Argema is a genus in the Saturniidae family, it contains 4 species distributed in the African tropical forests. Only Argema mittrei lives in Madagascar, the other species, like the popular Argema mimosae, live in mainland Africa.
Argema mittrei: the comet moth
Argema mittrei is a big Madagascan species described in 1847; it’s distributed in the rain forests of Madagascar, especially in the east part of the island. You can find more information about its distribution here.
Together with the Atlas moth (Attacus atlas) and the Hercules moth (Coscinocera hercules), Argema mittrei is one of the biggest species in the Saturniidae family.
Argema mittrei adults have a huge wingspan of 20 cm (in the male), the wings are yellowish with brown markings and 4 eye spots used as aposematic defense.
Interesting facts: Their long hindwing tails (can be 15 cm long) are used as defensive mechanism deflecting bat attacks and diverting their cry; tailed moths have 47% survival advantage over moths that have their hindwing tails ablated ( Barber et al., 2015). Female of Argema mittrei have significantly higher absorption factors than the males due to the absorption of a large portion by the wings and the body of the sound energy contained in a bat’s ultrasonic cry. Thus, the bat receives a dampened echo, and the moth becomes invisible to the bat.
Rearing the Madagascan moon moth
Obtaining eggs of Argema mittrei is not easy: they need to be hand-paired because the natural mating is very difficult to achieve in captivity: it requires lot of space and a high humidity level.
The female lays about 100-150 large eggs that hatch in about 3 weeks. It’s important to keep a high level of humidity by spraying them often. Once hatched, the caterpillars can be reared in a plastic box until the third instar. Afterwards, Argema mittrei caterpillars can be placed in a rearing cage.
Looking at the climate where the Madagascan moon moth lives in wild is a clue to keep them correctly. Rearing them from eggs can be challenging, especially if you’re a beginner. Larvae grow very slow and they need high humidity, constant temperature and a good ventilation. Anyway, it’s definitely worth trying!
In their natural habitat, Argema mittrei feeds on several plants, including Weinmannia (Cunionaceae family), Upaca (Phyllantaceae family), Eugenia cuneifolia (Myrtaceae family) and Sclerocarya (Anacardiaceae family). In captivity, the confirmed host plants are: gum trees (Eucalyputs*, Myrtaceae family), Cotinus coggygria, Pistacia*, Rhus and Schinus *(Anacardiaceae family), and the sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua, Altingiaceae family. You can read here more about this fantastic host plant).
*Evergreen species (suitable in winter too)
Buy Argema mittrei cocoons in our shop
Argema mittrei is a species of an astonishing beauty, is the larger moon moth worldwide and it’s cocoons are composed of a golden/pinkish unique silk. Despite it’s abundance as dried stocks, The Madagascan moon moth is rare to see alive. Don’t miss the opportunity to admire one of this living jewels at your place.
You can order live Argema mittrei cocoons directly from our SHOP.
Argema mittrei cocoons: how to care
Argema mittrei pupae are very large, females can weight up to 22-24g. They will be shipped in a safe box to protect their integrity until destination. Once you have received the moth pupae, remove them from the box and place them in a mesh cage. You can either lay them on the bottom of the cage or hang them head up. Spray them often and keep at room temperature, Argema mittrei cocoons are fairly easy to hatch. If you have any question or doubt feel free to leave a comment or either write us at: [email protected]