Sunday, 28 May 2017

Malacosoma castrensis

The Ground Lackey (Malacosoma castrensis) is another Palaearctic member out of the Malacosoma genus. Although widespread (from the UK to the Russian Far East) it's occurrence is more scattered then that of the very similar Malacosoma neustria. In many places - except the northern Mediterranean - their numbers are in decline and sightings are becoming more and more rare. This is a species of warm and nutrition poor grasslands and (dry) heathland. This translates in warm and dry breeding conditions. If you keep them in plastic containers, make sure they are well ventilated and never give wet leaves. This species gets sick much easier then Malacosoma neustria and rearing them can sometimes be surprisingly challenging. The food plants are also typical plants of poor soils, including several low growing Rosaceae (Rosa, Rubus, Sanguisorba, Potentilla, Filipendula, ...), Asteraceae (Artemisia, Achillea, Hieracium, ...), Fabaceae (Lotus, Trifolium, ...) and Euphorbia. Once the eggs have been taken out of the fridge and brought at room temperature, the development starts fast. They usually hatch within seven to ten days. The caterpillars grow relatively fast and complete their cycle within five to six weeks. The pupal stage is short. The moths hatch late Spring, early Summer.


Malacosoma castrensis caterpillar
Malacosoma castrensis final instar on Rosa

Malacosoma castrensis caterpillar
Malacosoma castrensis final instar on Rosa

Malacosoma castrensis caterpillar
Malacosoma castrensis final instar on Rosa

Malacosoma castrensis caterpillar
Malacosoma castrensis L4 on Rosa

Malacosoma castrensis caterpillar
Malacosoma castrensis L4 on Rosa

Malacosoma castrensis caterpillar
Malacosoma castrensis L3 on Rosa

Malacosoma castrensis caterpillar
Malacosoma castrensis L3 on Rosa

Malacosoma castrensis caterpillar
Malacosoma castrensis L1 on Rosa

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Silkmoth of the week: Paradirphia cf leoni

I'm still not sure this is Paradirphia leoni. It might also be Paradirphia frankae. Who knows these days? Since Brechlin & Meister raised havoc on most of the South American Saturnids, it has become impossible to separate the real species from the imagined ones, without being backed up by an entire lab. Figure it out yourself. This stock comes from Chiapas (Mexico). Leoni was originally described from Chiapas in 2010, but given the confusion with other Mexican members of the Paradirphia genus it's basically impossible to tell what the exact distribution is. The reason why I think this is leoni is because of the smaller size. The caterpillars were also smaller and more slender then for example P. semirosea (see my post of August 17th 2016). They seem to have only one flight per year early summer (June/July).


Paradirphia leoni female
Paradirphia leoni female - Origin: Mexico

Paradirphia leoni male
Paradirphia leoni male - Origin: Mexico

Paradirphia leoni female
Paradirphia leoni female - Origin: Mexico

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Malacosoma neustria

The caterpillars of the Lakey Moth (Malacosoma neustria) are easily recognizable by their intense blue color. When you see larvae this blue sitting on a silk web or tent (hence the name tent caterpillar) you know you're dealing with a Malacosoma species. When you look closer to the heads of the animals, you will see two black dots which make the heads look like a face. This is the best characteristic to separate neustria from other Eurasian members of the genus. This is a small Lappet species with caterpillars growing to a maximum length of four and a half centimeter. They are also very social creatures, staying close together in the nest for most of their lives. Only in the final instar they spread out. Overcrowding is nearly impossible. Growth is fast. Once the eggs are taken out of the fridge, they hatch in around a week. The larvae complete their growth cycle in five to six weeks. Early instars should be kept in small, well ventilated plastic containers. The risk of diseases is lower when you move them to netted cages as soon as they've reached the fourth instar. Finding food shouldn't be a problem. They eat almost every deciduous shrub and tree, with a preference for Malus, Pyrus, Crataegus, Rosa, Corylus, Quercus and Salix. The pupal stage will be short (only two or three weeks, depending on the temperature).


