A perfect species for beginners is available again: Samia ricini. Although the extreme simplicity in rearing, a quality strain of this species has become difficult to find in nowadays markets. Let’s find out more about it.
Samia ricini: why is it so popular?
Surely it is a question that everybody that had Lepidoptera as his main interest and wanted to approach breeding asked himself a lot: why is Samia ricini so popular?
The reason is pretty simple: in some areas of the world, due to the relative ease of finding some host plants, the species has grown in numbers really easily. The large size of the butterfly and the not excessive duration of the cycle, makes it well suited to be used in didactic and educational projects.
Also, since it derived from centuries of breeding of an ancestral wild species, it is a practically domestic moth. Its main and well known use in the industry is related to the production of a less valuable but more resistant silk, especially in Asia. In addition, the larvae are resistant to diseases.
Regarding its taxonomy and the genome sections, you can find more about it in this article.
We also wrote already about the beauty of Samia ricini and Eri silk moth. Check it out!
Samia ricini caterpillars: first phases
At birth the caterpillars are only 4 millimeters in lenght: pay attention at the fact that in the first hours of life they may not need food, having eaten part of the shell of the egg from which they have made their way out.
To raise them in their first days you could use the same box in which the eggs were.
The vital key in this part of the breeding is not expose the caterpillars on the risks of a way larger environment, making difficult the search of food. They must have food readily available wherever they go: therefore one or more leaves of the plant you picked should be placed really close to the eggs.
Regarding the leaves you should use, the main recommendation is to use readily available trees you can easily find around you.
Generally speaking, if you plan to breed your species in Europe, take into account that Ricinus communis, which is a very common evergreen plant in many regions of Italy is the main plant. The privet or Ligustrum vulgare, which is an evergreen and equally widespread plant, can also lend itself well to breeding. It is found both in the wild and as an ornamental species for hedges or small trees.
The caterpillars can also feed on some plants of the genus Prunus, in particular many fruit trees (apricot, almond, peach). We do not recommend, even if it is mentioned, the cherry laurel or Prunus laurocerasus because it seems that the caterpillars struggle to grow on this plant when its leaves, once cut or grazed, produce small quantities of gas that can be toxic for the caterpillar.
A plant that can be easily found both in Europe and elsewhere, having been imported from Asia is ailanthus or Ailanthus sp., which loses its leaves in autumn.
Samia ricini caterpillar: its growth
Caterpillars grow through 4 molts and in five stages, defined as L1 to L5.
It is important to note that it is essential that for this reason the enlargement of the animal must be periodically replaced by a new cuticle produced by the animal itself. The molt is therefore a phase in which the insect produces a new cuticle below the old one, to then get rid of the latter.
Each molt is preceded by a phase in which the caterpillar stays for dome days attached to the substrate without eating: it is very important not to move the caterpillars from the substrate to which they are attached at this delicate moment, often the leaf, because it provides them with the fundamental hold for the molt!
Samia ricini cocoons: what happens next?
The last stage a caterpillar reach a length close to 10 centimeters. If you see that it will stop eating, don’t worry: this means that it is starting mutation. It all begins with the examination of the substrate to build the cocoon; usually they choose the leaves of the host plant, but it can happen that it could move to other points that they may consider comfortable.
From there on it begins to weave the cocoon through the silk it produces, which initially is a fluid ‘burr’, which solidifies in contact with the air.
The construction of the cocoon keeps the caterpillar busy for at least a day; initially soft and whitish, over the hours it may darken slightly.
As the silk produced becomes stratified, the caterpillar is no longer visible through the walls of the cocoon it is building. Once this process is completed, the caterpillar enters the pre-pupal stage, and then completes its journey to the chrysalis form.
We think that, although it is not essential, spray the cocoons with water a couple of times a week, to ensure a minimum of humidity, is a good habit. You should be doing so especially if the place where the cocoons are placed is dry: prolonged exposure to excessively dry air can excessively harden the cocoons, making it difficult for adults to get out.
Samia ricini butterfly: the phase you were waiting for
The temperature of the place your cocoons are should be always over 17 degrees and under 30 degrees. If you will be able to keep it constant, the flickering, or the phase of the exit from the cocoon, can occur after about three to four weeks.
In order to easen its way out, the newborn butterfly secretes a substance that loosens the meshes of the cocoon and at the same time exerts pressure against the anterior part of the cocoon. After a time that could range to half an hour to an hour, the head begins to peek out from one end of the cocoon, and gradually the whole body will get out.
Of course, the wings still will be very small. It is important to note that the butterfly must have the opportunity to stretch and dry its wings at this stage, otherwise those will remain permanently deformed.
Samia ricini, like in general all the moths of the family to which it belongs, does not eat because because of its atrophied mouthparts: for this reason it runs out of its vital energies within one to two weeks.
The mating, on the other end, is very easy: you will have to leave a couple in a box with a relatively good size: the males come into activity in the evening and locate the females by relying on the antennae that recognize the pheromones emitted by the females. Mating can even take place the same night after you placed them together!
Samia ricini eggs: a classic in lepidoptera breeding!
After such a long article, why not trying your best with this species?
We offer Samia ricini eggs from a captive line at a low price! As you’ve read, the species can be reared all year round.