Friday, 30 September 2016

Silkmoth of the week: Actias maenas

The fun thing about species like Actias maenas is that you never have to wait long before you can see the moths. The pupal stage is usually less then three weeks. In captivity they brood continuously. Even though it is possible to slow down the development a little by playing with the temperature and the humidity, doing so is not recommended. Better is to let them develop naturally. This is a fantastic species, especially the males. The wingspan is between twelve and fourteen centimeter. Actias maenas is widespread throughout the warmer parts of Asia; from India through Nepal and southern China to Laos and Vietnam. Southwards, they occur throughout Thailand and Malaysia, down to Indonesia. Several subspecies have been described.


Actias maenas male
Actias maenas male - Origin: Laos

Actias maenas female
Actias maenas female - Origin: Laos

Friday, 23 September 2016

Silkmoth of the week: Citheronia laocoon

I think I have a new favorite: Citheronia laocoon. This lovely species occurs in South America, from French Guiana, Brasil and Bolivia, south to Paraguay and Argentina. It's one of the smaller species in the genus. The males have a wingspan in between six and a half and nine centimeter. The females are larger with a wingspan between nine and eleven centimeter. In captivity they brood continuously as long as there are high temperatures (above 25 degrees Celsius) and a medium to high humidity. With lower temperatures and humidity the pupae can remain dormant for several months. However, there is no need to try to overwinter them. The caterpillars feed on several evergreen plants which can easily be found in most part of the temperate region, like Ligustrum and Prunus laurocerasus.


Citheronia laocoon male
Citheronia laocoon male - Origin: Argentina

Citheronia laocoon male
Citheronia laocoon male - Origin: Argentina

Citheronia laocoon male
Citheronia laocoon male - Origin: Argentina

Citheronia laocoon male
Citheronia laocoon male - Origin: Argentina

Friday, 16 September 2016

Argema mimosae

When I started this blog, I had to start somewhere in between two breeding seasons. In the first year of these pages I published several species as caterpillars or as moths only, but not both stages. Usually this was because they were common species and I didn't wanted to continue the brood for yet another generation. Afterwards I regretted that decision. I should have continued them to display all stages. Should have, but didn't. I'm now trying to get stock of all of them to complete what I started a few years ago.

The African Argema mimosae is one of those species. It's by far the easiest to breed of the Argema species and also the most frequently sold member of this genus. Despite what you can read on the Internet, the larvae prefer dry conditions instead of high humidity. That they like high temperatures is correct though, although they tolerate fairly low temperatures as well. The lower the temperature the slower the growth. When kept above 25 degrees Celsius they grow very fast and spin a cocoon after four to five weeks. With lower temperatures it can take six to seven weeks. The most difficult part is to get the freshly hatched caterpillars to eat. It can take one or two days before they start, some never do. Some people say you can speed up the process by keeping them completely dark for 24 hours. I've tried this several times, it didn't made the slightest difference. It rarely does. I know only very few species that actually benefit from a stay in the dark. Argema mimosae accepts many different plant species, but has a preference for Anacardiaceae (Rhus, Malosma, Cotinus, Sclerocarya, ...) and Liquidambar. It's also possible to breed them on Eucalyptus. Fully grown they are between seven and eight centimeter long.

Argema mimosae caterpillar
Argema mimosae final instar on Rhus typhana

Argema mimosae caterpillar
Argema mimosae final instar on Rhus typhana

Argema mimosae caterpillar
Argema mimosae final instar on Rhus typhana

Argema mimosae caterpillar
Argema mimosae final instar on Rhus typhana

Argema mimosae caterpillar
Argema mimosae final instar on Rhus typhana

Argema mimosae caterpillar
Argema mimosae final instar on Rhus typhana


Argema mimosae caterpillar
Argema mimosae final instar on Rhus typhana

Argema mimosae caterpillar
Argema mimosae final instar on Rhus typhana

Argema mimosae caterpillar
Argema mimosae L4 on Rhus typhana

Argema mimosae caterpillar
Argema mimosae L4 on Rhus typhana

Argema mimosae caterpillar
Argema mimosae L3 on Rhus typhana

Argema mimosae caterpillar
Argema mimosae L3 on Rhus typhana

Argema mimosae caterpillar
Argema mimosae L2 on Rhus typhana

Argema mimosae caterpillar
Argema mimosae L1 on Rhus typhana

Friday, 9 September 2016

Silkmoth of the week: Eacles imperialis decoris

This common and widespread subspecies of Eacles imperialis is found throughout Central America, from Mexico to Costa Rica. It's only one of the around a dozen subspecies that are described for this species. And yes, I'm planning to publish them all, one by one. They might be common, they are still among my favorite moths. Females are larger then males and have a wingspan around fourteen centimeter. Males are somewhere between ten and twelve centimeter. There are multiple flights per year, all depending of course on local conditions (temperature and humidity). In captivity minimum two (late Spring and Autumn). The pupae overwinter in a cool room, around twelve degrees Celsius. 


Eacles imperialis decoris male
Eacles imperialis decoris male - Origin: Mexico

Eacles imperialis decoris female
Eacles imperialis decoris female - Origin: Mexico

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Actias maenas

Actually, I wanted to display the Automeris liberia males that hatched this week, but it turned out otherwise. It has been a busy week for me, with not enough free time left to take pictures of the first males. The last male hatched yesterday. It was the only chance I had of taking a few decent pictures. So I did what I always do and took the moth into the city park, placed it at a suitable spot and took some photos of the creature with the wings closed. So far so good. And then again I did what I always do, I gave the moth a gentle push. But instead of flashing it's hind wing eye spots, the damn creature just flew away into a forty meter tall oak tree. No way to retrieve that one. Without the hind wings - the most interesting part of an Automeris moth -to show, I've decided not to publish this male and to search for fresh stock instead and make some proper pictures as soon as I have them back.

Instead, you are now looking at Actias maenas caterpillars. I'm sure you will not mind too much. This Asian Actias species is one of the most spectacular species in the genus. And .... they are extremely easy to breed. In fact, the hardest part of breeding Actias maenas is obtaining fresh stock. Once those eggs hatch, it's all very basic. Food - clean cage - dry - warm, that's all you need to remember. The best food plants are Liquidambar and Eucalyptus, however they are fairly polyphagous. Alternatives are Castanea, Crataegus, Rhus and many more. The pupal stage will only be a couple of weeks. 


Actias maenas caterpillar
Actias maenas L5 on Liquidambar

Actias maenas caterpillar
Actias maenas L5 on Liquidambar

Actias maenas caterpillar
Actias maenas L5 on Liquidambar

Actias maenas caterpillar
Actias maenas L5 on Liquidambar

Actias maenas caterpillar
Actias maenas L5 on Liquidambar

Actias maenas caterpillar
Actias maenas L4 on Liquidambar

Actias maenas caterpillar
Actias maenas L4 on Liquidambar

Actias maenas caterpillar
Actias maenas L4 on Liquidambar

Actias maenas caterpillar
Actias maenas L3 on Liquidambar

Actias maenas caterpillar
Actias maenas L3 on Liquidambar

Actias maenas caterpillar
Actias maenas L2 on Liquidambar
Actias maenas caterpillar
Actias maenas L1 on Liquidambar