Posts by Phalaena

    Much of the information for the pathology of lepidopterans is derived from the silkmoth industry (Bombyx mori) and many of the diseases are still referred to by their French names. It is important to remember that these terms are not technical / scientific terms and were in use long before the the disease-causing organisms were even known or identified.

    The disease I refer to --- known as 'flacherie'--can be caused by both viruses and bacteria and, in some cases, a combination of the two. Generally, in most insect diseases, when progressed disease is accompanied by a foul odor it is assumed to be bacterial. If the infection is without a foul smell, it is assumed to be caused by other organisms. But this may not always be entirely accurate.

    Causative agents:

    The main causative pathogens are Streptococcus sp., Staphylococcus sp., Bacillus thuringiensis and Serratia marcescens and non-occluded viruses such as infectious flacherie virus (BmIFV) and densonucleosis virus (BmDNV). Flacherie can also be caused by the combined infection of bacteria and viruses.


    ✔The larvae become soft and flaccid

    ✔The growth of affected larvae is retarded

    ✔larvae become inactive and vomit gut juice

    ✔feces becomes soft with high moisture content (sometimes larvae produce chains of fecal pellets )

    ✔ rectal protrusion is often observed

    ✔the larva's cephalothoracic region becomes translucent

    Here is a link to a PDF of this information:…Vaw2MDXqJqK7FtyMS_ZRCRM7e

    The source of infection? Many of these organisms are present in the environment in huge numbers. In the case of Staphylococcus and Streptococcus-- they are even present in the human throat and sinuses! Viruses are a different story, but can be abundant on leaves when insectivorous birds defecate on plants.

    In any case, the best solution is prevention. You've heard this all epidemic of these diseases can be prevented or arrested by rigid hygiene, control of free water in the rearing chambers, proper hosts that are fresh, low humidity, a method to keep feces from contact with larvae, proper temperatures, prompt removal of sick or dead individuals, low density rearing rather than crowded conditions, and start with healthy stock, if possible.

    That said, you will need to clean and disinfect EVERYTHING that comes into contact with sick insects if you intend to use any of these materials in the future for rearing insects. It may be more efficient in some cases to discard materials and start with new cages, boxes, etc rather than spend time disinfecting them.




    Unfortunately, it sounds to me like you have a more serious issue than improper feeding or improper conditions or pesticide contamination.

    There is a bacterial disease that generally affects larvae, but can kill pupae, and sometimes adults. I've seen it in papilionids frequently. There are often wing deformities with this disease, along with adult behavioral issues, refusal to feed, and adults will drop dead often within hours of emergence. One clear clue that indicates disease is this: healthy butterflies that die usually dehydrate and dry intact unless they are in very, very wet conditions. However, Lepidoptera that die of this disease usually liquify internally within about 48 hours of death, they completely disintegrate when handled-- wings pull off, legs fall off and the abdomen will become soggy and disintegrate. This is all accompanied by dark fluid that has a foul smell. This is not an uncommon disease among butterflies from large butterfly farms. It can be controlled with antibiotics during the larval stages. But sick pupae cannot be treated and emerging adults cannot be cured. It's too late, as the disease was contracted by the caterpillars.

    So, put your dead butterflies in a box and see what happens. Adults affected by this disease will stink and disintegrate within a couple days, bodies will turn dark or even emit fluid.

    If you see this, I can supply you with recommendations. In the meantime, do not keep the pupae very humid, certainly not wet. Do not mist them. Normal indoors humidity in the cage.



    Your question depends entirely on where your livestock is from. Some material, like livestock from Texas and eastern Mexico consistently has two broods per year-- adults fly in spring and the second generation flies during the autumn. Arizona and western Mexico populations have one brood per year. However, western Arizona populations produce adults in autumn / winter. Adults of eastern Arizona populations fly during the summer time. (And in populations from the Baja California peninsula both sexes fly at night, whereas males from all USA populations are diurnal!)

    It is true that Eupackardia calleta cocoons under captive conditions can take 2, 3 ... even sometimes longer to emerge as adults. Generally, this does not happen in habitat. This is because cocoons in captive culture do not experience the very high temperatures and dryness that is normal in nature. Then after several weeks or months of dry and often intense heat, temperatures actually decrease and humidity increases with the rainy season. This is probably what is necessary to stimulate a normal annual emergence.




