Sunday, 30 November 2014

Something completely different

This post is completely out of scope, so will be the next one later this week. After those first two, I will post two more about my trip to Malawi, which will be about moths and thus more on topic. However, I enjoyed Malawi a lot and wanted to share some of my experiences. This vacation was not about catching moths. I wanted to see Malawi wildlife in general, including moths, butterflies and other insects. I have been to Africa before, quite often actually, mostly in the French speaking countries and each time I've been disappointed in the Africans, who are often quite hostile to 'white' people and still blame them for 'robbing' the richness out of their countries, forgetting that this is in most cases already more then half a century ago and ignoring the fact that in most countries most of the natural resources are still waiting to be exploited. Half a century should have been plenty of time for them to take matters in their own hands and rebuilding their countries. I guess it's easier to keep your hands up and beg for some money from those 'robbers' in stead of building your own future. The Malawi people seem to be different. They are very kind and gentle folks, always approaching white Europeans on an equal basis instead of former 'bosses' and with what seems to be a sincere interest in who you are and what you are doing in their country. Malawians also tend to be much more professional and totally debunk the myth that Africans can't read a clock.


Elephants in Liwonde National Park (Malawi)

Waterbucks in Liwonde National Park (Malawi)

Spur-winged Goose in Liwonde National Park (Malawi)

Hippos in Liwonde National Park (Malawi)

Crocodile in Liwonde National Park (Malawi)

Liwonde National Park landscape

Impalas in Liwonde National Park (Malawi)

Some sort of wild pigs in Liwonde National Park (Malawi)

The Malawi government also understands very well the economical value of the wildlife in their country. Several now well protected reserves and national parks have been established over the years. One of them is the Liwonde National Park, about an hour driving from the city Zomba and bordering lake Malombe. The Shire river runs through the park and is home to a large population of hippo's. They are really everywhere alongside the river.


Kingfisher in Liwonde National Park (Malawi)

When doing a boat trip on the river, you will encounter more then hippo's. Elephants can be spotted on the river shores and even in the river when they swim from one shore to the other. There are also crocodiles. Don't forget to look at the birds, you can spot hundreds of different species in the park including kingfishers and several kinds of eagles.


Kudu in Liwonde National Park (Malawi)

African fish eagles in Liwonde National Park (Malawi)

Hippo in Liwonde National Park (Malawi)

Liwonde National Park landscape

Nile monitor lizard in Liwonde National Park (Malawi)

Baboons in Liwonde National Park (Malawi)

Elephants in Liwonde National Park (Malawi)

The park has also an extra well protected area to preserve the black rhino population. You need special permission to enter this part of the park, but sometimes you can see one in the rest of Liwonde park. Chances are however small, these animals are shy and hide as soon as they hear a car approaching. On foot is the best way to find some. And no, nobody paid me to write all this, I had a great time in this park and if you have the chance you really should go and visit it yourself.














Friday, 28 November 2014

Silkmoth of the week: Loepa sikkima

Given the size of the caterpillars, I expected the moths to be small, but not like this. They are not just small, they are petite. The male in the picture was the first to eclose a week ago and had a wingspan of only five and a half centimeter. I have never seen a Loepa this small. The rest of them were a little bit larger, but none of them had a wingspan of more then six and a half centimeter. So, yes, you can breed this Chinese species on Salix, but no, you shouldn't do it, unless you really have no other suitable food plants available. Unless of course, this had nothing to do with the food plant, but more with inbred, in such cases moths are often very small and weak. Anyway, I was a bid disappointed. Luckily, the size doesn't show on the picture and they still made a great subject.


Loepa sikkima male
Loepa sikkima male - Origin: China

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Automeris nogueira

This Mexican Automeris nogueira is a species that you don't see often in captivity. In fact, when you do an internet search almost no pictures show up. I suppose they are quite rare in their natural habitat and thus not captured often. It is certainly not because they are so difficult to breed. They do well on Salix with a slight preference for Salix cinarea. I kept them in a netted cage. However, I think a large plastic box might have been better. Not for the caterpillars, but for the cut Salix, which tended to dry out rather quickly what wasn't very beneficial for the caterpillars growth. For that reason I would recommend breeding them sleeved on a potted willow if you have one. It makes things a lot easier. Caterpillars need about seven weeks to develop at a normal living room temperature and finally grow to about six or seven centimeters, the larger caterpillars being the females.


