Sunday, 31 May 2015

Daphnis nerii

There are not many of them, but they do exist: great looking hawkmoth caterpillars. And they are European. Well, actually the caterpillars in the pictures are not European. They are coming from Borneo. But they could have been European though. This species does live over here and very rarely this migrant flies north to Belgium. Not that I have ever seen them in my garden, each year only a handful Belgians do. No, that is not because there are so little Belgians to do the sightings, it's because only a few moths make it this far north. The best news is that you do not need oleander (Nerium) to breed the Oleander Hawkmoth. They grow very well on Ligustrum ovalifolium. And on many other plants like Coffea, Gardenia, Asclepias, Gomphocarpus, Vinca, Vitis, Jasminum, Mangifera, etc etc etc. Fully grown they reach a length of eight centimeter. It only takes four weeks before they start to pupate.


Daphnis nerii caterpillar
Daphnis nerii L5 on Ligustrum ovalifolium

Daphnis nerii caterpillar
Daphnis nerii L5 on Ligustrum ovalifolium

Daphnis nerii caterpillar
Daphnis nerii L4 on Ligustrum ovalifolium

Daphnis nerii caterpillar
Daphnis nerii L4 on Ligustrum ovalifolium

Daphnis nerii caterpillar
Daphnis nerii L3 on Ligustrum ovalifolium

Daphnis nerii caterpillar
Daphnis nerii L2 on Ligustrum ovalifolium

Friday, 29 May 2015

Silkmoth of the week: Citheronia regalis

I hope those Americans appreciate how lucky they are having species like this flying in their neighborhoods. Europeans have to do with species a lot less spectacular than the Regal Moth (Citheronia regalis). The wingspan of these colorful moths goes from ten (males) to fifteen (females) centimeter. This species is found from Texas and Central Florida north to Missouri and Massachusetts. It is a rare species in the North, but in the south of the US the Regal Moth is quite common. Throughout most of its range it has a single generation. In the deep south and in captivity there can be two generations.


Citheronia regalis male
Citheronia regalis male - Origin: USA

Citheronia regalis female
Citheronia regalis female - Origin: USA




Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Lasiocampa quercus

What don't they eat? The list of plants the Oak Eggar (Lasiocampa quercus) accepts as food is incredibly long. The caterpillars eat all Rosaceae, Salix, Populus, Rhamnus, Betula, Ligustrum, Robinia, Trifolium, etc etc etc. and switch from one plant species to another without any hesitation. No wonder this medium sized European Lappet is so common. That and the fact that the females lay hundreds of eggs which they just drop in the vegetation without even looking for a good spot to deposit. Those eggs hatch in August. The caterpillars grow slowly and at the end of autumn they are about two centimeters long. They hibernate through winter and resume eating in spring. When you go out early autumn you can find the caterpillars everywhere on leaves sitting in the sun. There is no point in collecting them though. More then ninety percent of the larvae have parasites. Instead of having cocoons at the end of spring, you will have fly and wasp maggots sitting on dead caterpillars before winter even begins. It's better to attract a female, which is very easy. At the end of June and the beginning of July they come to almost every light source. Just leave the porch light on and you will have your female, it's as simple as that. A few days later you are trying to figure out what to do with those hundreds of eggs.

Lasiocampa quercus caterpillar
Lasiocampa quercus final instar on Prunus laurocerasus

Lasiocampa quercus caterpillar
Lasiocampa quercus L5 on Prunus laurocerasus

Lasiocampa quercus caterpillar
Lasiocampa quercus L4 on Prunus laurocerasus

Lasiocampa quercus caterpillar
Lasiocampa quercus L3 on Prunus laurocerasus

Lasiocampa quercus caterpillar
Lasiocampa quercus L2 on Prunus laurocerasus

Lasiocampa quercus caterpillar
Lasiocampa quercus L1 on Rubus fruticosus

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Rothschildia sandimasiana

I'm always on the look out for new species to breed, which is becoming increasingly difficult.  But sometimes I manage to get something quite rare. Rothschildia sandimasiana, go ahead, try to find some good quality pictures of this species. There are a few on the Internet, but not that many. This Mexican species is almost never bred in captivity. Don't know why. They are extremely easy under warm and very dry conditions.  I raised them on Prunus serotina. Most likely they will also accept Ligustrum and Ailanthus, possibly other typical Rothschildia food plants as well. Unfortunately the eggs are sensitive and die easily in the mail. Only four of them hatched. All four made it to the final instar and became fat, almost ten centimeter long caterpillars. Now, after five weeks, they are ready to pupate. The moths will probably eclose early summer.


