Thank you for reading my profile description.
My name is Bart, and I’m a moth lover from the Netherlands.
There is nothing else in life that gives me as much joy as observing the life cycle of beautiful and fascinating moth species up close.
And since I was quite young, I committed myself to breeding them quite intensively – maybe obsessively, even.
When I was a beginner, my pathological need to think and talk about moths constantly developed into much more.
Whenever I could, I showed them to people; both in real life and online – just to statisfy my urges. And when I was not touching them, photographing them or talking about them, I was writing about them, or filming them. All the time! Eventually, I even took to posting them online a lot. I made a little website with caresheets and guides. I posted videos of them on Youtube. It didn’t get much interest at all when I started, but I kept going for years. But gradually, more people became interested, and I grew a little audience. Over time, I have build quite a large framework over what I do – one that continues to grow every year. At some point, I got hired – butterfly farms wanted me to be their consultant, and museums needed me to breed and produce specimens for their displays. A small crowdfunded budget now allows me to make insect videos and improve my website. I turned my hobby into my job aswell. All because of the internet.
I don’t like social media
It may suprise you to read this, but I am actually not a big fan of social media platforms. It is not my ambition to be a “youtuber”, “influencer” or social media person, and I think most of the people in that community are.. a bit stupid. What I would truly love to become, is a biologist/entomologist – an academic one. But in the past, I experienced some personal problems with studying, and now I am left behind. Did I give up? No, I did not. I am still a biology student today, still trying to continue after multiple failed attempts of finishing a formal education. Better late than never.
I do realise however, that social media is a very powerful tool. It can market insects to new and young audiences, which is very important, because not many young people want to study insects because it is not ‘cool’ anymore. There is a serious lack of young entomologists, in a world where insects are sadly declining. We need public interest in them now, more than ever. Let’s make entomology cool again! Social media can also give us exposure – a reputation – and even a job. It was never my intention to live for likes and views. But when life gives you lemons – make lemonade.
You will never see me post my personal life and drama, however. I am just there to share what I love – moths! And nothing else (okay, maybe a dumb selfie or two )
My ambition is to continue doing what I love, and commiting my life to it as much as I can. I don’t want a ferrari, to be come famous and live in a villa, or have a wife and children. Boring. I am only interested in moths, and they are also my permanent life goal. One of the most important things for me, is to finish a biology study. Don’t get me wrong, I am very priviledged to have the support of an ever growing audience that helps me do what I like – it has changed my life, gave me new friends, gave me jobs, allowed me to travel the world in fact – but it does not statisfy the deep craving I feel.
My real ambition is to discover new things, and help progress our understanding of moths. Preferably, the scientific way. It is important for me to continue my education, so that one day, I may become the real entomologist I always wanted to be. Or maybe I won’t, but atleast I tried.
I’m also proud of having discovered a few new things about insects, and have published them in scientific journals. As an independent amateur entomologist with no education, this was very hard for me to do, since I recieved no support from universities, other academics, recieve no funding – I had to do it all by myself, and I was proud when it paid off.
Making educational content about moths is also a high priority for me, but maybe a second priority to all of this. A secondary goal for me is to reach 10.000+ subscribers on Youtube, and write caresheets of rare or very obscure species for my website.
I also hope to improve the quality of my website, Youtube and other channels I run (yes, I have more, such as Facebook pages) and to get rid of some of the older cringy things I have made, and replace it with more mature content.
I’m not the best role model, nor do I claim to be a professional. Handling Lonomia caterpillars for example, was a stupid idea, and so was some of the other questionable things I have done online. But I was – and am – still young, impulsive, a little oblivious to danger, and stupid. At times, I can be an obnoxious, stubborn and immature person. Nobody forced me to write this, and I don’t put this on my profile because someone made me feel guilty. I’m saying it because I feel a little self aware about it. Over the years, I have matured and calmed down a little, although I will continue to grow my experience and reason as my age increases. But now I feel a little bit ’embarrassed’ about how I used to be when I was younger (and still am sometimes).
