How to hand pair saturniid moths?

  • I recently just got into rearing silk moths this summer, and I really enjoy it. I really would like to expand my knowledge on breeding for the next season, especially hand pairing saturniidae here native to the US. I heard from other sources different moths have different angles of copula or something? Any help/ tips would be appreciated!

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  • Hi,
    I've tried handpairing and couldn't make it work, I tried simply holding the moths, and then I've also used a spreading board
    with the moths wings held down , neither worked, I tried it with H. columbia and also graellsia, and graellsia x luna.
    I was also given some instruction by a person who seemed to be pretty good at it. The instructions were pretty dramatic, and
    involved removing the male's head, which stops him from thinking about escape, it's kind of the same thing that mantids do.
    Another person mentioned using carbon dioxide to sedate the male.
    I think it's one of those things that sounds simple enough, but it turns out not so simple, and just requires practice, or some hands on
    instruction by someone familiar with doing it.
    I did try the decapitation thing with columbia, but no results, clearly experience and patience are the key to getting good at
    hand pairing. This last season was my first time trying this, mainly for trying to pair the graellsia, which are very reluctant to pair with
    their siblings. Perhaps you could find some video instruction on youtube. Good luck with your efforts.

  • For me there is no general rule, it seems the method is different for every species and genus.
    I have some friends that can handpair Actias species but I never had succes with that. But I have handpaired some strange things, like Lasiocampidae (Gonometa) and Citheronia while I don't know other people that can handpair those species.

    The problem is that the temperament and behaviour of each species is so different, and so are the genitalia and the angle you need to use to handpair them. For example I have a lot of trouble with how Actias and Graellsia twist and turn their abdomens when they are being handled. So there is not much of a universal method I think, you need to get a good feeling and figure out each species and family.

    A few general pointers: 1. Don't use fresh males, especially some big Saturniidae species are not very interested in pairing 24 hours after they hatched, and old males seem more desperate to pair. - 2. Don't stress the female too much, she has a rather passive role in handpairing and is not so important, the male mainly needs to be able to latch unto her, and the female accepts (I noticed that with some species, it is impossible to get a copula if the female wants to escape, even if the male tries to copulate) - 3. Get the male in the mood, rub the antennae near the female scent gland or use the time of the day the males are naturally active 4. Don't force it too hard, in the end if you handpair moths you are assisting them with copulation, but it is impossible to force it if the animals are not cooperative

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