    It appears Copaxa witti belongs to the decrescens / rufinans group of Copaxa ... or close enough. These tend to be Lauraceae feeders - Persea, Ocotea, Litsea, Cinnamomum, etc. In captive rearing, avocado (Persea americana) is the best host for rufinans, decrescens, troetschi, etc and many Copaxa of the multifenestrata group.

    However, in Europe, I see several species from both these groups have been reared successfully on Salix, especially Salix caprea. This is good because it is still winter there and it is possible to force foliage from cuttings of Salix with the cut ends in water taken indoors into warm conditions. I recommend 24 hours light with an LED or fluorescent plant light placed close to the twigs. You should start immediately on this project as it will take some time for leaves to be produced. Also, flower sellers are already probably cutting stems of willow and forcing the buds for commercial sales for flower arrangements. Maybe you can find stems already producing buds at a local florist. This will speed up your process very much (I cannot say for certain that these have not been exposed to pesticides! Though willow is not a crop that needs to be poisoned regularly).

    Alternatively, I have had success rearing some species (which are almost certainly feeding on Lauraceae in the wild) using Prunus armeniaca foliage. So, you have some evergreen Prunus species in Europe, so try these, too.

    Good luck!

    M in the USA

    Here in Arizona, Agapema homogena larvae are found mainly on two plants -- Holodiscus (Rosaceae) and Rhamnus californica. We have some evergreen "holly-leaved" Rhamnus species here, too, such as Rhamnus crocea. However, there are no records of Agapema feeding on these evergreen species which sometimes even grow side-by-side with R. californica! And also our common native Ziziphus species is rejected by both Epiphora and Agapema. The chemistry of the Old World and New World species is apparently very different. And I have been told that a similar situation might exist for Rhamnus between Europe and North America.

    So, on the subject of Rhamnus as a host plant, has anyone in Europe used your native Rhamnus or Frangula to feed Agapema homogena?

    Also, are there species of native Ceanothus in Europe? Ceanothus should be tried with Epiphora, Agapema, Hyalophora, some Hemileuca, etc. They make fine garden plants and there are many "improved" cultivars and varieties of Ceanothus thrysiflorus. Some are evergreen, can tolerate much cold and are excellent host plants.



    I think if you want to rear Epiphora species, you should try to grow Ziziphus jujuba.

    I just found pictures and a website about growing Z. jujuba in Czech Republic:

    The trees on this website look great. Fruit set in the very northern places where it is capable of growing may be poor -- but you are not growing for the fruit anyway ? . My experience is that it is a fine tree for small spaces and can grow quite fast.



    It's very funny that today I am preparing instructions for a friend in Pennsylvania, USA before I am sending him acorns of Quercus virginiana that I am just collecting now from cultivated trees here in Catalina, Arizona.

    The instructions and pictures from André are so good that I will just send my friend screenshots of André's information. This method is exactly what I do! No need to duplicate the information!

    For every serious breeder of Lepidoptera, this method is essential. However, it is not only useful during the winter -- but even during the spring and summer, using plants in group containers is a really great method for starting larvae of almost any species. I can recommend this method for species that feed on Liquidambar, Juglans and Carya, Ligustrum, and many other plants.

    I recommend choosing containers for seeding that are size compatible with cages that are available. I have plant pot sizes that fit exactly the cylindrical, collapsible cages and this is very handy for rearing as well as oviposition for some butterfly species.

    Michael in Tucson, Arizona, USA


    Your message was translated into English automatically by my browser, so I will answer in English with the expectation that my message can be translated into your preferred language.

    I can reassure you that with nearly 40 years of experience with rearing moths, what you describe still happens at times. It does not matter how attentive you are, how much research you do, how clean your conditions are maintained, how good your hostplant quality, temperature, humidity, or any other variable.

    I respect your determination to understand what you did or did not do to cause this failure. You are trying to insure that it never happens again. But reading over your description of your facility and technique, I only find one problem --I would never mix species in the same container. However, this is not what caused your problems, rather I would say the problems started before your parcel arrived.

    [And please understand that I am not incriminating your supplier, but with so many caterpillars arriving already dead, it is not a good sign]

    So, get all materials that came into contact with the ricini out of your rearing area, discard all disposable materials, disinfect the cages with 10% solution of chlorine bleach (wear gloves and old clothes while doing the disinfection).

    I know it is miserable to have such a failure, and you can spend many days thinking about what the cause of such a failure may be, but best to just move on with other stock and other species. Do not be too discouraged ? --tomorrow is another day ?

