actias luna L4 on Juglans

Actias luna L2 on Salix cinarea

Actias luna L1 on Juglans

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Syssphinx molina

Usually Syssphinx species are a little bit tricky to breed. If you can't provide a living plant then don't even try, caterpillars wont make it past the second instar. This however is not the case for Syssphinx molina. As long as you keep them in netted cages they will do great, even on cut branches. The fact that they eat Quercus only contributes to the ease of breeding. It's not the largest silkmoth though. Caterpillars don't grow larger then six or seven centimeters. The pupae need to be kept in an unheated room all winter, not in the fridge. Moths emerge late spring/early summer next year.



Syssphinx molina caterpillar
Syssphinx molina L5 on Quercus robur

Syssphinx molina caterpillar
Syssphinx molina L5 on Quercus robur

Syssphinx molina caterpillar
Syssphinx molina L4 on Quercus robur

Syssphinx molina caterpillar
Syssphinx molina L3 on Quercus robur

Syssphinx molina caterpillar
Syssphinx molina L2 on Quercus robur

Syssphinx molina caterpillar
Syssphinx molina L1 on Quercus robur

Friday, 10 October 2014

Silkmoth of the week: Actias sinensis

Of course they did not hibernate, that would have been too easy. All the moths are eclosing. As the Liquidambar is rapidly dropping its leaves and as I really do not want to use my Eucalyptus for an Actias, I have no other choice then to end this brood. They were a great species to have, easy and with large and attractive moths. The wingspan of this Chinese species is around twelve centimeters, more or less the same as for Actias selene. As you can see there is a huge difference in the colors of the males and the females. Females are much paler then the yellow males.


Actias sinensis male
Actias sinensis male - Origin: China

Actias sinensis female
Actias sinensis female - Origin: China

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Hyles lineata

Hyles lineata is the American counterpart of the Euro-African Hyles livornica. For long time livornica was considered to be a subspecies of lineata. Today they are seen as two distinct species. Behaviour and breeding is the same for both. Best food plants are primroses (Oenothera) and willowherbs (Epilobium). Other plants out of the Onagraceae and Lythraceae families like Fuchsia, Clarkia, Lythrum and Cuphea are good alternatives. Full grown caterpillars have a length of eigth centimeter. First instars are best kept in small plastic boxes. Older caterpillars are most happy in netted cages, but can be kept in plastic boxes as well. Development is extremely fast. The first of my caterpillars started pupating already after three and a half week.
 

Hyles lineata caterpillar
Hyles lineata L5 on Oenothera

Hyles lineata caterpillar
Hyles lineata L4 on Oenothera

Hyles lineata caterpillar
Hyles lineata L3 on Oenothera

Hyles lineata caterpillar
Hyles lineata L2 on Oenothera

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Brahmaea wallichii

The awful European summer, with August temperatures more normal for the end of April, had some interesting side effects like the Brahmaeas producing a second generation. That's how I got eggs and caterpillars in September. Caterpillars did grow as fast as in spring. After four weeks the first caterpillars already turned orange and started to search a good spot to pupate. When you compare these pictures with the pictures of the Brahmaea japonica caterpillars I showed on this blog earlier this year, you can see that the coloration of these caterpillars is quite different. As for all Brahmaeas the best food plants are Ligustrum species. Fraxinus is a good alternative, but keep in mind that cut Fraxinus leaves are hard to keep fresh and that Brahmaeas are quite sensitive to poor quality food.


Brahmaea wallichii caterpillar
Brahmaea wallichii L5 on Ligustrum vulgare

Brahmaea wallichii caterpillar
Brahmaea wallichii L4 on Ligustrum vulgare

Brahmaea wallichii caterpillar
Brahmaea wallichii L3 on Ligustrum vulgare

Brahmaea wallichii caterpillar
Brahmaea wallichii L2 on Ligustrum vulgare

Brahmaea wallichii caterpillar
Brahmaea wallichii L1 on Ligustrum vulgare

Friday, 3 October 2014

Silkmoth of the week: Samia cynthia

Originally from temperate Asia (Russia, China and Japan), this species has been introduced in other parts of the world in an attempt to start a silk industry. This never became a succes, but moths escaped from the farms and survived in the wild in most part of temperate and tropical Asia. There are also populations along the American East Coast (from New York to Virginia) and in Southern Europe (Italy, Croatia and in scattered populations as far north as Paris). With a wingspan to twelve centimeters, an attractive coloration and caterpillars that eat almost everything they quickly became one of the most popular giant silkmoth species amongst hobbyists. Wild populations usually have only one generation in the summer, but captive cynthias can have two generations. The pupae of this species overwinter. That's why I only have one male to show. It was the only one who thought it was a great idea to do a second generation, the rest of the pupae are dormant and will probably stay that way until may or june next year.
 

Samia cynthia male
Samia cynthia male - Origin: Italy