Automeris nogueira caterpillar
Automeris nogueira final instar on Salix cinarea

Automeris nogueira caterpillar
Automeris nogueira L7/L6/L5 on Salix cinarea

Automeris nogueira caterpillar
Automeris nogueira L4 on Salix cinarea

Automeris nogueira caterpillar
Automeris nogueira L3 on Salix cinarea

Automeris nogueira caterpillar
Automeris nogueira L2 on Salix cinarea

Sunday, 23 November 2014

The Lappet Show: Schausinna clementsi

And yet another African species, this time a Lappet from Zambia. There is almost nothing known about this moth. I know that besides Zambia, they have also been caught in Congo (RDC), but that's about all I know. They are medium sized. Males have a wingspan of five centimeters. Females look a lot the same but are larger and more robust, with a wingspan between seven and eight centimeters. Food plants are unknown, which does not make it any easier to find an European alternative. Well, if I manage to breed them, you will find out everything about them on this blog.


Schausinna clementsi male
Schausinna clementsi male - Origin: Zambia




Friday, 21 November 2014

Silkmoth of the week: Usta angulata

The African Usta angulata is not a large emperor moth. They have more or less the same size as the males of the European Saturnia pavonia. They even look a bit like the Saturnia species. Nevertheless they belong to a completely different subfamily of the giant silkmoths. Usta angulata occurs in Kenya, Tanzania and Somalia. This species is almost never bred in captivity. For most people in Europe and North America, finding the food plants will be a challenge. Typical African plants like Melia, Commiphora and Sclerocarya are even in the best garden centers hard to get. Schinus molle could be an alternative, maybe some of the evergreen Rhus, Searsia or Malosma will work as well, however so far I have not yet found anyone confirming this. So, if I get them to pair, the breeding will be highly experimental.


Usta angulata female
Usta angulata female - Origin: Kenya
Usta angulata male typical resting position
Usta angulata male typical resting position

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Samia ricini

Things are finally slowing down. Actually, I'm quite happy that they do and that I have only a few caterpillars left to take care of. Keeping this blog going was a lot of hard work. Seriously, can you imagine how much hours I must have spend taking care of all those species? For you it was easy, the only thing you had to do was sitting on your couch, sipping your beer and reading about them. But for me it was hours of blood, sweat and yes sometimes tears when they died despite all my good care. I really need a break. And next year I will not breed this many species, I mean it, I will not. Only a few, unless of course there are opportunities and many rare species available, in which case I will do a few more, but not too many, no, no, not too many. It was fun though. Even this Samia ricini, the ultimate classic, immune to maltreatment, poor quality of food, overcrowding and all those other things that often bring your broods to a premature end. So if after reading this blog, you've decided to come of your couch and start breeding some of your own, start with this one, you will not be disappointed. What they eat you wonder? Everything that has leaves in winter: Ligustrum, Prunus laurocerasus, Ilex, Photinia, Pyracantha and many many many more.


Samia ricini caterpillar
Samia ricini L5 on Prunus serotina

Samia ricini caterpillar
Samia ricini L5 on Prunus serotina

Samia ricini caterpillar
Samia ricini L5 on Prunus serotina

Samia ricini caterpillar
Samia ricini L3/L4 on Prunus serotina

Samia ricini caterpillar
Samia ricini L1/L2 on Prunus serotina

Sunday, 16 November 2014

The Lappet Show: Trabala vishnou guttata

Most Lappets come in shades of yellow and brown. Some are white, some are grey. Only a few species have more bright colors. The members of the Trabala genus are among those. The males of many Trabala have striking green wings. Trabala vishnou is no exception. The small males have a wingspan of five centimeters. Females are yellow and a lot larger with an average wingspan of seven, sometimes even eight centimeters. This species is widespread in Oriental Asia, from India to China and south throughout Indonesia and Malaysia. The subspecies guttata in this post is endemic to the island Taiwan, were it is quite common and where it sometimes become a pest on horticultural or street trees. The moths brood continuously and caterpillars are found all year.


Trabala vishnou guttata male
Trabala vishnou guttata male - Origin: Taiwan

Trabala vishnou guttata male
Trabala vishnou guttata male - Origin: Taiwan
Trabala vishnou guttata female
Trabala vishnou guttata female - Origin: Taiwan

Friday, 14 November 2014

Silkmoth of the week: Syssphinx molina

And yet another victim of our abnormal warm autumn. The pupae should have remained dormant until next spring. Should have, but didn't, all the moths emerged. Of course, this caused food plant issues even though this species has a quite varied diet. It just isn't that easy to find evergreen oaks or Fabaceae in Belgium. So I had to end the brood of this very beautiful species with quite large females (wingspan around eight centimeters) and a few centimeters smaller males (to around six centimeters). Their distribution ranges from Mexico in the north to French Guyana in the south. They have multiple generations a year.