My favorite moths
Above all, my one and only ‘true’ love are the Saturniidae – the emperor moths. Their magnificient size, beauty and the fact most can be easily bred, makes them one of the best families for me. I truly love them all, from the small and brown Hylesia and Lonomia to the giant and colourful Argema and Actias moths. The more experienced I become, the less I care about their beauty and appearance. What I love most are obscure species, of which there exist no pictures of the caterpillars or maybe even adults. Breeding those, is truly to discover new things – and to push the limits of what we know. Sure, breeding moths is not rocket science, and in most cases, can be easy. But there are not many people willing to do it, and the caterpillars and food plants of even some very common species remain unknown. I hope to be the man for this job.
Besides that, I will breed almost anything I find interesting, not only Saturniidae. I prefer to breed the types of moth that have no functioning mouth parts, since it is convenient not to have to care for the adults. Other groups I like include the tiger moths (Arctiinae) with their amazing bright colours and defense mechanisms, lappet moths with their gigantic, colourful and hairy caterpillars (Lasiocampidae), tussock moths that are sadly often ignored but very important for forest ecology and some tropical ecosystems (Lymantriinae), and who can forget the brahmin moths (Brahmaeidae) with their hypnotising wing patterns and alien caterpillars that look like they could be from a science fiction movie?
I am less occupied by moth species that have a functioning proboscis, but I also have a healthy interest in hawkmoths (Sphingidae), several types of underwing moths (Erebinae) such as genus Catocala, and Uraniidae
In the end, I will breed anything I like – big or small, colourful or grey
My name is Bart Coppens from the Netherlands. I was born on 14 June, 1993. How old does that make me? I guess you’ll have to calculate that using my birth date – because I constantly forget to update my current age on this page. Even since I was a small child I’ve had a major fascination for insects. From ages 7 and beyond I used to capture caterpillars of native species and rear them to adults. From ages 16 and beyond I have been intensively breeding exotic species – all kinds of insects really, from stick insects to mantids to katydids and more – after discovering you can order them online.
My specialisation in moths came at a later age, when I was about 18 years old. I used to breed a lot of stick insects, mantids, and other creatures. But gradually I started replacing them with moths. They have always fascinated me the most. When I was about 21 years old, I was exclusively breeding moth species. As time goes by, I became more and more of a specialist instead of a generalist. Currently I love all kinds of moths, but my favorite are Saturniidae silkmoths, and to a lesser extent I also study Arctiinae (tiger moths), Lasiocampidae (lappet moths), Sphingidae (hawkmoth), and in rare cases Brahmaeidae, Megalopygidae, Epicopeiidae, Lymantriidae, Eupterotiidae. At the end of the day however, I’m willing to breed or look into most if not all obscure or unusual moths.
I started this website in 2015 when I was 21 years old, but it was more of a low quality hobby project. As time went by I started getting more and more readership, and am starting to take it more and more seriously. Currently I aim to improve the old content that I had written when I was a bit younger and more inexperienced, because I don’t want to associate myself with low effort caresheets, but breeding them and taking pictures takes time. When I became 23 years old I started decicating myself to a few families of moths I favoured such as Saturniidae mainly – but also a few others.
There is still a huge amount of species I have bred and have not written a caresheet about, but I am working on this.
1. Where do you get your livestock?
A few websites available on the internet make it very easy to order eggs and cocoons. One example is the marketplace of insectnet (click here). More examples could be WWB (click here). The most important website is www.actias.de (click here). This is where I get most of my species; but you need to make an account that is approved and about 3 days old before you can see and read the marketplace. Actias.de is the largest community on the internet in regards to selling and trading Lepidoptera eggs and cocoons. Last but not least, I get eggs of unique species from private contacts. Having friends in the entomological word has advantages; and some of them will collect eggs for me of species that are not available in the hobby to other people. Since these people are personal friends of mine that do me favors and are not interested in being commercial egg hunters, I am protective of them and not always willing to say who the person is that sent me eggs of species X or Y; next to the fact there could be resource competition if we both want eggs from the same person that traps moths.
