Antherina suraka, the Madagascar bullseye moth, is an easy to rear species originating from (who would have guessed!) Madagascar. Both larvae and adults are variable, having multiple colour forms and variations.
Antherina suraka threat display, showing off the eyespots
- Difficulty rating: 5/10 (Not the easiest but not hard)
- Host plants: Ligustrum, Salix, Prunus, Nerium oleander
- Natural range: Madagascar only (Africa)
- Polyphagous: yes
- Generations: Multivoltine (continuously brooded)
- Family: Saturniidae (silkmoths)
- Pupation: Cocoon (silk encasing)
- Prefered climate: Tropical (prefers warm and humid)
- Special notes: The adults can move their hindwings from side to to side to deter predators with the eyespots on them
- Estimated wingspan: 90 – 110mm
In captivity, these moths will be excellent for beginners, as both adults and larvae are very unique and colourful. It’s best to rear them on privet (Ligustrum) in captivity. However, it generally isn’t known they feed on quite a lot of other plants aswell, including Oleander (Nerium oleander) and other things (Prunus has been mentioned and so has Salix)!
Larvae are very variable, and may contain many colour variations. The base colour often appears to be green or yellow, sometimes additionally with black pigment which may give the larvae black spots, some may even remain almost completely black. Tubercule “spikes” vary between red, pinkish, and yellow. This variation makes rearing them a unique experience each time! Adults also show variation, though not as much as larvae. They mainly vary in brightness, some adults are convincingly yellow to rusty orange, while darker forms may range between brown/grey.
When pupating, some larvae decide to spin an elaborate “double” porous cocoon – porous referring to the many tiny holes in the cocoon, which may serve as drainage holes for excessive water to cope with the heavy rains in the rainy season, and also with Madagascar’s high temperatures by means of ventilation. Interestingly enough, a small but significant share of the larvae decide not to spin a cocoon at all, and pupate randomly on the floor – a peculiar trait this species has. This species does well on room temperature, and is quity hardy, so it doesn’t require any other special conditoons. Adults usually hatch quite fast, within 1-2 months, however sometimes they decide to skip a season, and may take a while. I’ve had cocoons hatch after longer than 7 months in some occasions.
Antherina suraka should be a fun species to try for a beginner as they are relatively easy to rear in captivity and are eager to pair. They do seem to be a little sensitive to diseases however, so if you keep them clean, a bit ventilated and not overcrowded, they should thrive in captivity.
On Madagascar, these moths are also commercially bred, usually for the purpose of silk production – but also the export of cocoons to Europe to hobbyists and breeders. One of my contacts in Madagascar reported to me that the pupae are in fact edible, but only a few days after the the larva has recently pupated! Consuming older pupae made people sick. This could be evidence of defensive toxins (possibly sequestered from the host plant?) in Antherina suraka – perhaps they form in a later stage after pupation.
Some adults of Antherina suraka, showing two light and one darker form
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