Syssphinx molina female
Syssphinx molina female - Origin: Mexico
Syssphinx molina male
Syssphinx molina male - Origin: Mexico

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

The occasional hawkmoth: Hyles lineata

After a very cold summer we had an exceptional warm autumn, with October temperatures higher then in August, so it wasn't much of a surprise that all the Hyles lineata pupae hatched. This species continues to brood as long as day temperatures stay above 15 degrees Celsius. Luckily this American hawkmoth has many foodplants that are available even in winter (like Fuchsia, Cissus and the winter rosettes of Oenothera, ...), so no worries there. It is a lovely medium sized hawkmoth with a wingspan to nine centimeters. This species occurs from Peru, throughout Central America into the USA and migrating as far north as southern Canada. 


Hyles lineata
Hyles lineata - Origin: USA

Hyles lineata
Hyles lineata - Origin: USA

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Actias selene

These got me worried for a while. Most of them did grow quite fast and pupated within six weeks after hatching, but there were quite a few that stayed behind a bit. Meanwhile more and more leaves on the hawthorn shrubs started to yellow and it looked like I would run out of food. And although they also eat evergreens like Prunus laurocerasus and Rhododendron, you never know for sure whether a caterpillar in its final instar will make the switch or not. Eventually I did not had to try. The last one pupated this week. I will keep the cocoons cooler in an unheated room to overwinter them. However, Actias selene moths have usually a will of their own and hatch whenever they like, even when kept cool, so don't be to surprised when I post the moths in a few weeks.


Actias selene caterpillar
Actias selene L5 on Crataegus

Actias selene caterpillar
Actias selene L5 on Crataegus

Actias selene caterpillar
Actias selene L3 on Crataegus

Actias selene caterpillar
Actias selene L2 on Crataegus

Actias selene caterpillar
Actias selene L1 on Crataegus

Friday, 7 November 2014

Silkmoth of the week: Othorene verana

Well, no stopping these guys, even with day temperatures way below 20 degrees Celsius, the pupae still hatched. That's unfortunate, because I wanted to continue this brood, but my evergreen oaks are still too young to use for caterpillars of this size. I will search for another food plant, but I'm not sure they will accept other plants then oaks. The moths look like oversized Anisotas. Females have an average wingspan of eleven centimeters, males are smaller but still at least eight centimeters. It doesn't show on the pictures but males have more pink on their wings then the females and are actually very colorful. This species lives in Central America, from Mexico south to Panama.


Othorene verana male
Othorene verana male - Origin: Mexico

Othorene verana female
Othorene verana female - Origin: Mexico

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

The Lappet Show: Gastropacha horishana

Only one day after I posted the caterpillars of the Taiwanese Gastropacha horishana on this blog, the first moths were already eclosing. I guess that answers the question whether they hibernate through winter or not. Maybe when you immediately place the cocoons in a much cooler room they will, but as long as you keep them at room temperature they will continue to produce next generations, so far at least three since May this year. At the moment I have already two confirmed pairings giving me plenty of eggs to search for an alternative food plant besides Quercus. If I'm able to find additional food plants, I will post an update on this blog. It would be great if I manage to continue this brood. The moths are very nice and quite large. Females have an average wingspan of 7,5 centimeters. The males remain smaller with a wingspan of only five centimeters.


Gastropacha horishana female
Gastropacha horishana female - Origin: Taiwan

Gastropacha horishana male
Gastropacha horishana male - Origin: Taiwan

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Loepa sikkima

The caterpillars of Loepa sikkima didn't grow as large as they should have done and did already pupate when they were only six centimeters tall. I'm not sure why. Of course, Loepa sikkima is not the largest Loepa species, but still, they should have grown more. Was it because of the food plant? I used Salix instead of their natural hosts (Vitaceae). Or was it because it was too late in the season and the food plant was not as nutritious as earlier in the year? Or were they inbred? Whatever the reason, I'm going to have very small moths. 


Loepa sikkima caterpillar
Loepa sikkima L5 on Salix cinarea

Loepa sikkima caterpillar
Loepa sikkima L5 on Salix cinarea

Loepa sikkima caterpillar
Loepa sikkima L4 on Salix cinarea

Loepa sikkima caterpillar
Loepa sikkima L2 on Salix cinarea

Loepa sikkima caterpillar
Loepa sikkima L1 on Salix cinarea