For people in Europe and the United States, ordering coocons and eggs online is relatively easy if you understand the internet. If you live somewhere else, you may be out of luck. But for a good reason. I do not recommend importing exotic insects to tropical countries. If you live, for example, in Brazil, Indonesia or India, please take the idea of importing non-native species out of your mind, since it is a gigantic environmental risk. In the Nearctic and Palearctic world, the winters prevent the survival of many exotic species that could otherwise be invasive. What if you live in such a place and also want to breed moths? The good news is that the biodiversity in your country is high. Breed native species instead; invest in a good net and a moth trap. There is a lot to discover; more than I can buy online. Do not ever take non-native insects to tropical Asia, South or Central America, or Africa!
Another very good way to get livestock is moth trapping. Native, local species are in their perfect environment and a good way to practice; and you may attract females that lay hundreds of eggs for you. It is also worth looking for eggs and caterpillars of species in the wild.
2. What do you do with dead specimens?
I throw most of them in the trash. This may be painful to read to some collectors, but know that I am a breeder, not a collector. They don’t have any commercial value, because I keep the moths alive until the bitter end and they die from ‘old age’ (most moths don’t live very long). When moths fly, their wings damage; the perfect specimens you see for sale online are killed for the purpose of collection. I have no ethical problems with killing moths at all; it’s just that my hobby is breeding live specimens, and killing them takes away from this experience, like a cook eating his own ingredients before the meal is finished. Some of the species featured on this website are quite valueable. I’ve bred Antheraea godmani, Actias rhodopneuma and niedhoeferi for example; fresh females in perfect condition bring up a few hundred dollars per moth. But who cares, I much prefer to see their interesting life cycles – something that is seriously understudied. Every moth I kill, is one less chance to have a pairing. And I want to breed.
Despite that, in some cases I have been hired by museums and taxidermy shops to breed moths for the specific purpose of killing them afterwards. Since I consider this a job and not my hobby, I have done it before; usually I can produce a bunch of common species for about 15$ per specimen, sometimes in high numbers. I don’t find it as enjoyable as my hobby though. I’m not very interested in selling ‘spare’ specimens of the cool species you just saw me post online though.
3. Is it an expensive hobby?
It is as expensive as you want it to be. Unless you live in Antarctica, butterflies and moths can be probably be found around you, for free. If you are skilled at finding and hunting them, this hobby will cost you nothing. If you live in the big city this may be more difficult to do, but then again, even if you buy insects online you may not be in the right place for this hobby if you have little nature around you, since you will struggle to find food plants and the required space.
However, other breeders also produce a lot of eggs and cocoons that you can buy or trade online. Some very commonly bred species are very easy and cheap. Like the Samia ricini (eri silkmoth) or Arctia caja (garden tiger moth) and many of the common native cabbage whites (Pieris sp.) are commonly offered at low prices and are very easy to breed. Cocoons of some common and beautiful species (Actias luna, Saturnia pyri) can be found for only a few dollars per cocoon.
Sometimes, kind breeders will even share eggs and cocoons of common and easy beginner species for free, to promote interest in these animals! While you should not count for this to happen, keeping an eye out and making friends with people helps a lot.
This hobby however, also has an expensive side to it. The more rare and legendary species come with a heavy price tag. Very rare and precious species like birdwings (Ornithoptera), celestial moon moth (Actias chapae), Eochroa trimeni, spanish moon moth (Graellsia isabellae), Polythysana cinerascens and others have been sold for prices up to 10$ per individual egg or more, cocoons costing up to 50$ each. This is your personal choice however, and nobody is forcing you to buy anything you can’t afford.
What’s also expensive is that moths have short lifespans, and often high mortality rates. It’s not uncommon to buy eggs online, only to have the caterpillars die a few days afterwards. Some species are hard to raise too. Last but not least, you are paying a lot of money to breed an insect that only has a lifespan of about 10 days! Compare this to the stick insect, mantis, beetle or tarantula hobby where the animals have the potential lifespans of multiple years. But if you want to keep breeding moths, you will have to keep buying them at some point. Breeding them is also not very sustainable, and it is not uncommon for species to only last 2-3 generations in captivity with a lot of luck, only to die out in the hobby until more are imported from the wild again.
