Citheronia bellavista — “Fiery horned devil”

Citheronia bellavista, the fiery horned devil, is found in Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, westerns Venezuela, western Ecuador (Citheronia bellavista bellavista) and also south Ecuador (Citheronia bellavista cineraea). This Citheronia species stands out for it’s fiery colouration and wing markings that resemble skull with some imagination. Here they produce 2 to 3 generations per year generally, although the flight times and seasons may very per location and microclimate, and caterpillars feed on a variety of plants including the populair among Citheronia species Phoradendron sp. (leafy mistletoe), Rhus sp (sumac)., Prunus sp.(cherries), and in captivity also Liquidambar styraciflua (sweetgum) and Ligustrum sp. (privet).

Citheronia bellavista (male)

The caterpillars of Citheronia bellavista are thick chunky brown sausages covered with the typical prothoratic spines that many Citheronia species have, a light white/brownish stripe that runs along the body and tiny orange spines. Citheronia bellavista females deposit eggs on their favorite food plants, and the caterpillars hide in the foliage until they are mature, while feeding on the leaves. In the wild they could be difficult to locate, especially if caterpillars are higher up in the trees and foliage, combined with their solitary lifestyle and camouflage.  Eggs hatch in 7 to 14 days time. This  tropical species prefers a warm and humid environment. The larvae are fully developed in about 2 months time, and pupae tend to hatch in 1.5 to 3 months time (measured at 21 degrees Celcius).

Citheronia bellavista final instar (L5)

  • Difficulty rating:  Simple – Easy to raise, easy to pair. One of the easiest Citheronia species to breed and raise in my opinion.
  • Rearing difficulty: 4/10 (From egg to pupa)
  • Pairing difficulty: 5/10 
  • Host plants:  Phoradendron sp. (leafy mistletoe), Rhus sp (sumac)., Prunus sp.(cherries), and in captivity also Liquidambar styraciflua (sweetgum) and Ligustrum sp. (privet), Juglans sp. (walnut).
  • Natural range: Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, westerns Venezuela, western Ecuador (Citheronia bellavista bellavista) and also south Ecuador (Citheronia bellavista cineraea)
  • Polyphagous: yes
  • Generations: Multivoltine
  • Family: Saturniidae (silkmoths)
  • Pupation: Underground – burrows and pupates in a subterranean chamber
  • Prefered climate: Tropical; warm and humid
  • Special notes: Very resistant species in captivity, suitable for beginners. One of the easier Citheronia species. Just make sure to keep them clean, not extremely overcrowded, and don’t put too many together in plastic boxes.
  • Estimated wingspan: 85mm-155mm
  • Binomial name:  Citheronia bellavista (Draudt, 1930)

The translucent, oval , green/yellowish eggs of Citheronia bellavista hatch in 7 to 14 days time. The young caterpillars of Citheronia bellavista are easy to raise in plastic boxes. They are black with an orange ‘saddle’ and larger spine like filements on their thorarical segments. The caterpillars are solitary and after hatching, will settle (usually on the underside) of a leaf and begin to take bites out of it.

Citheronia bellavista L1 on Ligustrum

The first instars last briefly (about a week or less).

Citheronia bellavista L2 on Ligustrum

Citheronia bellavista L2 on Ligustrum

The second and third instar develop more pronounced spines; although the larvae do remain predominantly black.

Citheronia bellavista L3 on Ligustrum and Liquidambar 

The first three instars are very easy to raise in plastic containers. After that, they can be raised in cages or sleeves, but plastic boxes is also fine for this species; they tolerate high humidity, lack of ventilation and even higher densities of caterpillars. If you do decide to raise them in an airtight container, make sure to clean and desinfect it once in a while to get rid of pathogens that can build up in such an environment. Otherwise, they can be raised in pop-up cages for insects. This species will do fine on room temperature, although as a tropical species, they could appreciate additional warmth.

Citheronia bellavista L4

The fourth instar is brown, with long noticable spikes.

Citheronia bellavista L4, almost shedding to L5

The fifth instar is quite big, around 8cm-10cm. The final instar has pink, short spines with a black tip.

Citheronia bellavista L5

Citheronia bellavista L5

Citheronia bellavista L5 on Liquidambar

When fully grown, caterpillars descend into the earth in order to pupate. In captivity, they can be given substrate such as a plastic container filled with shredded paper towels, moist (not wet!) soil/earth, or other soft, light substrates they can burrow themselves in.  Eventually they will begin to form shiny dark brown/reddish pupae, that will hatch in 2-3 months time. The moths appear to be nearly continuously brooded in captivity.

Citheronia bellavista pupae

The adults hatch after  few months, and they can be paired in a medium sized pop-up cage. It is a quite easy species to raise in captivity, and a good beginner species for people that want to try and breed Citheronia moths. The moths hatch quite synchonised in continuous generations. At night they are paired by leaving one or two (not more) females per cage and by introducing one to four males (1-2 males per female). At night, they will pair. Make sure there is a little airflow for them.

Adults live 6 to 14 days generally; and have beautiful, heavy, dark orange and red fiery colours. The abdomen is striped red and white, and if the moths are disturbed they will lift their wings straight behind their backs and curl the abdomen, in order to use it’s bright colours to scare off predators.

Citheronia bellavista male

Citheronia bellavista (male) 


Citheronia bellavista (males) 

Citheronia bellavista (female)

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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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