Paradirphia (Lemaireodirphia) albida

Lemaireodirphia albida is a Mexican species of Saturniidae from Oaxaca, Mexico. Described in 2012 this species is not as new as it seems; it looks like this species is part of the taxonomical mess that exists within Saturniidae. A new trend is to describe Saturniidae on DNA basis alone – however this method completely disregards the ecology and morphology of these species, a grave mistake that is to be corrected in the future. The fact remains that this Paradirphia is now under new genus Lemaireiodirphia, and will be referred to as Lemaireodirphia (for the sake of consistency) in this article.

Lemaireodirphia (=Paradirphia) albida threat pose

  • Difficulty rating: Moderate 
  • Rearing difficulty: 5/10 (From egg to pupa)
  • Pairing difficulty: 6/10 (Archieving copulations)
  • Host plants: Quercus, Salix
  • Natural range: Mexico (Oaxaca)
  • Polyphagous: yes  
  • Generations:   Uni or perhaps bivoltine (demonstrates a diapause in captivity, but I lack data of the natural flight times)
  • Family: Saturniidae (silkmoths)
  • Pupation: Subterranean (burrowing in soil)
  • Prefered climate: Tropical (warm and humid) with colder winters
  • Special notes: This species can “overwinter” at warmer temperatures.  The whole genus is also a taxonomical mess.  
  • Wingspan: 65 – 100mm  
  • Binomial name: Lemaireodirphia albida (Brechlin & Meister 2012) NOTE: Brechlin & Meister species (is this a real species?)
  • Health warning: Yes (Caterpillars have urticating venomous spines that hurt. A risk for sensitive or allergic people. They seem to hurt more than most Automeris/Dirphia too.)

In captivity, the caterpillars of Lemaireodirphia albida will hatch from their eggs in just a few weeks. The younger larvae are social and travel and feed together in groups, however the later instars become more solitary and will seperate themselves from other larvae. If raising this species, the most important thing is to provide them proper ventilation. The larvae of this species can be reared in a high density and don’t mind being crowded, but they do not tolerate excess moisture or airtight containers. The best method would be sleeving or caging them – however the younger larvae (instar 1, 2, 3 can be raised in plastic boxes and caged at a later point).

Caterpillars of Lemaireodirpia albida on Salix

The caterpillars of Lemaireodirphia albida have a painful sting, even significantly more painful than Automeris from my experience. The larvae are brown and covered with greenish/reddit setae that have venomous, toxic spines. In captivity they accepted Salix and Quercus, but possibly they will feed on a wider range of plants; thus experimenting will be worthwhile.

Ignore the green larvae; they are Automeris excreta. The brown ones are Lemaireodirphia albida being reared together with Automeris, they seem to do well together  (though I do not recommend rearing different species together, I did it because I lacked space) 

The adults of Lemaireodirphia albida are grey/brown and decorated with beautiful white markings (hence the name “albida”). Even more interestingly they have brightly coloured abdomens that they will reveal if startled (like many Hemileucinae do with either red or yellow/orangeish abdomens, as seen in Periphoba, Paradirphia, Pseudodirphia etc).

When fully grown the larvae burrow and pupate, and will usually not emerge until next spring; although I suspect there could be a partial second generation (unconfirmed) if the circumstances are right.

Diapausing  pupae should be overwintered cold but frost free, ideally between 0C and 10C (= degrees Celcius) and dry, and kept more warm and humid in spring. The emergence of the adults tends to be well synchronised and not sporadic.

Adult Lemaireodirphia albida specimen

All in all, Lemaireodirphia albida is a unique species very suitable for everybody that wants to study Saturniidae further.

Group behaviour of young Lemaireodirphia

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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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