Actias isis — “Sulawesi moon moth”

Welcome on my page on how to rear and breed Actias isis. It is generally considered to be one of the most beautiful moon moths available in the breeding hobby.


dsc03817Actias isis: left is the female, right the male! The sexual dimorpism of this wonderful species is striking.

  • Difficulty rating: Moderate (Easy to raise, difficult to pair)
  • Rearing difficulty: 5/10 (From egg to pupa)
  • Pairing difficulty: 8/10 (Archieving copulations)
  • Host plants: Liquidambar, Eucalyptus, Prunus, Rosa
  •  Natural range: Sulawesi of Indonesia (only this island)
  • Polyphagous: yes 
  • Generations: Multivoltine (continuously brooded in captivity, possibly bivoltine or univoltine in the wild)
  • Family: Saturniidae (silkmoths)
  • Pupation: Cocoon (silk encasing)
  • Prefered climate: Tropical (warm and humid)
  • Special notes:  Very easy to raise, but difficult to pair. Pairing is difficult with old adults, most pairings I have seen were from fresh females and 1 to 3 day old males. It is populair with breeders, but despite that we don’t know too much about the biology of this moth in the wild.
  • Estimated wingspan:  120 – 150mm (large)

Actias isis is a species of moon moth that is endemic to Sulawesi and the Banggai-islands. Mysterious in nature, not much is known about it’s lifecycle in the wild, although it is easy to reproduce in captivity.  Yes, I do consider this species to be easy – in the breeding community it has been described as hard to rear and breed, but I suspect this is due to a lack of consistent information. Hopefully this caresheet can improve upon this.

First of all, they do accept a wide range of host plant. For the best results, I recommend using Liquidambar (Amber tree), or Prunus  lusitanica (Portugese laurel). However, they are also known to take Eucalyptus, Salix (willow), with reasonable result, and Crataegus (hawthorn), Rosa (rose) and Quercus (oak) with unfavorable results – which means these plants should only be offered if no better options are available.

If you have Liquidambar, use it, in my opinion it is their best host plant by far and will result in minimal losses and very large larvae.

 Fat and healthy fully grown caterpillars of Actias isis, reared on Liquidambar 

This species, being tropical in nature, will produce continuous generations in captivity. Cocoons will generally emerge after 1.5 months. Pairings, which may be the hardest part of rearing this species, can be tricky to archieve sometimes. It is said that males require a lot of flight space to locate the female. They also need a little bit of airflow, and the female needs to be quite fresh. Males of this species are very fragile, and will become worn out and “ugly” within days of emerging. The long tails which are very fragile, are often broken when the animals are handled too often, due to them dropping themselves on the floor and flopping around as a defensive mechanism.

Larvae are best reared in airtight plastic boxes up until the third instar (L3) and then sleeved/caged loose on the plant (perhaps bottled host plant) because the mature larvae require a lot more airflow and may become ill in boxes. However, if kept clean, they can be reared in plastic boxes just fine, just with more care. This species takes a reasonably long time to develop.

This species is very frantic, specially males, which are restless at night, and often heavily damage themselves in just a few days, losing the tails and most part of the wingtips. Depicted below is just a two day old male! Their beauty is very short lived. For pairings, it’s best to give this species a  lot of flight space and airflow.

28270998411_f272051aee_o.jpgJust two days old and already battered!

Actias isis, in my opinion, is more sensitive in in captivity than the average Actias species, and may quickly die if the conditions are not optimal and to their liking. It is however a  species that can be raised by beginners from eggs to adult moths in my opinion, but only if they are very careful and follow these instructions well.  However, it is the pairing of the adults and completing the cycle that can be the true challenge with breeding them. It also seems that after a few generations the bloodlines of this species are generally wiped out in captivity; it perhaps does not tolerate the inbreeding very well. It shares this trait with Actias maenas and other species from the same evolutionairy branch (probably extending to groenendaeli, ignescens, phillipinica though there are hardly any breeding reports  on those thusfar).

actias isisActias isis male, wonderful and large

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The aim of this website is to provide information about many species of moths and butterflies around the world, with a slight focus on rearing them in captivity.

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