Attacus lorquinii is a giant silk moth in the family Saturniidae, it’s a common species in butterfly houses and insect exhibits and it’s one of the most popular species between amateur moth breeders.
Biology and morphology of Attacus lorquinii
Attacus lorquinii is one of the biggest saturniid in the world, in the wild it’s found in dense high altitude rainforests of Philippines. Closely related to Attacus atlas; Attacus lorquinii has a wingspan measuring up 24-27 cm in the female. A monster species!
Both forewings and hindwings show very beautiful colors with 4 small transparent patches: these fenestrations probably serve to confuse the predators by creating an irregular shadow below them and by reflecting different light wavelenghts,
Attacus lorquinii‘s forewings have two big markings that reminds a snake head, especially when they move their wings. This phenomenon is called batestian mimicry, it’s a form of mimicry where a harmless species (Attacus lorquinii) imitates a harmful species (a snake) to intimidate the predators of them both. Females lay 50-150 eggs (2,5 mm) on the underside of the leaves of the host plants, they hatch in a 12 to 14 days and in 1 to 3 months they spin their cocoons among edible leaves.
Final instar caterpillars can grow to 11cm, they don’t demonstrate a wandering behavior and neither a change of color; the papery cocoons can measure up 7-8 cm. The imago can hatch in 3 weeks, depending on the temperature.
Attacus lorquinii: breeding and rearing the Philippines atlas moth
Pairing Attacus lorquinii is not as difficult as it seems to be. It’s even easier than for the atlas moth (Attacus atlas)!
We recommend to pair them manually if you have enough confidence with this technique. Adults of the Philippines Atlas moth can be housed into a large and well ventilated cage (better outside if summer) to attempt a spontaneous pairing. Here a video of a friend that explain how to hand pair them.
Eggs can be stored in the classic petri dish (without plant materials) at 20-25 celsius with a high level of humidity (we usually mist the lid every 2 days, but it’s not strictly necessary). L1 larvae should be reared in plastic boxes with ventilation till L3, then, they can be switched in netting cage. Larvae of Attacus lorquinii are so static that they really don’t need a container; cut branches can be put into a vase and the larvae are placed on the plants.
Host plants of Attacus lorquinii
Attacus lorquinii is very polyphagous and a varied diet seems to give the best results in terms of adult size and survival rate of the caterpillars. Thus, alternate plant species looks like a great idea with this moth species.
The best evergreen host plants for Attacus lorquinii, available in all Europe during all the time of the year, is Ligustrum. Other oleaceae species (like Syringa) and rosaceae (Prunus sp) are also well accepted. Very good resuts can be obtained with Ailanthus altissima. The full list is here.
An interesting caterpillar, ecology curiosity of Attacus lorquinii
A. lorquinii larvae are able to spray a defensive secretion from their integumental glands that produce it. This secretion contains several chemical compounds (like biogenic amines) that act as a deterrent on predatory ants and vertebrate organisms. This strategy is combined with cuticular wax from abdominal tubercles composed of several toxic alcohols, but not all the larvae contains these compounds at the same concentrations: it increase in larvae that feed on Ailanthus altissima, one of their best host plant. Such alcohols (in particular 1-Triacontanol) are useful against parasitoids and for water conservation.
Attacus lorquinii eggs are now available in our shop, rear and breed this fantastic moth at home following our guides. If you have any doubt or you need more information concerning Lepidoptera breeding don’t hesitate in contacting us.