Compared to other insects, breeding moths and butterflies is also very time consuming; caterpillars require fresh plants and their food has to be replaced every 2 to 4 days, and their container has to be cleaned. While this doesn’t require you to pay anything, time is money, and breeding a lot of moths will compete with your job and studies and drain a lot of the free time you have available. Moths and butterflies specialise in different food plants, and each species has a preference for different plants. If you want to breed many of them, at some point you will also need to grow and obtain host plants, enclosures, breeding sleeves, containers, cages and other equipment.
So how expensive is it? Almost free, or very expensive. Much like the cooking enthousiast that may decide to fry an egg, or a prepare a waygu beef steak. When using locally available species and food plants, the hobby is more or less free. However, breeding a high diversity of moths including rare and precious species, can cost a fortune. I myself, have certainly spent thousands of dollars a year on moths in some busy years. Please keep in mind that while this sounds impressive, this hobby is about the statisfaction you get from it, not the amount of money you spend on it. Thankfully, the hobby community is really, really friendly and relaxed, and there seems to be almost no egoism or elitism involved. As opposed to other hobbies I’ve been in – such as reptiles, spiders, mantids – that seem to be about breeding the rarest and most expensive animals, the moth and butterfly community seem to attract more gentle and friendly naturalists.
4. Do you release captive insects?
No no no no no! A BIG no. I keep non-native (exotic) species, releasing them would be highly irresponsible. Even if I breed native species, releasing them could still have a negative impact on the wild population for captive insects may carry negative/unfavorable traits that would have been removed due to natural selection in the wild. I’ve been asked this question more times than I’m comfortable with: despite their pretty colours, exotic species are not welcome in our ecosystem. They can do serious damage to native wildlife. If you want to help sustain the populations of butterflies and moths in the wild, the best course of action would be to help spread their host plants! Plant host and nectar plants in your garden. They are beneficial to the species, whereas releasing captive insects could have a negative impact. These insects are not toys to release for your personal enjoyment; releasing captive bred butterflies and moths has real and serious consequences on your local environment. Never attempt any introduction projects by your self. If you are interested in knowing why then please read this article!
5. Do you sell livestock?
Yes and no. I don’t like selling because I have too many followers on social media (because of my Youtube, my website, Facebook etc.) that often ask me for eggs. And sometimes when I have a rare species, I get so many messages asking for eggs that is giving me a lot of stress, especially when I fail to breed them and have to disappoint people. This ruins the fun of my hobby for me. Even when I have eggs it is often impossible to help everybody since there are not enough, and then I have disappoint some of my friends. But I do trade species, behind the scenes – I often trade eggs or cocoons for other species that are interesting. Sometimes I do sell – but when I do, I usually place offers on the marketplace on the sales forums of breeding communities. So I recommend taking a look there. I prefer to trade behind the scenes against other species. Please know that I am not much of a commercial breeder, and that there is always a very high demand for my eggs, since I have a very large following on social media due to my website, my YouTube channel, my research and various social media. Please do not rely on me to sell you eggs of a certain species if you need them. If you want an elaborate answer, check this video
6. Can you help me obtain X and Y species featured on your website?
Probably not. First of all, I do not continuously breed all the species featured on my website – they are breeding reports written at the time that I did breed them, which may be currently, or many years ago. Chances are I am not conveniently breeding the species you are currently looking for. Secondly, as per question #5 here in this FAQ, I am reluctant with selling livestock, and prefer to trade it behind the scenes with a few good contacts. Unfortunately, the pressure of delivering people eggs has taken the fun out of my hobby in the past. Having close friends beg you for eggs or pressure you into sending them is a bad experience, and makes me feel extra bad if I fail to breed a rare species and have to disappoint people that wanted to have eggs from them. I also have a succesful Youtube channel and a lot of readers from this website that request eggs, something that I can not deliver 99.99% of the time.
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