Actias maenas — “Malaysian moon moth”


Actias maenas, the Malaysian moon moth, is a species with a broad range from the mainland of most parts of the Indomalayan ecozone. They are highly sexually dimorphic, and one of the larger moon moths of the genus Actias.

dsc02707Actias maenas female

  • Difficulty rating: Moderate (Easy to raise, difficult to pair)
  • Rearing difficulty: 5/10 (From egg to pupa)
  • Pairing difficulty: 7.5/10 (Archieving copulations)
  • Host plants: Liquidambar, Prunus, Rosa, Eucalyptus
  • Natural range: Mainlands of tropical Asia and some islands – Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, China, India, Nepal, Bhutan – also Malaysia
  • Polyphagous: yes  
  • Generations: Multivoltine  (continuously brooded)
  • Family: Saturniidae (silkmoths)
  • Pupation: Cocoon (silk encasing)
  • Prefered climate: Tropical (warm and humid)
  • Special notes: Both maenas and isis are difficult to pair with old adults, most  pairings I have seen were from 1 to days 3 old individuals (especially males).
  • Estimated wingspan: 120 – 150mm (large)
  • Binomial name: Actias maenas (Doubleday, 1847)

Actias maenas is quite easy to rear in captivity, and accepts host plants within Rosaceae such as Prunus, Malus and more, and also Liquidambar, which is to be recommended for this species.  Their larvae will grow quite large, but do grow slowly compared to other Actias species. I myself prefer to rear them on plant cuttings in a water bottle. The only thing that seems to be more difficult with this species is archieving pairings, it’s best to have a lot of flight space and a bit of ventilation for them. This fragile species will tatter quite fast. Males often break off their hindwing tails within a few days.

dsc02657Actias maenas male

I rear the larvae in plastic boxes for the first few instars, after which I sleeve or cage them after L3, where they are less tolerant of being reared in airtight boxes as they will demand a bit more ventilation as they become larger. Larvae become quite big and spin leaves together when constructing the cocoon – as a tropical species they are continuously brooded and do not diapause. Actias maenas is more polyphagous than most people think and experimenting with host plant should be worth the effort, especially with plants within the Rosaceae family. Normally the moths hatch quite fast from their cocoons; in about a month or so.

28208256964_5797a0c810_oFully grown larvae of Actias maenas  on Liquidambar

Actias maenas is a species that can be raised by beginners from eggs to adult moths in my opinion. 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.

28208329994_5801cbd0f7_oA tree full of Actias maenas larvae

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Citations: Coppens, B. (2019); Written by Bart Coppens; based on a real life breeding experience [for citations in literature and publications] 

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