Friday, 30 June 2017

Silkmoth of the week: Opodiphthera eucalypti

The Emperor Gum Moth (Opodiphthera eucalypti) originally only occurred on Australia, but was later introduced on New Zealand and now inhabits both the North and the South Island. This is the most widespread and common species of the Opodiphthera genus. It's a larger moth, with a wingspan between twelve and fourteen centimeter. Wild euclypti emerge in Spring and early Summer (mainly October to December). This confuses many moths when importing the cocoons into Europe. Some cocoons will hatch in the European autumn (their normal Spring flight), some will overwinter with adults emerging in our Spring and early Summer (their normal Autumn and Winter). Do not throw the cocoons away when they didn't hatch the first year. It happens quite regularly with this species that the moths wait for more favorable conditions. Cocoons are known to remain dormant for two to five years, with even an aberrant record of pupae remaining dormant for ten years. So be patient. 


Opodiphthera eucalypti male
Opodiphthera eucalypti male - Origin: New Zealand

Opodiphthera eucalypti male
Opodiphthera eucalypti male - Origin: New Zealand

Opodiphthera eucalypti female
Opodiphthera eucalypti female - Origin: New Zealand

Monday, 26 June 2017

Kunugia undans

Have I ever mentioned that Lappets (Lasiocampidae) are my favorite creatures? Okay, true, probably more then once already. They really are. Many of them come with a downside though. You need a lot of patience. Lots of Lappets are slow growing and only produce one flight per year. Same for Kunugia undans, a large Asian species. The eggs overwinter for a couple of months. They stay in the fridge, so that's not that much work. But then, after you take them out in April, the work begins. They need fresh food, clean conditions and average temperatures. Don't keep them too warm or too cool. I used Hazel (Corylus avellana) as food, but could have used related plants like Quercus, Fagus, Carpinus or Alnus. Months later, somewhere late June, early July, they have grown to slender ten centimeter plus caterpillars. They come in two color forms. A dark brown form with almost black markings and a grey/brown form with a more contrast rich pattern. It will take a few more weeks before all the animals have pupated. The pupal stage on the other hand will be short. I expect to see the moths already in August.


Kunugia undans caterpillar
Kunugia undans final instar on Corylus avellana

Kunugia undans caterpillar
Kunugia undans final instar on Corylus avellana

Kunugia undans caterpillar
Kunugia undans final instar on Corylus avellana

Kunugia undans caterpillar
Kunugia undans L7 on Corylus avellana

Kunugia undans caterpillar
Kunugia undans L7 on Corylus avellana

Kunugia undans caterpillar
Kunugia undans L6 on Corylus avellana

Kunugia undans caterpillar
Kunugia undans L6 on Corylus avellana

Kunugia undans caterpillar
Kunugia undans L6 on Corylus avellana

Kunugia undans caterpillar
Kunugia undans L5 on Corylus avellana

Kunugia undans caterpillar
Kunugia undans L4 on Corylus avellana

Kunugia undans caterpillar
Kunugia undans L4 on Corylus avellana

Kunugia undans caterpillar
Kunugia undans L4 on Corylus avellana

Kunugia undans caterpillar
Kunugia undans L2 on Corylus avellana

Kunugia undans caterpillar
Kunugia undans L1 on Corylus avellana

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Silkmoth of the week: Pseudantheraea discrepans

Like so many other African Saturnids, Pseudantheraea discrepans perfectly understands the art of working on peoples nerves. The pupae of this species hatch whenever they like, however never when they are supposed to and rarely close together. Moths have been emerging over the last four months now, without any logic. Sometimes they hatched while it was cool and dry, sometimes when it was hot and humid. So, if you want a pair of these, you need to be a very lucky person. So far, I haven't had males and females together. This giant silkmoth is fairly common in Western African and is recorded from Ivory Coast to Congo.The moths are large, with a wingspan up to fourteen centimeter.


