Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Epiphora mythimnia

Of the two Epiphora species that are generally available, mythimnia is probably the easier one to breed. At least they do accept more different food plants then bauhiniae. Besides Ceanothus and Zizyphus, they will also do well on other Rhamnaceae like Rhamnus species. Epiphora bauhiniae does not grow well on Rhamnus. Reports of Betula used as food plant are erroneous. Young caterpillars will reluctantly start to eat. However mortality is so high that none of the caterpillars will make it to the final instar. If you do not have Rhamnaceae, then you should go for Euphorbiaceae. Croton is a natural host. Trying other plants out the spurge family like Homolanthus or even Euphorbia makes a lot more sense then Betula. Whatever you give them to eat, do not overcrowd, keep warm and dry with a medium humidity for best chance of success. They need five weeks of growth from first instar to cocoon.
 

Epiphora mythimnia caterpillar
Epiphora mythimnia L5 on Rhamnus frangula

Epiphora mythimnia caterpillar
Epiphora mythimnia L5 on Rhamnus frangula

Epiphora mythimnia caterpillar
Epiphora mythimnia L4 on Rhamnus frangula

Epiphora mythimnia caterpillar
Epiphora mythimnia L4 on Rhamnus frangula

Epiphora mythimnia caterpillar
Epiphora mythimnia L3 on Rhamnus frangula

Epiphora mythimnia caterpillar
Epiphora mythimnia L3 on Rhamnus frangula

Epiphora mythimnia caterpillar
Epiphora mythimnia L2 on Rhamnus frangula

Epiphora mythimnia caterpillar
Epiphora mythimnia on Rhamnus frangula

Sunday, 28 June 2015

The Sphingids: Daphnis nerii

After a pupal stage of only two weeks, the oleander hawkmoths (Daphnis nerii) hatched, even though temperatures in Belgium were still unusually low (with night temperatures below ten degrees Celsius). This large hawkmoth has no hibernation period and broods more or less continuously. And just when I was thinking to do less hawkmoths because they are not that spectacular, these colorful moths with their wingspan between eight and eleven centimeters appeared and made me change my mind. I will continue breeding Sphingidae and you will continue to see them on this blog. Daphnis nerii is a widespread species occurring throughout the Mediterranean, a large part of Africa, the Middle East and Arabia and further east throughout (sub)tropical Asia east to the Philippines.  This is a migratory species flying north as far as Denmark and parts of Russia. This species has also managed to reach Hawaii and has established a viable population over there.
Daphnis nerii female
Daphnis nerii - Origin: Borneo



Daphnis nerii male
Daphnis nerii - Origin: Borneo

Friday, 26 June 2015

Silkmoth of the week: Epiphora bauhiniae

The African Epiphora species are closely related to the Asian Samia and the North American Callosamia. Unfortunately, they are not nearly as easy to breed. The two most commonly available species are this one, Epiphora bauhiniae, and Epiphora mythimnia of which I will publish the caterpillars next week. There are a lot more species in this genus, but they are almost never traded in Europe. Epiphora bauhiniae is widespread throughout Africa from Senegal in the West to Kenya in the East and from Kenya southwards throughout parts of Tanzania, Zimbabwe and west into Namibia. Most of the Epiphora bauhiniae livestock offered in Europe comes from Senegal. In most part of its distribution there is only one flight.  Closely to the Equator, they produce a second generation. In captivity they usually eclose early July, but when you're equipped to control both temperature and humidity and thus able to mimic a second rain season, you can have a second generation late autumn, early winter. They are about the same size as a Samia ricini. Males are nine to ten centimeters, the females are a little larger with a wingspan to maximum eleven centimeter.


Epiphora bauhiniae male
Epiphora bauhiniae male - Origin: Senegal

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

The Lappet Show: Lasiocampa quercus

The oak eggar (Lasiocampa quercus) is without any doubt one of the most beautiful moths that can be found in Belgium. It is also one of our largest moths. The females have a wingspan up to eight centimeter. The males remain smaller, but still have a wingspan around six centimeter. This species is widespread and in many places very common. It occurs all across Europe (including the United Kingdom) and a large part of temperate Asia. However, in many countries there is a notable decline in numbers over the last decade. In a few more decades this species might not be so common anymore. There is only one generation, with moths on the wing from late June to August. 


