Friday, 25 December 2015

Attacus atlas

Just a sample of the pictures I took this year. I had several broods throughout the year on Prunus, Ligustrum, Salix and a mix of Ilex and Fraxinus. The list of accepted food plants is a few pages long. There is always a suitable plant in your neighborhood. But, watch out, not all the plants on the list give such good results. This is the reason why many breeders stick with the favorite plants: Ligustrum, Prunus and Salix. Atlas is one of the largest moths on the planet. The caterpillars are equally impressive. They are full grown within seven to eight weeks, depending on temperature. Now for the most important question: are they easy to breed or not? I wish I had an answer to that. They can be everything from ridiculously easy to nearly impossible to keep alive. Everything depends on your local breeding conditions. I know breeders with more experience then me, who can't keep them alive. I have difficulties to keep them healthy during our summer months, but have no problems from October to March, when the central heating is on and I can control temperature and humidity much better. It's trial and error. Most likely you will kill a few broods in the process. Don't give up, after a while you will know what works best for your breeding conditions.


Attacus atlas caterpillar
Attacus atlas final instar on Ligustrum ovalifolium

Attacus atlas caterpillar
Attacus atlas final instar on Ligustrum ovalifolium

Attacus atlas caterpillar
Attacus atlas final instar on Ligustrum ovalifolium

Attacus atlas caterpillar
Attacus atlas L5 on Prunus serotina

Attacus atlas caterpillar
Attacus atlas L5 on Prunus serotina

Attacus atlas caterpillar
Attacus atlas L4 on Prunus serotina

Attacus atlas caterpillar
Attacus atlas L4 on Prunus serotina

Attacus atlas caterpillar
Attacus atlas L4 on Prunus serotina

Attacus atlas caterpillar
Attacus atlas L4 on Prunus serotina

Attacus atlas caterpillar
Attacus atlas L3 on Salix cinerea

Attacus atlas caterpillar
Attacus atlas L3 on Prunus serotina

Attacus atlas caterpillar
Attacus atlas L2 on Ligustrum ovalifolium

Attacus atlas caterpillar
Attacus atlas L1 on Prunus laurocerasus

Friday, 18 December 2015

Some Antheraea jana color forms

Correctly identifying moths isn't always easy. Often there are several species flying in the same area that look very similar. Having information such as the date they were collected or the elevation can help a lot. Closely related species often occupy different ecological niches. Some fly at different months of the year. Sometimes a species flies only at lower elevations, while another very similar one can be found higher in the mountains.  But some species make it very difficult by being extremely variable. Antheraea jana is one of those. Some color forms are so different that it is hard to believe they are the same species. It would have been less surprising when the moths in the pictures came from different locations. That a species has local forms throughout its range isn't so unusual. Having them all together in the same area is a lot less common. All the moths in the pictures below came from the same village on east Java (Indonesia). And these are not even all the color forms of this species. There are also more orange looking females and males that are almost as brown as the female below.


Antheraea jana male
Antheraea jana male - Origin: Indonesia

Antheraea jana male
Antheraea jana male - Origin: Indonesia

Antheraea jana female
Antheraea jana female - Origin: Indonesia

Antheraea jana female
Antheraea jana female - Indonesia

Monday, 14 December 2015

Actias dubernardi

Actias dubernardii caterpillars resent extreme temperatures. When it gets warmer then twenty four degrees Celsius or colder then fifteen, they get into trouble. If it is only for one day then they don't mind too much. However after a week most of them will start to die. This makes them the ideal species to breed during our winter months. They grow very well inside the house, in a well ventilated room where temperatures can be controlled to stay within their preferred range. And what about the humidity? Just keep it on the medium side. I know that there are breeders out there that say that it should be a high humidity and as many breeders that say the exact opposite. I have never worried about the humidity and never sprayed the caterpillars with water. But Belgium usually has a rather high humidity during autumn and winter, the only time of the year that I breed this species. So probably, when you live in a very dry area, you should watch the humidity more carefully. And can they be bred on cut branches or is it absolutely necessary to keep them sleeved on living plants? That is a good question and there are definitely a lot of old wives tales about this. Why not compromise? Pull out a young pine tree and pot the plant. You will be amazed how easy this is. Pine seedlings up to a meter tall can be pulled out the ground with very little effort thanks to their very shallow root system. Once potted you can pull a sleeve over the plant. These transplanted pines will stay fresh for two weeks. Knowing that the caterpillars need six to seven weeks to develop, you are good for a very low maintenance brood. Just check if there are still enough needles on the plant and change every two weeks. During one brood you only have to change the pine three or four times. It doesn't get any easier. I have used this technique for years now and is has never failed me.


Actias dubernardi caterpillar
Actias dubernardi L5 on Pinus sylvestris

Actias dubernardi caterpillar
Actias dubernardi L5 on Pinus sylvestris

Actias dubernardi caterpillar
Actias dubernardi L4 on Pinus sylvestris

Actias dubernardi caterpillar
Actias dubernardi L4 on Pinus sylvestris

Actias dubernardi caterpillar
Actias dubernardi L3 on Pinus sylvestris

Actias dubernardi caterpillar
Actias dubernardi L3 on Pinus sylvestris

Actias dubernardi L3/L2 on Pinus sylvestris

Actias dubernardi caterpillar
Actias dubernardi L2 on Pinus sylvestris

Actias dubernardi caterpillar
Actias dubernardi L1 on Pinus sylvestris

Friday, 11 December 2015

Silkmoth of the week: Attacus lorquinii

Lorquinii is one of the smaller species in the Attacus genus, although still good for a wingspan up to twenty two centimeter. In captivity they usually do not reach this maximum size and stay around eighteen or nineteen centimeter. What they lack in size, they make up in color. Especially the females are amongst the most intense colored Attacus moths. This species only occurs on some of the islands of the Philippines. They brood continuously and are ideal to keep during the winter. The caterpillars eat some of the more commonly available evergreens, like Ligustrum and Prunus. 


