Copaxa sophronia is a Copaxa silkmoth species that originates from Central to South America, including Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala. While the adults are not remarkably colourful, the larvae certainly are.
- Difficulty rating Average (Easy to breed)
- Rearing difficulty: 5/10 (From egg to pupa)
- Pairing difficulty: 5/10 (Archieving copulations)
- Host plants: Liquidambar, Persea americana
- Natural range: Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico
- Polyphagous: yes
- Generations: Multivoltine (continuous generations)
- Family: Saturniidae (silkmoths)
- Pupation: Cocoon (silk encasing)
- Prefered climate: Elevated highlands – warm to hot and humid but with temperature fluctiations and possibly colder nights
- Special notes: Not much is known about the biology of this moth in the wild, including natural host plant and peak flight times. The adults are not colourful but have a lot of variation, from grey to brown to yellow.
- Estimated wingspan: 105 – 120 mm (medium)
- Binomial name: Copaxa sophronia (Schaus, 1921)
- Health warning: No
Copaxa sophronia eggs hatch in about 2 to 3 weeks time. The young larvae are social and live and in groups together, but the mature larvae become solitary. Unfortunately, while there isn’t too much known about their host plants in the wild Copaxa sophronia will readily accept Liquidambar and Persea americana in captivity – two host plants that are favoured by many Copaxa species in captivity.
The mature larvae of Copaxa sophronia have beautiful colours, namely the spiracula that are bright orange and accompanied with a blue dot and red markings and the bright red prolegs of the larvae. If disturbed, the larvae will vomit and spew out their gut content; handling them often results in a sticky mess. Thus it is not advised to handle or stress the larvae too much: not because it is harmful to the handler, but because it can negatively impact the health of the larvae themselves if they are forced to regurgitate the contents of their stomach too often.
The young larvae are best reared in plastic boxes; from the third instar and beyond they should be given more airy and ventilated spaces, such as a cage; preferably bottled food plant in a water bottle. It is a straightforward species to rear if you keep them clean and well-ventilated.
It is important to note that the young caterpillars are social and feed, travel and shed their skins in groups: but the mature larvae become solitary and require more space nad privacy – because of this change in temperament it becomes easy to overcrowd the mature larvae. Still, they do better in high densities than most completely solitary species.
When fully grown, the larvae of Copaxa sophronia will wander around and become restless, and eventually settle somewhere to spin a cocoon. This species prefers to spin cocoons on the ground, preferably in leaf litter; none of the cocoons in the cage were found up high, but were rather spun between the frass and leaf litter left on the floor.
Copaxa sophronia spin thick and double-layered cocoons that are also very porous due to the holes in the silk; such type cocoons are very typical of Copaxa sp. – the cocoons generally emerge within a few months time. As Copaxa sophronia is continuously brooded, expect to have quick emergences after about 1.5 month.
The pupa is wine red to orangeish, gradually turning darker as the moths develop.
After hatching, the adults of Copaxa sophronia are easy handpaired due to the very large claspers of the male. The mort important thing is not to stress the female out too much and handle her gently. Interestingly I failed at getting any natural pairings; perhaps because the moths were related and didn’t pick up on eachothers pheromones, or simply because they lacked proper ventilation. Who knows? Whatever was lacking for the moths to pair naturally; the species is very easy to handpair, so this was not an obstacle in breeding it.
The adults of Copaxa sophronia are dark, but very variable. From my breeding I have seen sand-coloured adults emerge that were almost yellow; but the majority of them was either olive green, grey or brown. While not exceedingly colourful, the variation they show makes it rewarding to see them emerge. The moths are frantic and may become very active when stressed out. Try not to disturb freshly hatched moths of this species, for they may become so startled that they will not settle down again to properly inflate the wings.
A picture of some younger larvae which feed together in groups:
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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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