Friday, 29 January 2016

The Sphingids: Hyles 'Sammuti'

The first adults of the Maltese Hyles 'Sammuti' hatched this week after a pupal stage of four weeks. That's not unusual in captivity. When kept at living room temperature and sprayed regularly, they will brood continuously. On Malta they can be found almost year round. This species has multiple flights between February and December. However, this depends very much on the weather conditions, there can be short or longer breaks in between flights. Too hot and dry and the pupae will wait for better days, same for when it gets too cold. Some pupae can remain dormant for months or even years. The wingspan is somewhere between six and seven and a half centimeter. The moths look similar to Hyles tithymali mauretanica from Morocco.


Hyles sammuti
Hyles 'Sammuti' - Origin: Malta

Hyles sammuti
Hyles 'Sammuti' - Origin: Malta


Friday, 22 January 2016

Gynanisa maja

I bet you thought you couldn't breed this species, because you were convinced that they only eat Acacias and other shrubs and trees out of the Legume family (Fabaceae). And of course, when you're living too far north, it is nearly impossible to find a plant out of this family that has leaves in the middle of the winter. Which, unfortunately, is the season that most eggs are available. Many pupae hatch during our winter, simply because this corresponds with the wet season in many parts of southeast Africa. It is possible to keep the pupae in diapause by keeping them relatively dry and around fifteen to eighteen degrees Celsius. I used to do this too, but many pupae die before spring. That's why I no longer try to overwinter African pupae. Just keep them warm and with a higher humidity, so that they hatch in their natural season. OK, yes, there is the issue of finding good quality food plants in the winter. But, I do think it's better to struggle to keep the caterpillars alive, then not to have a brood at all because too many pupae died and you no longer have enough moths to get a chance of a successful pairing. In case of Gynanisa maja, there actually is no food problem at all. They do eat evergreen oaks (Quercus) and also Prunus laurocerasus. I'm not saying that these are the best plants to use, but they are well enough accepted to have a very nice winter brood with extremely beautiful caterpillars. It is of utmost importance to keep them very warm. Lower temperatures will slow down their activity (including eating) and make them more vulnerable to diseases.


Gynanisa maja caterpillar
Gynanisa maja final instar on Prunus laurocerasus

Gynanisa maja caterpillar
Gynanisa maja final instar on Prunus laurocerasus

Gynanisa maja caterpillar
Gynanisa maja final instar on Prunus laurocerasus

Gynanisa maja caterpillar
Gynanisa maja final instar on Prunus laurocerasus

Gynanisa maja caterpillar
Gynanisa maja L4 on Prunus lauroceraus

Gynanisa maja caterpillar
Gynanisa maja L4 on Prunus lauroceraus

Gynanisa maja caterpillar
Gynanisa maja L4 on Prunus laurocerasus

Gynanisa maja caterpillar
Gynanisa maja L4 on Prunus laurocerasus

Gynanisa maja caterpillar
Gynanisa maja L4 on Prunus laurocerasus

Gynanisa maja caterpillar
Gynanisa maja L4/L3 on Prunus laurocerasus

Gynanisa maja caterpillar
Gynanisa maja L3/L2 on Prunus laurocerasus

Gynanisa maja caterpillar
Gynanisa maja L3 on Prunus laurocerasus

Gynanisa maja caterpillar
Gynanisa maja L2 on Prunus laurocerasus

Gynanisa maja caterpillar
Gynanisa maja L1 on Prunus serotina

Friday, 8 January 2016

Hyles 'Sammuti'

What happens when you take an isolated island in the Mediterranean sea and some vagrant Hyles species on the shores of neighboring countries? On Malta it resulted in what seems to be a complex hybrid population, consisting out of three lineages. The name 'Sammuti' refers to a mixture of two younger migrants Hyes euphorbiae from the north and Hyles tithymali from the south, mixed with an older lineage that is referred to as Hyles 'melitensis', an endemic species that is completely absorbed into the 'Sammuti' hybrid. The caterpillars resemble more the tithymali caterpillars. They feed on different Euphorbia species, including characias in captivity. The caterpillars like it warm and develop fast. Within four weeks they are seven to eight centimeter long and ready to pupate. This is one of the few European hawkmoths that or not so difficult to breed in the middle of the winter. Just keep them warm and in a sunny spot in front of a south facing window. When you take a potted Euphorbia and throw some fine netting over it, they grow entirely problem free. 