    (One more thing: I would never use heat packs with living animals in a closed box--heat packs consume oxygen and emit carbon dioxide. But I leave this discussion to others with more experience with this technique.)

    Kind Regards,

    Michael in Tucson, Arizona USA

    I would absolutely try Attacus on Hedera. There are no guarantees of success with any plant, and sometimes even previously successful plants do not work well at times for other reasons besides being an improper host. But Attacus eggs are not expensive and readily available. And you can always place most of your larvae on Ligustrum and only try a few on Hedera, if you are a bit timid of failure.

    I, myself, will make a note to try a few Rothschildia species on Hedera next time I have eggs. I have seen with my own eyes enormous larvae of Rothschildia "orizaba" in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico feeding on Aralia humilis. This population is very difficult to rear to full size on the "usual" hosts in captivity, but it is really large and very beautiful. If it is successful, I will post images on

    Hedera would be a very useful host for breeders in both Europe and North America.


    several large attacine saturniids feed on plants in the Araliaceae including most races of Rothschildia orizaba and its former subspecies, Coscinoscera, several Attacus species and Samia.
    In Africa, Bunaea, Nudaurelia and Holocerina are listed from plants in the Araliaceae.

    Whether they will feed on Hedera seems to be untested, but I certainly would try.

    Plants like Cussonia (which several African saturniids feed on) seem very similar in odor and texture to Hedera. I was always surprised that so many breeders rely on Ligustrum during the winter, while Hedera which is evergreen and readily available, too, remains untried so far as I know.


    Populus would be a rare choice for only some populations. Alder would be only some populations. Betula would be a more common. But offer the new caterpillars several plants and see what they like. Here are some other plants (Ferguson 1972 MONA fascicle) listed as hosts that you might have available.
    Salix, Acer, Corylus, basswood (Tilia) beech (Fagus), Prunus (serotina?)



    It depends on where the luna is from. In southern Canada, for instance, Betula papyrifera is number one and Quercus alba is the second most used host. In the southern states of the USA, Juglans and Liquidambar are frequently used. Caterpillars of most populations take Liquidambar. Do you have that available?


    I just replied to someone on another site who wondered why luna was so common in southern Canada where he lived since there was no Juglans or Liquidambar nearby. Its because the main host in southern Canada is Betula. And white oak, Quercus alba, comes up second in southern Canada. Yes, oak for luna. And this may be true for polyphemus, too. I lived in the midwest of the USA for several years and the main host of polyphemus was Betula papyrifera. But try Quercus for polyphemus. Most populations will eat that.

    Okay, does that help you?

    Michael in Tucson, Arizona, USA

    Dear Forum members!

    I made a mistake!

    I see there is still a lively conversation on egg disinfection. I wrote a series of messages on how I surface disinfect insect eggs.

    I think it is important to say that my instructions for egg disinfection SHOULD NOT BE USED. I am assured by a butterfly breeder that my recipe is TOO STRONG for butterfly eggs.

    Here are CORRECT instructions!

    Disinfect Butterfly Eggs – Monarch or Any Species – Butterfly Fun Facts

    And a VIDEO:

    Egg surface disinfection is practiced to prevent certain diseases, it cannot increase the hatching rate and, in fact, it may actually reduce the hatching rate--especially if done improperly.

    Sorry for confusion,

    You may disinfect eggs using this method at any time before hatching. Unfertile or dead eggs wants to erode or dissolve in the bleach solution. Fertile eggs are generally safe and unharmed by the treatment. However, if you have no experience with this treatment, I recommend treating only a small portion of your eggs first. They are not damaged by the treatment before proceeding.

    And do not contaminate eggs after treatment by using the same containers or materials! Use new or clean containers. Wash your hands and implements thoroughly before handling treated eggs.


    Now, after this rinsing, remove bag with eggs, remove string tie, and spread the bag out on several layers of absorbant towels (paper towels or napkins). Allow the eggs to dry.


    After this, plunge the bag into a bowl or jar of fresh, clear water and leave submerged for 20 to 30 minutes to remove / dilute any remaining bleach. Agitate the bag several times during this period or change the water once or twice.

    Continued ...

    ... remove the bag with eggs from the bleach and put bag in the colander or strainer into a sink and rinse with plain water for several minutes to remove bleach, 4-5 minutes.