Attacus lorquinii male
Attacus lorquinii male - Origin: Philippines

Attacus lorquinii female
Attacus lorquinii female - Origin: Philippines

Monday, 7 December 2015

Periphoba rosacea

I started this Mexican species on Prunus serotina. I usually use black cherry for breeding Periphoba species. They really thrive on it. This time, some early night frost caused the cherry leaves to yellow a bit earlier then most years, so I switched to Prunus laurocerasus. Even though they were already in the sixth instar they continued eating like nothing happened. I think they did not even noticed the difference. Like all Periphoba, these caterpillars are best kept in well ventilated plastic containers. Wet leaves will not make them sick. Just do not keep them in very humid conditions all the time and avoid condensation inside the container. But when it's raining and you have very little time, just give them the leaves, they do not mind too much. At a normal room temperature they grow into a nine centimeter tall caterpillar in five to six weeks. When the backs of the animals take a reddish color, move them to small individual containers lined with some kitchen paper. This is the best way to get perfectly formed pupae. Just be careful while handling them. Like all Periphoba they have a very nasty sting.



Periphoba rosacea caterpillar
Periphoba rosacea L7 on Prunus laurocerasus

Periphoba rosacea caterpillar
Periphoba rosacea L7 on Prunus laurocerasus

Periphoba rosacea caterpillar
Periphoba rosacea L7 on Prunus laurocerasus

Periphoba rosacea caterpillar
Periphoba rosacea L7 on Prunus laurocerasus

Periphoba rosacea caterpillar
Periphoba rosacea L6 on Prunbus serotina

Periphoba rosacea caterpillar
Periphoba rosacea L6 on Prunus serotina

Periphoba rosacea caterpillar
Periphoba rosacea L5 on Prunus serotina

Periphoba rosacea caterpillar
Periphoba rosacea L5 on Prunus serotina

Periphoba rosacea caterpillar
Periphoba rosacea L4 on Prunus serotina

Periphoba rosacea caterpillar
Periphoba rosacea L3 on Prunus serotina

Periphoba rosacea caterpillar
Periphoba rosacea L2 on Prunus serotina

Periphoba rosacea caterpillar
Periphoba rosacea L1 on Prunus serotina

Friday, 4 December 2015

Silkmoth of the week: Ceranchia apollina

Not that many species endemic to Madagascar make it to Europe, but the ones that do are spectacular. From the Saturniids, there are three species offered regularly: Argema mittrei, Antherina suraka and this one Ceranchia apollina. Especially the males are very beautiful with their white, black and orange colors. The females are a bit more dull, more grey than black. This is a fairly large species, with a wingspan around twelve centimeter. The pupae need high temperatures (minimum 25°C) and high humidity in order to hatch. That does indeed sound like a bathroom. Just take them with you when you go take a shower and move them back in the living room afterwards to keep them warm. Moths usually eclose in the morning. The males are active in the late afternoon and start searching for a female already the same day they hatch. Same goes for the females, who start calling for a partner in the afternoon of the first day. Females have only a short lifespan (four days). Males can get more then a week old.




Ceranchia apollina male
Ceranchia apollina male - Origin: Madagascar


Ceranchia apollina female
Ceranchia apollina female - Origin: Madagascar


Ceranchia apollina female
Ceranchia apollina female - Origin: Madagascar

Monday, 30 November 2015

The Lappet Show: Paralebeda vritra

My Paralebeda species from southern Sulawesi turned out to be more interesting than expected. When even the experts respond with enthusiasm after seeing the images, you know you have something special. Have a look at the pictures. This is Paralebeda vritra, a species endemic to Sulawesi (Indonesia). Have a really good look, it probably will take a very long time before you will see them again. This stock was identified by Dr Vadim Zolotuhin. He should know, after all he was the first to describe the species (together with J.D. Holloway) in 2006.  The pupal stage only takes two weeks, indicating that there are multiple flights per year. In addition to the food plants I already mentioned when I published the caterpillars (Liquidambar and Alnus), I can also confirm that they accept Corylus and that they switch from Alnus to Corylus and back without any hesitation. 

Paralebeda vritra female
Paralebeda vritra female - Origin: Indonesia

Paralebeda vritra female
Paralebeda vritra female - Origin: Indonesia

Paralebeda vritra male
Paralebeda vritra male - Origin: Indonesia

Paralebeda vritra male
Paralebeda vritra male - Origin: Indonesia

Paralebeda vritra male
Paralebeda vritra male - Origin: Indonesia

Friday, 27 November 2015

Silkmoth of the week: Attacus suparmani

Wow. Attacus suparmani. Have you ever seen these alive? Probably not. This species comes from the Lesser Sunda Islands (Indonesia), from Alor to be more precise.  They are a little smaller than the Atlas moth, but still an impressive twenty two centimeter for the females and around nineteen centimeter for the males. Although they can be found pretty much year round, the peak flight is somewhere between november and february. And with this, you know everything I know about this species.


Attacus suparmani female
Attacus suparmani female - Origin: Indonesia


Attacus suparmani male
Attacus suparmani male - Origin: Indonesia