Citheronia laocoon — “Brazilian horned devil”

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Citheronia laocoon, the Brazilian horned devil,  is a beautiful Citheronia species from South America. Remarkable are its colours, but also the sexual dimorphism – while males of Saturniidae are generally smaller than the females, Citheronia laocoon takes it to the next level with males that are half the size of females. They seem to be very easy to breed.

Adult female of Citheronia laocoon

  • Difficulty rating:  Simple (Easy to breed)
  • Rearing difficulty: 5.5/10 (From egg to pupa)
  • Pairing difficulty: 5/10 (Archieving copulations)
  • Host plants: Liquidambar, Ligustrum, Prunus, Rosa, Ricinus
  • Natural range: South America, mainly in Brazil, French Guiana, Bolivia, Argentina, Paraguay.
  • Polyphagous: yes  
  • Generations: Multivoltine  (continuously brooded)
  • Family: Saturniidae (silkmoths)
  • Pupation: Subterranean (burrowing in soil)
  • Prefered climate: Tropical (warm and humid)
  • Special notes: Males are less than half the size of females 
  • Wingspan: 60mm – 130mm (small males, big females)
  • Binomial name: Citheronia laocoon (Cramer, 1777)
  • Health warning: No

Citheronia laocoon occurs in South America, mainly in Brazil, French Guiana, Bolivia, Argentina, Paraguay. They seem to be very polyphagous – in the wild they are commonly found feeding on Ricinus communis (castor bean). They will take a wide variety of plants and feed on Rosaceae too; I myself have raised them on Prunus padus and Liquidambar. Ligustrum has also been reported.

A fully grown caterpillar of Citheronia laocoon on Prunus padus

The most important thing is to keep this species well ventilated. While they tolerate high humidity extremely well, Citheronia dislikes stale air and lack of ventilation. It is best to cage or sleeve them. The small caterpillars should be reared in closed boxes until the third instar – the last two instars should be sleeved or caged. Compared to other Citheronia species, the moths and caterpillars are on the smaller side.

When they are finished growing, the caterpillars of Citheronia laocoon burrow in the soil. A suitable subtrate would be soil or shredded paper towels in captivity.

Two females and one small female of Citheronia laocoon

Citheronia laocoon seems to pair very easily at different times of the day – I’ve seen them couple up at dusk, in the middle of the night and even the early morning.

Copula of Citheronia laocoon

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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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