Pseudantheraea discrepans male
Pseudantheraea discrepans male - Origin: Cameroon

Pseudantheraea discrepans female
Pseudantheraea discrepans female - Origin: Cameroon

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Prorifrons tremula

Very little is known about the early stages of the members out of this Central and South American Lappet genus. Have a good look at the pictures below. It probably is going to take a while before you are going to see something like this again. Unfortunately, they had a somewhat difficult start. It took a while before they began to eat and I had to switch the foodplants in an early stage. They should have started immediately on Prunus serotina, but they didn't. I think at that moment the leaves were still too young and soft for the taste of these animals. They did accept Quercus ilex though. So I reared them on oak for a week or two and then when the serotina leaves hardened, I tried again. They prefer cherry over oak, that's for sure. When given the choice, all the larvae moved to Prunus. Growth is slow. It takes them three to four months to become a fully grown, ten/eleven centimeter tall caterpillar. In case you wonder why I wrote 'early stages' under the pictures, it's because I lost count already after the second instar. I honestly have no idea how many times they molted. More then five, but how many exactly? I'm only sure of the first two and the last stage.

Prorifrons tremula caterpillar
Prorifrons tremula final instar on Prunus serotina

Prorifrons tremula caterpillar
Prorifrons tremula early stages on Prunus serotina

Prorifrons tremula caterpillar
Prorifrons tremula early stages on Prunus serotina

Prorifrons tremula caterpillar
Prorifrons tremula early stages on Prunus serotina

Prorifrons tremula caterpillar
Prorifrons tremula early stages on Prunus serotina

Prorifrons tremula caterpillar
Prorifrons tremula early stages on Prunus serotina

Prorifrons tremula caterpillar
Prorifrons tremula early stages on Prunus serotina

Prorifrons tremula caterpillar
Prorifrons tremula early stages on Prunus serotina

Prorifrons tremula caterpillar
Prorifrons tremula early stages on Prunus serotina

Prorifrons tremula caterpillar
Prorifrons tremula L2 on Prunus serotina

Prorifrons tremula caterpillar
Prorifrons tremula L2 on Prunus serotina

Prorifrons tremula caterpillar
Prorifrons tremula L1 on Quercus ilex

Friday, 16 June 2017

Ceratomia undulosa

The caterpillars of the Waved Sphinx (Ceratomia undulosa) are easily mistaken for a species out of the Sphinx genus. They are very different from the Ceratomia amyntor larvae that I posted on this blog some years ago. Another thing they have in common with Sphinx caterpillars - besides the way they look - is that they grow extremely fast. Under warm and dry conditions they complete their growth cycle in less then four weeks. Especially when they are reared on Fraxinus. Ash is by far the best food plant for this species, although they also do well on Ligustrum and Syringa. But when using the alternatives instead of Fraxinus, you will find out that they often remain smaller. So, use Ash if you can and Privet or Lilac only when you really can't find any Ash. It's ok to house the first instars in small, well ventilated plastic containers, but as soon as they reach the third instar, move them to netted cages. And watch the food plant. It is a nightmare to keep cut Fraxinus fresh enough to serve as food.


Ceratomia undulosa caterpillar
Ceratomia undulosa L5 on Fraxinus excelsior

Ceratomia undulosa caterpillar
Ceratomia undulosa L5 on Fraxinus excelsior

Ceratomia undulosa caterpillar
Ceratomia undulosa L5 on Fraxinus excelsior

Ceratomia undulosa caterpillar
Ceratomia undulosa L5 on Fraxinus excelsior

Ceratomia undulosa caterpillar
Ceratomia undulosa L5 on Fraxinus excelsior

Ceratomia undulosa caterpillar
Ceratomia undulosa L4 on Fraxinus excelsior

Ceratomia undulosa caterpillar
Ceratomia undulosa L4 on Fraxinus excelsior

Ceratomia undulosa caterpillar
Ceratomia undulosa L3 on Fraxinus excelsior
Ceratomia undulosa caterpillar
Ceratomia undulosa L2 on Fraxinus excelsior

