Dryocampa rubicunda — “Rosy maple moth”

Dryocampa rubicunda, also known as the rosy maple moth, is one of the smallest Saturniidae (silkmoths) in the world – and no doubt it is also the cutest. They are found in Canada and the eastern United Stated of America. As the name implies, Dryocampa rubicunda mainly feed on maple tree (Acer) and seem to rely on several kinds of maple trees. Dryocampa rubicunda can have multiple broods per year, but this strongly depends on the location. The most  northern populations, such as in Canada, only have one generation a year – the pupae will hibernate and will lay dormant until the next spring. However, in the deep south, in states such as in Florida, these moths produce up to three generations a year. This means that they will produce new generations as long as the local climate allows it, and may produce more than usual in captivity. However, at some point they will always hibernate. Their favorite host plants is Acer saccharum, also known as sugar maple, although they seem to accept nearly all kinds of maple trees in the genus Acer. They are occasionally also recorded on Quercus sp. – oak trees – in the wild  but oak seems to be a suboptimal host plant, and in captivity the caterpillars show a higher mortality rate if raised on oak. Young caterpillars are social and can be found in groups while larger larvae become rather solitary. Larvae pupate in the soil after burrowing.

Their wingspan around 2 to 3 centimetres and this species is one of the smallest Saturniidae in North America, if not already the smallest. Adults are usually pink – usually that is – a yellow form (D. rubicunda ‘alba’) has also been recorded. This form has pale yellow to white adults that have barely any to no pink scales at all on their wings (although the legs and other features still remain pink). The moths seem to have broad appeal due to their ‘cuteness’ factor (mainly being fluffy, small and pink).

A wonderful specimen of the rosy maple moth (Dryocampa rubicunda)

  • Difficulty rating: Average (Not the easiest but not hard. But you will need Acer sp.!)
  • Rearing difficulty: 5/10 (From egg to pupa)
  • Pairing difficulty: 6/10 (Archieving copulations)
  • Host plants: Acer sp. (Acer saccharum preferred plus Acer pseudoplatanus, rubrum and saccharinum are also recommended)
  •  Natural range:  North America and Canada
  • Polyphagous:  Yes, but not very, they are picky eaters. It is more of a specialist that feeds on maple tree [Acer sp.] – they are also reported to eat oak in the wild and in captivity [Quercus] but with bad result. It will try to feed on most species of Acer sp., but it prefers Acer saccharum. 
  • Generations: Univoltine or bivoltine (usually only one generation a year,  second generation is possible in captivity and in warm years in the wild) 
  • Family: Saturniidae (silkmoths)
  • Pupation: Subterranean (burrows in soil)
  • Preferred climate: Temperate 
  • Special notes: They seem to be more picky than  most Saturniidae, and trying anything else than Acer saccharum is not the best idea (though other Acer species may work)
  • Wingspan: 15 – 35mm (Extremely small for Saturniidae)
  • Binomial name: Dryocampa rubicunda (Fabricius 1793)

So small and fluffy! Dryocampa rubicunda must be the cutest moth I’ve bred.

Dryocampa rubicunda, the the rosy maple moth, is  moth  that occurs in North America and parts of Canada. They are mainly found in the eastern part of the US, from Florida to Canada. The favorite host plant of Dryocampa rubicunda is maple, with sugar maple (Acer saccharum) yielding good result in captivity.  Larvae of Dryocampa rubicunda are gregarious – they feed and travel in groups.  However, in the later instars, the mature larvae become solitary. From my experience they do need a little ventilation and are best reared sleeved or caged. I had great succes sleeving them on Acer saccharum in my garden. It seems they are easily able to handle cold and even rain, as long as they are properly ventilated. In my opinion one should not attempt to raise them in plastic boxes ever, since they can become infected quicky in such airtight environments.  The caterpillars are green and range from nearly white to lime green and have dark stripes running over the length of their body, also giving them the common name “striped mapleworms”. This species has also been reported to feed on oak (Quercus); though rearing this species on oak may be a possibility, I would not recommend it for optimal result, only if you are somehow unable to locate maple tree. However, for stress-free and potentially easy breeding, Acer saccharum – or other kinds of Acer are recommended. Acer pseudoplatanus, rubrum and saccharinum are also succesful.

After for feeding for about 1 to 1.5 months, the caterpillars are ready to pupate. At this point in time they will burrow in soil and pupate. Pupae are tiny, black and have small spines. Depending on the duration of daylength experience as larvae and temperatures the pupae may or may not diapause. Pupae can be stored cold during winter in a  reasonably well isolated environment. While they occur even in Canada where winters get very cold (-20C) one should keep in mind they are normally protected from such harsh cold because they pupate underground. Isolate them well when overwintering them – soil, leaf litter, towels, moss or vermiculite can be used to archieve this.

Dryocampa rubicunda being sleeved on Acer pseudoplatanus  in my garden 

 Young gregarious caterpillars of the rosy mapy moth feeding together

Older larvae of D. rubicunda feeding on Acer in a cage

Older larvae of D. rubicunda feeding on Acer in a cage

Fully grown caterpillars of Dryocampa rubicunda

 

The adults are rather short lived and live for about a week or less, females slightly longer than males. Males are active at night and are attracted to the pheromone of the female. Their lifespart is very short for  a Saturniidae, althought this is to be expected of one of the smallest Saturniidae in North America. Females seem to lay 50 to 150+ eggs. Eggs of this species hatch in 10 to 15 days. This species hibernates in the pupal stage. Unhatched pupae can be kept cold in winter and will usually hatch next spring.

 A photo I couldn’t resist making.. because they look like candy!

One of the more yellow Dryocampa rubicunda alba, some specimens can be entirely yellow with no pink at all. 

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The aim of this website is to provide information about many species of moths and butterflies around the world, with a slight focus on rearing them in captivity.

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