Malacosoma neustria caterpillar
Malacosoma neustria final instar on Corylus avellana

Malacosoma neustria caterpillar
Malacosoma neustria final instar on Corylus avellana

Malacosoma neustria caterpillar
Malacosoma neustria on Corylus avellana

Malacosoma neustria caterpillar
Malacosoma neustria final instar on Corylus avellana

Malacosoma neustria caterpillar
Malacosoma neustria final instar on Corylus avellana

Malacosoma neustria caterpillar
Malacosoma neustria L4 on Corylus avellana

Malacosoma neustria caterpillar
Malacosoma neustria L3 on Corylus avellana

Malacosoma neustria caterpillar
Malacosoma neustria L2 on Corylus avellana

Malacosoma neustria caterpillar
Malacosoma neustria L1 on Corylus avellana

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Silkmoth of the week: Rothschildia orizaba

Rothschildia orizaba is one of the most widespread species out of the Rothschildia genus. They occur from Mexico to Panama. Further south things become more shady. Orizaba is also reported from Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela, in a number of subspecies. However, some of these subspecies have been elevated to full species status. So, they occur in Central America for sure and in a part of South America depending whether you acknowledge these subspecies or not. It's a fairly large species, with a wingspan between twelve and fifteen centimeter. Depending on the origin of your stock and your breeding conditions orizaba will have one to three flights annually. The cocoons of the moths in this post remained dormant for months, only to wake up this week, almost exactly a year after I received the eggs.


Rothschildia orizaba female
Rothschildia orizaba female - Origin: Mexico

Rothschildia orizaba male
Rothschildia orizaba male - Origin: Mexico

Sunday, 14 May 2017

The Lappet Show: Gonometa nysa

I knew the moths would be big. With seventeen centimeter long caterpillars, they could not have been anything else but big. The female in the picture has a twelve centimeter wingspan. That makes them the largest Lasiocampid I have bred so far. Quite an impressive species which is widely distributed throughout tropical Africa, from Guinee in the west to Kenya in the east. There distribution does not reach further south then Equatorial Guinea and Uganda. In captivity they brood continuously, but because of the slow growing caterpillars, you will not get more then two flights per year.


Gonometa nysa female
Gonometa nysa female - Origin: Kenya

Friday, 12 May 2017

Silkmoth of the week: Epiphora intermedia

The members of the African Epiphora genus are rather difficult to obtain. That's a bit strange for a large genus with around forty species. Besides Epiphora bauhiniae and mythimnia, most members are rarely or never offered for sale. No surprise that this genus is poorly studied and that for many species the early stages are still unknown. That's also the case for Epiphora intermedia, a relatively large species that is mentioned from Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi. Very little is known. Probably there are two flights annually. The moths you see below are from the Kakamega Forest in Kenya. I'm currently having a lot of caterpillars in the third and fourth instar. I hope to be able to show the caterpillars in a few weeks, but no guarantees. Epiphora species are not the easiest to breed. That they are growing well today, does not mean that I will get them to pupate. It's still possible that they all perish in the final stage. Fingers crossed ...
 
