Friday, 30 January 2015

Silkmoth of the week: Gonimbrasia zambesina

Getting imported pupae to hatch at the same moment is always a little bit more difficult then with captive bred livestock, especially the African species. The male zambesina in this picture is the fourth moth since November. Luckily, I had twenty pupae en thus there are still a good number left. I hope the rest of them will wait until spring. The caterpillars are quite spectacular and not so difficult to breed. Gonimbrasia zambesina is one of the more common species of giant silkmoths, widely distributed throughout Eastern Africa from Kenya south to South Africa and west to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The females look the same as the males but have heavier bodies.


Gonimbrasia zambesina male
Gonimbrasia zambesina male - Origin: Kenya

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Bunaea alcinoe

Somehow, it's always more fun to breed something you caught yourself. That's the only reason why there are so many pictures this time. And of course, because the Bunaea alcinoe caterpillars are large and spectacular. The animals in this post are all the offspring of the female I caught on the Zomba Plateau in Malawi past November. Eggs hatched after two weeks. This species does not need very high temperatures to develop, an average living room will be fine. Keep them in large plastic boxes to compensate for the low humidity when you have the central heating on. Close the boxes with a mesh cover to allow for some air movement. After six weeks the caterpillars are full grown and will start to search for a good place to burrow in. I kept all the eggs of this female myself to do some food plant experimenting. Hedera helix turned out to be the best plant to use. Mortality on this plant is zero. The worst plant to use is Ligustrum ovalifolium. Only six out of thirty caterpillars made it to the finish (in otherwise same circumstances). So better stick to Hedera helix. When living in Europe that should not be a problem. It's the most common evergreen available, most likely it will grow somewhere near your house.
 

Bunaea alcinoe caterpillar
Bunaea alcinoe L5 on Hedera helix

Bunaea alcinoe caterpillar
Bunaea alcinoe L5 on Hedera helix

Bunaea alcinoe caterpillar
Bunaea alcinoe L4 on Hedera helix

Bunaea alcinoe caterpillar
Bunaea alcinoe L4 on Hedera helix

Bunaea alcinoe caterpillar
Bunaea alcinoe L3 on Hedera helix

Bunaea alcinoe caterpillar
Bunaea alcinoe L2 on Hedera helix

Bunaea alcinoe caterpillar
Bunaea alcinoe L1 on Hedera helix

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Alytarchia amanda part 2

All this time I thought I was breeding Alytarchia leonina. When in Malawi I took pictures of the adults and they were definitely leonina. But I should have looked more closely, because to my surprise it was Alytarchia amanda that came out of the pupae. Apparently both species fly on the Zomba plateau and at least one of the adults wasn't leonina. Amanda is a quite common species throughout most part of sub Saharan Africa. Given the very short pupal stage, I suppose that, at least in captivity, they brood continuously all year as long as they are kept warm enough. 


Alytarchia amanda
Alytarchia amanda - Origin: Malawi

Alytarchia amanda
Alytarchia amanda - Origin: Malawi

Friday, 16 January 2015

Silkmoth of the week: Automeris noguiera

This might very well be the first picture of Automeris nogueira on the internet. It's a lovely small species from Mexico that looks like a cross between Automeris naranja and Automeris frankae. Males have a wingspan of five centimeters. Unfortunately I'm not able to show any females. The few pupae I had were all male. The moths started to eclose six weeks after pupating and after I sprayed the cocoons with water. I think they will remain dormant when kept cool and dry like many other Mexican species.  I didn't try to overwinter them though. With only male pupae I couldn't continue the brood anyway.


Automeris nogueira male
Automeris nogueira male - Origin: Mexico

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Radiarctia lutescens part 1

This is exactly why I never breed tigermoths. Filthy creatures. The caterpillars are polyphagous on lower plants. They like a mix of Rumex, Plantago, Brassica, Rubus, Vigna and most Asteraceae (Taraxacum, Lactuca, Hieracium, Senecio, Achillea, Tanacetum, several thistles, ...). Leaves of many of these plants contain a high percentage of water resulting in lots and lots of very moist droppings. Disgusting. And they are fast. I must admit, it was a little bit funny seeing them sprint towards freedom each time I opened the cage. It all became a lot less funny, when hours later, I could still find the ones that managed to escape everywhere in the living room. I'm not entirely sure that I have identified this species correctly. When in Malawi, I just placed all the yellowish tigermoths together in one large paper bag. They belonged to different species, but Radiarctia lutescens was the most common, so for now, I just assume that it was lutescens that laid the eggs. If necessary I will change the heading of this post after the moths have hatched.
 

Radiarctia lutescens caterpillar
Radiarctia lutescens L5 on Lactuca

Radiarctia lutescens caterpillar
Radiarctia lutescens L4 on Tanacetum

Radiarctia lutescens caterpillar
Radiarctia lutescens L4 on Tanacetum

Radiarctia lutescens caterpillar
Radiarctia lutescens L3 on Rumex

Radiarctia lutescens caterpillar
Radiarctia lutescens L1 on Rumex

Friday, 9 January 2015

Silkmoth of the week: Saturnia (Caligula) simla

Caligula simla is one of the larger Caligula species. It is found in India and Pakistan and from there east to Northern Vietnam and China. This is a species from higher elevations in mountainous regions that will only start to fly after temperatures have dropped very low (ten degrees Celsius or even lower at night). In it's natural habitat this usually is between October and the end of November. In captivity, when kept indoors in an unheated room, pupae can often remain dormant until January or February. This makes it very difficult to have males and females together, as they hatch over several months. The eggs of this species need to be kept in the fridge until April. As soon as the Birch (Betula) trees start to get new leaves, eggs can be taken out and kept at room temperature until they hatch.


Caligula simla male
Caligula simla male - Origin: Vietnam

Caligula simla female
Caligula simla female - Origin: Vietnam

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Alytarchia amanda part 1

This is one of the tigermoth species I brought home from Malawi. Many of the eggs dried out during transport. Only five hatched. In Africa the caterpillars feed upon Crotalaria species. In Europe Cytisus (broom) is a good alternative, leading me to believe that they will probably accept many other Genistoids. The caterpillars grow to about four centimeters. At a normal living room temperature they start spinning a very thin, transparent cocoon within less than a month. They use so few silk that it looks like the pupae are just hanging in the air. I will probably be able to show the moths in a week or two.


Alytarchia amanda caterpillar
Alytarchia amanda L5 on Crotolaria

Alytarchia amanda caterpillar
Alytarchia amanda L5 on Cytisus

Alytarchia amanda caterpillar
Alytarchia amanda L4 on Cytisus

Alytarchia amanda caterpillar
Alytarchia amanda L3 on Cytisus

Alytarchia amanda caterpillar
Alytarchia amanda L2 on Cytisus

Friday, 2 January 2015

Owlmoth of the year: Brahmaea wallichii

I'm glad that I was able to make at least one picture of this beautiful Brahmaea from southern China. Taiwan, Bhutan, Myanmar and northern India. Most of the pupae already hatched while I was in Africa and by the time I got back home the moths were to damaged to take pictures off. This is one of the few remaining that did not hatch then. This species is significantly larger than Brahmaea japonica with a wingspan around fourteen centimeters. There is very little difference between males and females. Usually, they have only one flight each year in early spring, but in captivity, under the right circumstances, wallichii can have an autumn flight as well. 


Brahmaea wallichii female
Brahmaea wallichii female - Origin: China