Hyles 'Sammuti' caterpillar
Hyles 'Sammuti' L5 on Euphorbia characias

Hyles 'Sammuti' caterpillar
Hyles 'Sammuti' L5 on Euphorbia characias

Hyles 'Sammuti' caterpillar
Hyles 'Sammuti' L5 on Euphorbia characias

Hyles 'Sammuti' caterpillar
Hyles 'Sammuti' L5 on Euphorbia characias

Hyles 'Sammuti' caterpillar
Hyles 'Sammuti' L4 on Euphorbia characias

Hyles 'Sammuti' caterpillar
Hyles 'Sammuti' L3/L4 on Euphorbia characias

Hyles 'Sammuti' caterpillar
Hyles 'Sammuti' L3 on Euphorbia characias

Hyles 'Sammuti' caterpillar
Hyles 'Sammuti' L2 on Euphorbia characias

Hyles 'Sammuti' caterpillar
Hyles 'Sammuti'  L1 on Euphorbia characias

Friday, 1 January 2016

Most wanted 2016

Happy New Year! I wish you all a very successful breeding season 2016. This is the time for those annoying New Year's Resolutions. Promises, promises, never intended to be kept. At first I thought to write something about my intention to breed less species this year. It's a lot of work and very time consuming to keep as many different moths as I've done since I have this blog. A bit less wouldn't hurt. But then I thought: why make promises that will probably already be broken before the end of the month? So instead of fooling every one and especially myself that it's not going to be the worst year ever, I have decided to write a post about the species I really would like to breed during the next breeding season. If it's going to take all my free time once more, let it be with species that are on my most wanted list for quite some time now...





1. Anthelidae
Also known as the Australian Lappets, this family is in fact closer related to the Saturniidae and Sphingidae then to the true Lappets (Lasiocampidae). Most of the 94 species in this family occur in Australia. Only a few penetrate northwards into New Guinea. Many of these species are medium to large sized moths. Most of them have very beautiful, hairy caterpillars. I have never had a species out of this family. Time to change that ...

2. Kunugia divaricata
3. Any other Asian and Australian Lasiocampid
4. Any North and South American Lasiocampid
5. Any other Lasiocampid not yet displayed on this blog
What can I say, I'm a huge fan of the Lasiocampidae family. It doesn't matter much if it's one of the smaller Malacosoma species or the huge Gonometa, all of them are more then welcome. Unfortunately, it is rather difficult to get live stock from these species. However, I will do my best to show more Lappets this year.

6. Any Automeris not yet on this blog
Why? Because you can never have enough Automeris caterpillars. Although many species look very similar and are not always that easy to keep apart, the caterpillars are usually very nice. And because they are gregarious during the first part of their lives, the caterpillars do not require as much space as some other species.

7. Apatelodes torrefacta
You probably wonder what this moth looks like. Well, not that special. The American silkmoths (Apatelodidae) are related to the true silkmoths (Bombycidae). I wouldn't mind having other species out of this family. I only chose torrefacta because this North American species is not so rare and probably my best chance of ever breeding one of the Apatelodes species. By the way, these species are not bred for their moths, but for their very attractive caterpillars. Go ahead: do a quick web search and see that I'm right...

8. Maltagorea species
Madagascar and the surrounding area has a lot more to offer than Argema mittrei. And although I'm probably going to breed mittrei once more, I am aiming for something more exciting. One Maltagorea, just one, that is all I'm asking for ...

9. Eupterote species
This blog is about Lasiocampidae and all the families of the Bombycoidea, still there are some important families missing. Since I started this blog, I have not been able to obtain one of the more then 300 species of Monkey Moths. It's becoming embarrassing. I'm especially looking for members of the Eupterote genus, but really, any other species out of the Eupterotidae family will do. So all Asian and African readers: please, please, please, help me to get at least one Monkey Moth this year.

10. Lophostethus dumolinii
Those who have been following my blog since the beginning, know that I usually don't get overly enthusiastic when talking about hawkmoths (Sphingidae). But I do admit that some species are absolutely worth breeding. Therefore my number ten in the most wanted list: Lophostethus dumolinii, the ultimate prove that hawkmoth caterpillars don't have to be boring at all.