Lasiocampa quercus female
Lasiocampa quercus female - Origin: Belgium

Lasiocampa quercus male
Lasiocampa quercus male - Origin: Belgium

Lasiocampa quercus female
Lasiocampa quercus female - Origin: Belgium

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Eacles imperialis anchicayensis

I enjoyed this brood so much that I took a lot more pictures then usual and because I couldn't decide which pictures to use, I'm just posting a lot of them. I'm pretty sure you wont mind. Anchicayensis is one of the many subspecies of Eacles imperialis. Although I wouldn't be surprised that one day this south american subspecies will be granted full species status. The animals look like typical Eacles caterpillars, but much more intense colored than Eacles imperialis larvae. Keep them warmer and more humid than imperialis. This means that the larvae are best housed in large plastic containers at living room temperature (or warmer). Within four to five weeks they are full grown, which is an impressive ten to twelve centimeter. English oak (Quercus robur) works well as food plant, but I'm convinced they accept many if not all of the typical Eacles imperialis food plants.


Eacles imperialis anchicayensis caterpillar
Eacles imperialis anchicayensis L5 on Quercus robur

Eacles imperialis anchicayensis caterpillar
Eacles imperialis anchicayensis L5 on Quercus robur

Eacles imperialis anchicayensis caterpillar
Eacles imperialis anchicayensis L5 on Quercus robur

Eacles imperialis anchicayensis caterpillar
Eacles imperialis anchicayensis L5 on Quercus robur

Eacles imperialis anchicayensis caterpillar
Eacles imperialis anchicayensis L5 on Quercus robur

Eacles imperialis anchicayensis caterpillar
Eacles imperialis anchicayensis L5 on Quercus robur

Eacles imperialis anchicayensis caterpillar
Eacles imperialis anchicayensis L4 on Quercus robur

Eacles imperialis anchicayensis caterpillar
Eacles imperialis anchicayensis L4 on Quercus robur

Eacles imperialis anchicayensis caterpillar
Eacles imperialis anchicayensis L4 on Quercus robur

Eacles imperialis anchicayensis caterpillar
Eacles imperialis anchicayensis L3 on Quercus robur

Eacles imperialis anchicayensis caterpillar
Eacles imperialis anchicayensis L2 on Quercus robur

Eacles imperialis anchicayensis caterpillar
Eacles imperialis anchicayensis L1 on Quercus robur

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Darapsa myron

I still haven't decided whether I like hawkmoths or not. Probably, I will never become their biggest fan. Some of the moths are quite nice I think, but most of the caterpillars aren't worth a second look, although there are some exceptions. All of them are good for a fast and uncomplicated brood. Same for the Darapsa myron caterpillars. They can be kept in plastic containers or in netted cages. A medium to low humidity gives the best results. The animals are quite tolerant when it comes to temperature and can be kept outdoors if you would want to. The higher the temperature, the faster they grow. With a temperature around 24 degrees Celsius they are full grown within less then four weeks. After that the larvae spin a loose cocoon at the bottom of the food plant. There are reports that this species feeds on Viburnum. I tried several different species but they didn't start to eat at all. I think it is best to stick to the major host plants Vitis (grape) and Parthenocissus (Virginia creeper). The pupal stage between the summer generations is very short (two weeks or less).


Darapsa myron caterpillar
Darapsa myron L5 on Parthenocissus

Darapsa myron caterpillar
Darapsa myron L5 on Parthenocissus

Darapsa myron caterpillar
Darapsa myron L4 on Parthenocissus

Darapsa myron caterpillar
Darapsa myron L3 on Parthenocissus

Darapsa myron caterpillar
Darapsa myron L3 on Parthenocissus

Darapsa myron caterpillar
Darapsa myron LL2 on Parthenocissus

Darapsa myron caterpillar
Darapsa myron L1 on Parthenocissus

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Amateur of the year: Jevgenij Azipha

The insect trade is full with scammers and amateurs. I don't mind the scammers much. They have all googled the same article 'How to scam people for dummies'. Usually you can spot them already on first contact. They have never cost me any money. The amateurs are worse. Basically they don't try to get your money and have actually the intention of sending something. These amateurs have cost me quite some money over the years. Most of them do not do it on purpose. They are just unaware of international law and the paperwork that comes with sending international parcels. Although it is their responsibility to take all the necessary precautions to assure the safe and timely arrival of the livestock. But ignorance is no crime. And usually you only have to explain once how it is done to turn them into great contacts and even friends who can provide many new species. 

The worst kind however are people like Jevgenij Azipha. People who are experienced enough to know they have to send with the proper paperwork but are just plain lazy and send parcels without any documentation. That they live in a third world country like the Ukraine is no excuse. When you want to do business in the civilized world you have to apply the rules of the civilized world. Meaning sending with export papers so that your customers livestock does not get stuck with customs for weeks. So that your customers do not have to pay extra to get their stuff released. So that parcels pass without unnecessary delay and the content is not dead on arrival and completely useless. Luckily this happened in Belgium. Our laws concerning import of silkmoths are quite liberal. If this would have been an American customer it could have been much worse. People like Jevgenij Azipha however do not care. Don't bother to send him an email to come to a settlement and refund of the costs. Mister Azipha shows a total disrespect towards his customers. No reply, no excuses for his mistakes, nothing. So next time you see one of his offers on Insectnet or Actias.de, resist the urge to buy. Go take a cold shower, run a marathon or whatever it is you do to counter your bad impulses. Remember this name: Jevgenij Azipha, winner of the award for 'Amateur of the year'. It's a kitschy plastic fist with a raised middle finger. Unfortunately it will never arrive in the Ukraine as it is send to him without the necessary export papers ...