Rothschildia sandimasiana
Rothschildia sandimasiana L5 on Prunus serotina

Rothschildia sandimasiana
Rothschildia sandimasiana L5 on Prunus serotina

Rothschildia sandimasiana
Rothschildia sandimasiana L5 on Prunus serotina

Rothschildia sandimasiana
Rothschildia sandimasiana L5 on Prunus serotina

Rothschildia sandimasiana L4 on Prunus serotina

Rothschildia sandimasiana
Rothschildia sandimasiana L4 on Prunus serotina

Rothschildia sandimasiana
Rothschildia sandimasiana L3 on Prunus serotina

Rothschildia sandimasiana
Rothschildia sandimasiana L2 on Prunus serotina

Rothschildia sandimasiana
Rothschildia sandimasiana L1 on Prunus serotina

Sunday, 24 May 2015

The Sphingids: Sphinx drupiferarum

It's always good to know a few Americans. Sometimes they come up with surprising species. In this case the Wild Cherry Sphinx (Sphinx drupiferarum). By all means a very typical Sphinx species, but one I had only seen on pictures before. I really hope to get a pairing the next couple of days and to show the caterpillars later this year. It's one of the larger Sphinx species with a wingspan between eight and eleven centimeter. Usually there is only one flight in June and July. Only in the south of its distribution there can be two generations. The Wild Cherry Sphinx is found in Southern Canada and the United States south to Florida.


Sphinx drupiferarum
Sphinx drupiferarum - Origin: USA

Sphinx drupiferarum
Sphinx drupiferarum - Origin: USA

Sphinx drupiferarum
Sphinx drupiferarum - Origin: USA







Friday, 22 May 2015

Silkmoth of the week: Attacus atlas

I suppose the moths in the pictures below don't need any introduction. Attacus atlas, the largest moths on the planet when speaking of wing surface and probably the reason why so many of us started breeding moths. No matter how many times you've seen them, they still remain impressive creatures. Large females can have a wingspan of twenty-eight centimeter. Males are considerably smaller, usually around twenty centimeters. This species is common throughout southeast Asia from Pakistan to Japan and south throughout Indonesia to New Guinea. They can have multiple generations a year. This depends very much on temperature. Given the rather slow growing caterpillars and a pupal stage of several weeks or even months, two flights are usually the best you get when breeding them indoors, unless you keep them very warm and don't mind having their caterpillars in the middle of the winter.


Attacus atlas female
Attacus atlas female - Origin: Thailand

Attacus atlas male
Attacus atlas male - Origin: Thailand

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Gastropacha pardale

Not many Lappets find their way to Europe, so I'm always happy when I manage to obtain stock of a species that has not been on this blog before. Especially when it's a larger species like a Gastropacha. The pardale larvae grow relatively fast. Depending on temperature and probably also the quality of the food, they need 38 to 50 days to develop from hatchling to a seven centimeter tall caterpillar. The first instars are best kept completely dry in plastic boxes covered with a fine net to allow good air movement. Later instars do best in netted cages. This Asian species accepts a wide range of food plants. They do very well on Crataegus and during winter on Pyracantha. In their natural habitat they can be a minor pest on Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora). There are also reports that  they feed on Mangifera, Erythrina, Albizia and Camellia. They brood continuously. The moths will emerge in only a few weeks.


