Friday, 27 March 2015

Philotherma species Malawi

Finally, the last caterpillars of the species I collected in Malawi are full grown and will start to pupate any moment now. This Philotherma is a very large Lappet that was fairly common on the Zomba plateau. I have to see the imagines again to be sure whether this is Philotherma rosa or something else. Eggs took over a month to develop and hatched after a sudden but temporary increase in humidity (mimicking rainfall). Young caterpillars fully consume the egg shell. Only after three to five days they switch to leaves. All this time it is important to provide fresh food. Do not panic or change the plant species every day, eventually they will settle and start to eat. Offering other kinds of food plants will only confuse them and prolong the process. Mine ignored everything accept Rubus fruticosus. Larger caterpillars (2 cm +) however switch without hesitation to Prunus laurocerasus. Once started they are quite easy to breed in large plastic boxes on dry leaves. Because they originate from the higher and cooler elevations of the Zomba Plateau, they do not require hot conditions. An average living room temperature is enough. After three months of growth they reach an impressive ten centimeter. The long hairs on their bodies are soft and nonirritating. Caterpillars can be touched without any problem. I have no idea how long the pupal stage will be, but I do hope to show the attractive moths very soon.
Update: Identified as Philotherma rosa, see post from 16 november 2015.


Philotherma species Malawi
Philotherma species final instar on Prunus laurocerasus

Philotherma species Malawi
Philotherma species L9 on Prunus laurocerasus

Philotherma species Malawi
Philotherma species L9 on Prunus laurocerasus

Philotherma species Malawi
Philotherma species L6 on Prunus laurocerasus

Philotherma species Malawi
Philotherma species L5 on Prunus laurocerasus

Philotherma species Malawi
Philotherma species L4 on Rubus fruticosus

Philotherma species Malawi
Philotherma species L3 on Rubus fruticosus

Philotherma species Malawi
Philotherma species L2 on Rubus fruticosus

Philotherma species Malawi
Philotherma species L1 on Rubus fruticosus

Friday, 20 March 2015

Silkmoth of the week: Saturnia pavoniella

To see the caterpillars of the Southern Emperor Moth (Saturnia pavoniella) you will have to go back to my post of June first last year. This species has only one flight each year from February to Mai. The cocoons stayed in the fridge until the beginning of March. Only two weeks after taking them out of the fridge they started to hatch. Males and females are not difficult to keep apart. Males are smaller and have orange rear wings, while those of the females are white and grey. The wingspan of this species is somewhere between 45 and 70 mm for the males and between 50 and 95 mm for the females. The distribution of this species is limited to Alpine regions across the Mediterranean east to Turkey and the Caucasus and north to the Czech Republic Where the distribution of pavoniella overlaps with that of the Small Emperor Moth (Saturnia pavonia) they can easily be mistaken for the latter. You need to look very closely to detect the minor differences between both species.


Saturnia pavoniella male
Saturnia pavoniella male - Origin: Czech Republic

Saturnia pavoniella female
Saturnia pavoniella female - Origin: Czech Republic

Saturday, 14 March 2015

The Lappet Show: Eriogaster lanestris

And another early species: Eriogaster lanestris. Depending on local conditions this species flies in March or April. Usually moths hatch almost immediately after the cocoons are taken out of the fridge. Or at least most of them do. This species is known for often overwintering as pupae more than once. The longest period ever recorded were moths hatching after a pupal stage of ten years. At this moment I have about half of the moths (mostly males and one cripple female) flying around, while the other half of the cocoons seem to do nothing. It's not the most impressive of Lappets. The males have a wingspan of around three centimeters. The females are only a little larger, with a wingspan of four centimeters. This species is widespread throughout Europe and temperate Asia east to the Amur river. Unfortunately the populations of this tent caterpillar are rapidly declining in Western Europe. More to the east it remains still quite common.


Eriogaster lanestris male
Eriogaster lanestris male - Origin: Czech Republic

Eriogaster lanestris male
Eriogaster lanestris male - Origin: Czech Republic

Saturday, 7 March 2015

The Endromids: Endromis versicolora

Finally, spring is in the air! Time to take some pupae out of the fridge. Endromis versicolora is one of the first to emerge. They are very eager to hatch. The first ones already crawled out of their pupae a few hours out of the fridge. In the wild, moths fly in March and April, depending on the temperatures. As soon as day temperatures start to rise their search for a partner begins. This coincides with the birches sprouting.  The females are larger and paler and night active, while the more copper colored males fly both day and night. The wingspan is between five and six centimeters. This used to be the only species in the Endromidae family, but recently a lot of other species have been added. Most of them formerly belonged to the closely related true silkmoths (Bombycidae). Endromis versicolora is widespread throughout Europe, from the United Kingdom to most of Russia.


Endromis versicolora male
Endromis versicolora male - Origin: Belgium

Endromis versicolora pair
Endromis versicolora pair - Origin: Belgium

Endromis versicolora female
Endromis versicolora female - Origin: Belgium