Gonometa nysa is one of the most wonderful Lasiocampidae I have seen in my life. From the males with incredible iridescent blue metallic abdomens to the gigantic fat females to the large, green, spine-covered mossy looking larvae, these are a treat to observe.
- Difficulty rating: Average (The rearing is very easy with almost no mortality. But larvae test your patience by growing very slowly [3 to 5 months] and are painful to handle. Also males emerge before the females, making pairing hard)
- Rearing difficulty: 5/10 (From egg to pupa)
- Pairing difficulty: 5/10 (Archieving copulations)
- Host plants: Prunus, Robinia, Eucalyptus, Quercus, Rubus, Fagus, Salix
- Natural range: Africa
- Polyphagous: Yes
- Generations: Multivoltine (continuously brooded)
- Family: Lasiocampidae (eggar moths)
- Pupation: Cocoon (silk encasing)
- Prefered climate: Tropical Africa (hot, but seems to prefer being dry over being humid)
- Special notes: The larvae are among the biggest I have ever seen in my life including the big Saturniidae species, yet the moths don’t even come close to that in regards of size
- Wingspan: 70 – 120mm (a huge Lasiocampidae)
- Binomial name: Gonometa nysa (Druce, 1887)
Gonometa nysa is one of the larger Lasiocampidae from Africa; but not too much known about their faunistics. The good news is that Gonometa nysa is easy to rear. The bad news is they test your patience to the limit. Rearing the larvae should take about 3 to 5 months depending on the food you offer them and the temperature. The larvae are among the largest I have seen; spanning from 10cm to 16cm(yes!) in length. Their development is extremely slow, but luckily they seem very polyphagous. I myself have raised them on a mix of Quercus, Salix, Robinia, Eucalyptus and Prunus, all of which they are happy to feed upon.
One feature of Gonometa one should be aware of is the fact they hurt. Yes indeed, it may be *the* species with the most unpleasant larvae I have reared ever. Though they are not even venomous, the bodies of the larvae are armed with razor sharp spikes that will embed themselves into your skin like splinters. Even worse, when touched the larvae they may assume a “threat pose” and try to strike you by ramming you with their heads and thorax. Many times I had to peel the spines out of my arms and hands. At first I was impressed, but as it kept happening it became annoying to deal with!
In fact, one of my friends in the Netherlands made the mistake of rubbing his eyes with his hands after touching a larva. Yes, one of the spikes made it into his cornea and had to be removed by a doctor, rendering him blind for a week. So please beware if you are rearing Gonometa (I think any member of this genus may have these spines!).
The females of Gonometa nysa are quite large and remind me of a small Citheronia. Problematic is the fact they are considerably larger than the males and take much longer to develop in their pupae; this makes it harder to have a male and female out at the same time to archieve a pairing. Unfortunately the females do not have the shiny blue abdomens that the males do, but they certainly make up for it in size.
After spinning up, they spin cocoons made of though silk and as a finishing touch, they arm them with their very own spines before pupating. This makes touching the cocoons just as risky to touch as the larvae. The good news is that the moths emerge quite rapidly from their cocoons; expect to see the moths between 1 to 2 months. This makes up for their very long development time as larvae.
From my experience the caterpillars did quite well in plastic boxes, even in a high population density. Important is to provide them with a little bit of ventilation if you do: replace the lid of the box with netting, or leave it half open. They seem to very tolerant and hardly get sick or infected, as long as they are properly ventilated and proved good quality food. They also seemed to like the variation of plants I offered them, which was a mix of Quercus, Salix, Eucalyptus, and Prunus, and they eagerly defoliated all of it.
Pairings of this species seem to be very short and do not last for a long time, for that reason they may be hard to observe, and there is a high chance you will miss it if you are not paying attention. Interestingly they were also easy to handpair, on the condition that the females are not stressed out or disturbed (handle them very gently).
When fully grown, the larvae are monsters like many Gonometa species. Gonometa nysa is reported in Cameroon, DRCongo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Uganda – they seem to have a wide distribution.
All in all this is an easy species to raise, though getting pairings may depend a LOT on the luck factor! Consider yourself lucky if you have the opportunity to raise them as they are not commonly available to hobbyists.
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