 
Epiphora intermedia
Epiphora intermedia - Origin: Kenya

Epiphora intermedia
Epiphora intermedia - Origin: Kenya

Epiphora intermedia
Epiphora intermedia - Origin: Kenya

Epiphora intermedia
Epiphora intermedia - Origin: Kenya

Monday, 8 May 2017

Gastroplakaeis meridionalis

The Lappet Gastroplakaeis meridionalis is another species I caught in the Dzalanyama forest in Malawi past December. And one that caused a lot of stress. When you do an Internet search you will find out that they are recorded to feed on Brachystegia, Julbernardia and Colophospermum; all plants out of the Legume family (Fabaceae). So, I thought this would go easy. I have plenty of Fabaceae and thus I tried Acacia, Tamarindus, Erythrinna, Vigna, Psoralea, Cytisus and Lupinus. Nothing! No eating. I even threw in some Trifolium and Vicia. And again, no feeding. Thank you very much Internet for providing a beautiful piece of useless information. Left with no other options, I did what I always do when confronted with a species that refuses the obvious. I divided them in 4 groups of 30 caterpillars and each group was given 3 different plant species, which are often used by Lasiocampidae as alternative food plants. So I tried Ligustrum (ovalifolium and vulgare), Choisya, Prunus laurocerasus, Pyracantha, Photinia, Rubus, Eucalyptus, Ficus benjamina, Ceanothus, Rhamnus prinoides, Dombyea and Pinus sylvestris. Everything was rejected. Everything except Pinus sylvestris. It was the start of a long and what turned out to be a difficult brood of this beautiful African Lappet. Four months later the first cocoon has been spun. Unfortunately, there were not many survivors. I believe this has everything to do with the food plant. Pinus probably does not have the same nutritional value to these animals as their wild hosts. Or maybe it's because this was a winter brood and the Pinus was dormant. Anyway, I'm glad that I got at least a few to pupate. After seeing these pictures you will have to admit that final instar Lappet caterpillars are so much more beautiful, then the silkmoths I usually show.

Gastroplakaeis meridionalis caterpillar
Gastroplakaeis meridionalis final instar on Pinus sylvestris

Gastroplakaeis meridionalis caterpillar
Gastroplakaeis meridionalis final instar on Pinus sylvestris

Gastroplakaeis meridionalis caterpillar
Gastroplakaeis meridionalis final instar on Pinus sylvestris

Gastroplakaeis meridionalis caterpillar
Gastroplakaeis meridionalis final instar on Pinus sylvestris

Gastroplakaeis meridionalis caterpillar
Gastroplakaeis meridionalis final instar on Pinus sylvestris

Gastroplakaeis meridionalis caterpillar
Gastroplakaeis meridionalis final instar on Pinus sylvestris

Gastroplakaeis meridionalis caterpillar
Gastroplakaeis meridionalis L7 on Pinus sylvestris

Gastroplakaeis meridionalis caterpillar
Gastroplakaeis meridionalis L7 on Pinus sylvestris

Gastroplakaeis meridionalis caterpillar
Gastroplakaeis meridionalis L6 on Pinus sylvestris

Gastroplakaeis meridionalis caterpillar
Gastroplakaeis meridionalis L5 on Pinus sylvestris

Gastroplakaeis meridionalis caterpillar
Gastroplakaeis meridionalis L4 on Pinus sylvestris

Gastroplakaeis meridionalis caterpillar
Gastroplakaeis meridionalis L3 on Pinus sylvestris

Gastroplakaeis meridionalis caterpillar
Gastroplakaeis meridionalis L1/L2 on Pinus sylvestris

Gastroplakaeis meridionalis caterpillar
Gastroplakaeis meridionalis L1 on Pinus sylvestris

Thursday, 4 May 2017

The Sphingids: Pachysphinx modesta

More species are coming out of hibernation. The pupae of the Modest or Poplar Sphinx (Pachysphinx modesta) overwintered in the fridge. Four weeks ago I took them out and placed them at average room temperature. Some spraying with water stimulates the pupae to hatch. The moths are large, with a wingspan between eight and twelve centimeter. This hawk moth is fairly common and widespread throughout a large part of northern America, from temperate Canada (British Colombia to Nova Scotia), south throughout the USA all the way to northern Florida and westward to Texas, New Mexico and Oregon. They are absent in California, Arizona and Nevada. In the north modesta has only one flight (June/July), in the south and in captivity usually two (between April and September).


Pachysphinx modesta male
Pachysphinx modesta male - Origin: Canada

Pachysphinx modesta female
Pachysphinx modesta female - Origin: Canada

Pachysphinx modesta male
Pachysphinx modesta male - Origin: Canada