Ceratomia undulosa caterpillar
Ceratomia undulosa L1 on Fraxinus excelsior

Sunday, 11 June 2017

The Lappet Show: Malacosoma neustria

Can there be anything cuter then Lakey moths (Malacosoma neustria)? Especially the males, which fit entirely on a fingernail. The wingspan of these fluffy creatures is only two and a half to four centimeter. The females are almost twice the size of the males and have a somewhat darker color. This is the most common Eurasian representative of the Malacosoma genus, although they usually don't become as abundant as some of their American relatives. Neustria can be found all across the Palearctic region except for the extreme north, from Ireland and the Britsh Isles to Japan. This species is univoltine. The moths are on the wing between June and August. The eggs overwinter.


Malacosoma neustria male
Malacosoma neustria male - Origin: UK

Malacosoma neustria female
Malacosoma neustria female - Origin: UK

Friday, 9 June 2017

The Sphingids: Smerinthus caecus

The Northern Eyed Hawkmoth (Smerinthus caecus) usually has only one flight per year from May to August, depending on local conditions. In some parts of its distribution there may be a (partial) second flight. This species is very similar to and often confused with the much more common Eyed Hawkmoth (Smerinthus ocellata). Caecus occurs throughout Russia, from St.-Petersburg and Moscow east to the Russian Far East and even further to northern Japan. They can also be found in Mongolia, northern China and parts of North and South Korea. The species is a little bit smaller then ocellata, with a wingspan between five and seven centimeter.


Smerinthus caecus
Smerinthus caecus - Origin: Russia

Sunday, 4 June 2017

The Lappet Show: Gastroplakaeis meridionalis

The Bristly Eggar (Gastroplakaeis meridionalis) is one of the species out of the poorly studied Gastroplakaeis genus. As far as I know there are around ten species of Gastroplakaeis, all of which are found in Africa. Meridionalis is recorded from DR Congo, Uganda, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, NamibiĆ« and South Africa. I don't know how reliable these records are. Some of the species in this genus look very similar and a misidentification cannot always be excluded. From Malawi I'm sure, because that's were I caught the female myself, in the Dzalanyama Forest (December 2016). This a medium sized Lappet. The wingspan is comparable to that of the European Oak Eggar (Lasiocampa quercus). Females are around eight centimeter. The males - shown in the pictures below - are a lot smaller, with a wingspan around five centimeter. The pupal stage was short, only two weeks. Probably they have two flights during the wet season (when conditions are favorable).

Gastroplakaeis meridionalis
Gastroplakaeis meridionalis male - Origin: Malawi

Gastroplakaeis meridionalis male
Gastroplakaeis meridionalis male - Origin: Malawi

Gastroplakaeis meridionalis male
Gastroplakaeis meridionalis male - Origin: Malawi

Friday, 2 June 2017

Silkmoth of the week: Agapema homogena

The Rocky Mountain Agapema (Agapema homogena) is always a fun species to work with. The cocoons overwinter in the fridge. When taken out in Spring and kept at room temperature, the moths emerge four to six weeks later. Not just one by one, but almost all together. This mass emergence takes place in only two or three days. Suddenly you have cages full of very vivid moths. That can cause some problems. When you keep too many moths in one cage, a successful pairing is rarely achieved. They just wont stop disturbing each other. Keep one female with maximum two males and things go a lot smoother. This is a striking moth with a wingspan between seven and nine centimeter. It's also one of the most widespread species within the Agapema genus. In the USA they are found in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Western Texas. Further south they spread into Mexico, south to Mexico City. There is only one annual flight between May and September, depending on local conditions.
 

Agapema homogena male
Agapema homogena male - Origin: USA

Agapema homogena female
Agapema homogena female - Origin: USA