Friday, 19 June 2015

A random display of silkmoths

Keeping this blog going is harder then it looks. And when you have topics like 'silkmoth of the week' you create expectations. After all, why call it 'of the week' when you only post once a month or so. Have you ever thought of the work that is behind all these posts? It's not only the taking care of the animals, but also making the pictures, making them ready to publish and writing some comments. At first I thought everybody would ignore the text and would only look at the pictures. Some readers have given me feedback and told me they actually read the stuff I'm writing. Not only do they read it, they even find it useful. 

Bunaea alcinoe male
Bunaea alcinoe male - Origin: Malawi

Samia cynthia walkeri female
Samia cynthia walkeri female - Origin: Italy

But sometimes a brood goes wrong. It happens to all of us. Not pleasant when it does and it also means in such cases that I can only show a male or a female. It doesn't always have to go wrong. There can be plenty of other reasons why there is only one picture instead of both the male and female. Sometimes they eclose over several months and I can no longer wait because I have ran out of silkmoths of the week. And sometimes the weather is too bad to make a decent picture outdoors, or they fly away before I can take the shot (happened only once), or I'm just too busy with work and other stuff. Plenty of reasons why there is only one picture in a post. 

Citheronia regalis male
Citheronia regalis male - Origin: USA


To solve this I have decided to create this new topic. It allows me to post more pictures of the same species later in the season or even years later. Sometimes it is fun to breed a species more then once and to experiment with other food plants or other breeding conditions. When I have additional information I will put it in this topic, if not there will only be pictures with no comment.

Anisota stigma female
Anisota stigma male - Origin: USA

Gonimbrasia zambesina female
Gonimbrasia zambesina female - Origin: Kenya


Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Dendrolimus pini

The Pine-tree Lappet (Dendrolimus pini) spends most of the year as caterpillar. The eggs hatch late summer. The caterpillars grow very slow. So slow that it is not uncommon that they sometimes overwinter twice. Even larvae from the same brood can have a different growth cycle, where part of the brood pupates after one year, while the rest continues to feed for another year. When kept outdoors they go dormant during winter. Indoors they continue to eat. This has no impact on the growth rate. Indoor caterpillars do not grow larger or pupate earlier then the outdoor ones. By the end of June or even July they are ready to spin their cocoons. The pupal stage is short.  Moths are on the wing from early July to the end of August. In the south of its distribution they start flying earlier. The caterpillars feed primarily on Pinus species, especially Pinus sylvestris, but can also be found on Picea and Abies. They grow to a length of seven centimeter.


Dendrolimus pini caterpillar
Dendrolimus pini final instar on Pinus sylvestris

Dendrolimus pini caterpillar
Dendrolimus pini final instar on Pinus sylvestris

Dendrolimus pini caterpillar
Dendrolimus pini L5 on Pinus sylvestris

Dendrolimus pini L4 on Pinus sylvestris

Dendrolimus pini caterpillar
Dendrolimus pini L2 on Pinus sylvestris

Dendrolimus pini caterpillar
Dendrolimus pini L1 on Pinus sylvestris

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Actias isis

Who does not want to breed Actias isis? They are amongst the largest Actias species and much sought-after. Do not make the mistake to keep them too warm or too humid. It is tempting to do so, knowing that they come from tropical Asia. Seriously, an average living room temperature is more then enough. The first three instars are best kept in plastic containers closed with fine netting. The last instars are less susceptible to diseases in large netted cages. Do not give wet leaves, do not spray the caterpillars with water. The larvae accept a much wider variety of food plants than commonly thought. Everybody knows they do well on Liquidambar and that they accept Eucalyptus gunnii reasonably well. However to my surprise, the best results I ever had was this year on Crataegus. Other food plants are Rosa (never had good results on it, but friends of mine experienced no problems) and Castanea (never tried that one myself). The moths will eclose in a few weeks.


Actias isis caterpillar
Actias isis L5 on Crataegus

Actias isis caterpillar
Actias isis L5 on Crataegus

Actias isis caterpillar
Actias isis L4 on Crataegus

Actias isis caterpillar
Actias isis L3 on Crataegus

Actias isis caterpillar
Actias isis L2 on Crataegus

Actias isis caterpillar
Actias isis L1 on Crataegus