Friday, 24 February 2017

Owlmoth of the year: Brahmaea tancrei

The Siberian Owl Moth (Brahmaea tancrei) occurs in Eastern Russia (Amur, Siberia, Russian Far East) south to China and Korea. This species has only one flight per year. In the wild the moths are usually on the wing in April. In captivity the pupae should overwinter in the fridge for at least two months. Two to three weeks after you take the pupae out of the fridge you will see a mass emergence of the moths, all hatching within only a couple of days. This can be much earlier then April. I like to take them out quite early, to breed them again before the breeding season really starts. They feed upon Ligustrum so you can start breeding them whenever you're ready. The wingspan is between ten and twelve centimeter.


Brahmaea tancrei
Brahmaea tancrei - Origin: Russia

Brahmaea tancrei
Brahmaea tancrei - Origin: Russia


Saturday, 18 February 2017

Decachorda species Malawi

Wow, so many pictures today, must be something really special. But if so, how come you've never heard of a Decachorda, let alone seen one? That's because this one belongs to a group of very poorly studied African Saturnids. Not many people have ever had the opportunity to breed something out of the Decachorda genus. From most of these small moths, the early stages are still unknown. I'm not even going to begin to identify this down to species level. The entire genus needs a revision and more reliable descriptions of the different members. The female I caught in the Dzalanyama forest in Malawi is definitely a 'pomona' type. However, there were males of two different Decachorda flying in the same area. Very small, pinkish ones, that were unmistakably Decachorda rosea and some that were a lot larger and more orange/brown and a much better match in color and in size to this one female I caught. That's why I'm going to keep them as Decachorda cf pomona for now. I will do an update of this post, when after hatching it turns out that the female is a match for the rosea males instead of the larger 'pomona' males.

The breeding can't be anymore easy as long as you keep them completely dry. That's right, no spraying and no wet leaves! An average room temperature will do just fine. Given the small size of these animals, they are best kept in small, well ventilated plastic containers. They feed on grasses. On Carex pendula the mortality is zero percent. They need about six weeks to grow. I expect these pupae to hatch after a fairly short pupal stage.


Decachorda caterpillar
Decachorda species Malawi L5 on Carex pendula

Decachorda caterpillar
Decachorda species Malawi L5 on Carex pendula

Decachorda caterpillar
Decachorda species Malawi L5 on Carex pendula

Decachorda caterpillar
Decachorda species Malawi L5 on Carex pendula

Decachorda caterpillar
Decachorda species Malawi L5 on Carex pendula

Decachorda caterpillar
Decachorda species Malawi L5 on Carex pendula

Decachorda caterpillar
Decachorda species Malawi L4 pre-molt

Decachorda caterpillar
Decachorda species Malawi L4 on Carex pendula

Decachorda caterpillar
Decachorda species Malawi L4 on Carex pendula

Decachorda caterpillar
Decachorda species Malawi L4 on Carex pendula

Decachorda caterpillar
Decachorda species Malawi L3 on Carex pendula

Decachorda caterpillar
Decachorda species Malawi L3 on Carex pendula

Decachorda caterpillar
Decachorda species Malawi L3 on Carex pendula

Decachorda caterpillar
Decachorda species Malawi L3 on Carex pendula

Decachorda caterpillar
Decachorda species Malawi L2 on Carex pendula

Decachorda caterpillar
Decachorda species Malawi  L2 on Carex pendula

Decachorda caterpillar
Decachorda species Malawi  L1 on Carex pendula

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Holocerina species Malawi

The species is this post may or may not be Holocerina smilax. I caught the female myself in the Dzalanyama Forest in Malawi the second week of December last year. I first identified the female as Holocerina smilax, but later I started to doubt that. However, everybody that saw the picture of the female also identified her as smilax, so I thought my first identification had to be correct afterall. Now that I see the full grown caterpillars, I have some doubts again. The few pictures of final instar Holocerina smilax that exist, all show a white/black caterpillar, quite different from the white/red/black creatures is this post. However the other caterpillar stages seem to match fairly well. And to make everything even more complicated this brood had two different color forms in the final stage. The white/red/black where the dominant form, but some looked in the final instar the same as in the fourth instar. So this could mean that this species has a very variable caterpillar, with multiple color forms in the final stage. And thus I cannot exclude smilax. A friend has offered to do a DNA barcoding on the offspring to determine what species this is, an offer that I'm gladly going to accept.

The breeding of this species is pretty straightforward. Keep them clean, completely dry and at a normal room temperature. The first three instars are best kept in well ventilated plastic containers. From the fourth instar on they do well in large netted cages. These creatures are voracious, consuming large amounts of privet (Ligustrum), their favorite food plant. I have also a brood on Pinus sylvestris. Although pines are well accepted as a food plant, I do not recommend using them. Growth is much slower (twice as long!) and the animals remain significantly smaller. On privet they are full grown in five weeks. Count an extra seven to ten days for the egg stage. Given the fast growth cycle, I expect a next flight somewhere in April. 

Holocerina species Malawi caterpillar
Holocerina species Malawi L5 on Ligustrum ovalifolium

Holocerina species Malawi caterpillar
Holocerina species Malawi L5 on Ligustrum ovalifolium

Holocerina species Malawi caterpillar
Holocerina species Malawi L5 on Ligustrum ovalifolium

Holocerina species Malawi caterpillar
Holocerina species Malawi L5 color forms

Holocerina species Malawi caterpillar
Holocerina species Malawi L5 on Ligustrum ovalifolium

Holocerina species Malawi caterpillar
Holocerina species Malawi L5 on Ligustrum ovalifolium

Holocerina species Malawi caterpillar
Holocerina species Malawi L5 on Ligustrum ovalifolium

Holocerina species Malawi caterpillar
Holocerina species Malawi L5/L4 on Ligustrum ovalifolium

Holocerina species Malawi caterpillar
Holocerina species Malawi L4 on Ligustrum ovalifolium

Holocerina species Malawi caterpillar
Holocerina species Malawi L5/L4 on Ligustrum ovalifolium

Holocerina species Malawi caterpillar
Holocerina species Malawi L4 on Ligustrum ovalifolium

Holocerina species Malawi caterpillar
Holocerina species Malawi L3 on Ligustrum ovalifolium

Holocerina species Malawi caterpillar
Holocerina species Malawi L2/L3 on Ligustrum ovalifolium

Holocerina species Malawi caterpillar
Holocerina species Malawi L2/L1 on Ligustrum ovalifolium

Holocerina species Malawi caterpillar
Holocerina species Malawi L1 on Ligustrum ovalifolium

Monday, 6 February 2017

Silkmoth of the week: Antheraea godmani

Godmani is one of the larger species out of the Antheraea genus. The wingspan is around sixteen centimeter. The males tend to be slightly larger then the females, something that is not so common amongst giant silkmoths. This beautiful species is rarely bred in captivity. Under the right circumstances they brood continuously, both in the wild as in captivity. Even though it is somewhat inconvenient to have these moths hatching in february, while the European winter is at it worst, I don't recommend trying to slow down the development. Most likely you can gain a few weeks or even months by keeping them around 12 degrees Celsius and fairly dry. Personally I think the risk of getting them killed this way is a little bit to high. Just let them hatch and enjoy something tropical in the middle of the winter. Godmani flies from Mexico throughout Central America, south to northern Colombia. 

Antheraea godmani male
Antheraea godmani male - Origin: Guatemala

Antheraea godmani female
Antheraea godmani female - Origin: Guatemala

Antheraea godmani female
Antheraea godmani female - Origin: Guatemala

Antheraea godmani male
Antheraea godmani male - Origin: Guatemala