Gastropacha pardale caterpillar
Gastropacha pardale final instar on Crataegus

Gastropacha pardale caterpillar
Gastropacha pardale L6 on Crataegus

Gastropacha pardale caterpillar
Gastropacha pardale L6 on Crataegus

Gastropacha pardale caterpillar
Gastropacha pardale L5 on Crataegus

Gastropacha pardale caterpillar
Gastropacha pardale L4 on Crataegus

Gastropacha pardale caterpillar
Gastropacha pardale L3 on Crataegus

Gastropacha pardale caterpillar
Gastropacha pardale L2 on Crataegus

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Acanthobrahmaea europaea

The European Owlmoth (Acanthobrahmaea europaea) is not as easy to breed as its Asian relatives. Keys to success are the right temperature and food plant. Lets start with the temperature. This is not a tropical species. Further more, this Italian moth flies very early in spring when night temperatures are sometimes only a few degrees above freezing point. Breeding temperatures should be kept below twenty degrees Celsius during the day with a good difference between day and night temperature. Night temperature can be everything between 1 and 10 degrees. It doesn't matter that now and then temperatures are somewhat higher, however when temperatures stay systematically above this, most of the caterpillars will die. Then there is the food plant. Best choices are Ligustrum vulgare or Fraxinus. These are the natural hosts. The larvae will accept other species of Ligustrum, but usually don't grow well on them. Combine this with too high temperatures and you have the perfect recipe for failure.  But when done properly, this can be a very rewarding species to breed, with beautiful and fast growing caterpillars. It only takes four to five weeks before they start searching for a spot to pupate. After that the long wait for the adults begins. There is only one flight each year. The pupae overwinter and the moths emerge in February or March depending on temperature.


Acanthobrahmaea europaea L5 on Ligustrum vulgare

Acanthobrahmaea europaea caterpillar
Acanthobrahmaea europaea L4 on Ligustrum vulgare

Acanthobrahmaea europaea caterpillar
Acanthobrahmaea europaea L3 on Ligustrum vulgare

Acanthobrahmaea europaea caterpillar
Acanthobrahmaea europaea L3 on Ligustrum vulgare

Acanthobrahmaea europaea L2 on Ligustrum vulgare

Acanthobrahmaea europaea caterpillar
Acanthobrahmaea europaea L2 on Ligustrum vulgare

Acanthobrahmaea europaea caterpillar
Acanthobrahmaea europaea L1 on Ligustrum vulgare

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Sphinx kalmiae

I think I have never had caterpillars growing as fast as the Sphinx kalmiae did. The larvae in these pictures are the offspring of the moths I published April 17th. That night the moths paired and the next night they started depositing eggs. Only five days later the eggs hatched and today all the caterpillars have pupated. Three and a half weeks that's all it took. Needless to say that caterpillars growing this fast are also extremely easy to breed. The only thing you need to do is keep bringing them fresh leaves. Especially in the final instar they have an enormous appetite. They will accept many plants out of the Oleaceae and Ericaceae plant families. I gave them Ligustrum vulgare because I had another fast grower on it, which I will show later this week. So only because it was convenient. I could have used many other plants like other Ligustrum species, Syringa, Fraxinus, Rhododendron, Kalmia and many more. The pupal stage will be very short.


Sphinx kalmiae caterpillar
Sphinx kalmiae L5 on Ligustrum vulgare

Sphinx kalmiae caterpillar
Sphinx kalmiae L5 on Ligustrum vulgare

Sphinx kalmiae caterpillar
Sphinx kalmiae L5 on Ligustrum vulgare

Sphinx kalmiae caterpillar
Sphinx kalmiae L4 on Ligustrum vulgare

Sphinx kalmiae caterpillar
Sphinx kalmiae L3 on Ligustrum vulgare

Sphinx kalmiae caterpillar
Sphinx kalmiae L2 on Ligustrum vulgare

Sphinx kalmiae caterpillar
Sphinx kalmiae L1 on Ligustrum vulgare

Friday, 15 May 2015

Silkmoth of the week: Hyalophora cecropia

Although not the easiest species to breed, the large moths are definitely worth the effort. Very large females can have a wingspan of sixteen centimeter, making them the largest moths native to North America. The caterpillars grow to enormous sizes. You can find some of them in my post of July 13th last year. The distribution of this species reaches from Nova Scotia, west across southern Canada and the USA to the Rocky Mountains and south to Florida. Usually they have only one flight in May/June, but occasionally under the right conditions, there is a second flight early summer.

Hyalophora cecropia male
Hyalophora cecropia male - Origin: USA

Hyalophora cecropia female
Hyalophora cecropia female - Origin: USA