Rinaca (Caligula) lindia — Himalayan Emperor Moth

Rinaca lindia, the Himalayan Emperor Moth, is a beautiful species of moth that is found within the Himalayan mountain range of Pakistan, India, Nepal, China, Myanmnar, Thailand and Bhutan. Here, the moth flies in one generation a year; reportedly on high altitudes from more or less 1900m to 5000m.

Ricana (Caligula) lindia female

Rinaca (Caligula) lindia is one of the prettier members of the genus; their wings predominantly being pale grey with two large contrasting red eyespots on their hindwings.

Reportedly, their flight time is somewhat different in each location; Tony Pittaway’s website (click here) for example, reports a flight time as early as April in Bhutan, but a flight time as late as August in India (Kashmir) – quite a difference. It does however, seem to have just one generation a year in every place where it occurs – the species is univoltine and the pupae hibernate. In the wild, larvae eat Hippophae (buckthorn), Betula (birch), Lonicera (honeysuckle), Popular tree (Populus) and more dedicuous plants.

Rinaca lindia male

Rinaca lindia is not difficult to rear in captivity, even under moderate temperatures; personally I have raised it on Prunus padus and Betula papyrifera without much complications. With some basic experience, you can raise them too! The larvae have long, white, bristly hairs, a pale green cuticle, white setae, and interestingly – false eyespot like markings near their rear end.

Rinaca lindia larva
  • Difficulty rating: Average – This species is not hard to breed, but you will need basic experience.
  • Rearing difficulty: 5/10 (From egg to pupa)
  • Pairing difficulty: 3/10 (Archieving copulations)
  • Host plants: Poplar tree (Populus), Deciduous types of cherry (Prunus sp. such as P. padus), Sea-buckthorn (Hippophae sp.), Honeysuckle (Lonicera sp.), Walnut (Juglans regua), Willow (Salix sp.), Maple (Acer sp.)
  • Natural range:  China, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Myamnmar, Bhutan, Thailand – distributed along the Himalayan foothills and mountain ranges
  • Polyphagous: yes
  • Generations: Univoltine (it seems to have one brood a year)
  • Family: Saturniidae (silkmoths)
  • Pupation: Cocoon (silk encasing)
  • Prefered climate: Temperate (high altitude species). Possibly experiences warmer days, and cooler nights
  • Special notes: One of the easier Rinaca species to raise.
  • Estimated wingspan: 75mm- 95m mm (average)
  • Binomial name: Rinaca lindia (Moore, 1865)

Rinaca lindia is not difficult to raise. In fact, the most difficult part is obtaining it, since they are rarely offered. In captivity, they accept a wide range of food plants, which offers the average silkmoth enthousiast a lot of options.

The eggs of Rinaca lindia is are creamy, pale brown to white in shape, and somewhat oval in shape. They are easily incubated on room temperature (around 21C-20C) in a petri dish, or plastic box that is airtight.

Rinaca lindia eggs

Upon hatching, the first instar caterpillars are pale green with tiny black dots on their backs, and white hairs. After that, the young larvae can be transferred into plastic container and raised on the leaves of plants. They’re willing to feed on Poplar tree (Populus), Deciduous types of cherry (Prunus sp. such as P. padus), Sea-buckthorn (Hippophae sp.), Honeysuckle (Lonicera sp.), Walnut (Juglans regua), Willow (Salix sp.), Maple (Acer sp.) – and perhaps even more host plants. Any non-evergreen (and even some evergreen) type of Rosaceae could be an option.

Rinaca lindia L1 caterpillars

Rinaca lindia L1 caterpillars

The first instar larvae of Rinaca lindia assume a very typical “J-like” resting position between feeding sessions.

After several days, the caterpillars will shed their skins to the second instar – which somewhat resembles the first instar, apart from the fact that two pairs of tubercules on their thorarical segments seem to have become black, while the rest of their tubercules are pale white.

Rinaca lindia L2

The third instar becomes quite funky, with orange markings on their behind. This species is rather easy to raise for the average silkmoth enthousiast; they develop well around 21C or higher temperatures (they accept moderate temperatures quite well). Personally, I raised L1 through L3 in a plastic box, and L4 & L5 in a well-ventilated insect pop-up cage.

Rinaca lindia L3

From the fourth instar (L4) and beyond, the larvae have rather unique eye-like markings on their behind; these may play a role in either redirecting the attacks of predators away from their (actual!) head or the false eyes may serve as a deterrent that intimidates predators.

Rinaca (Caligula) lindia L4

The fifth and final instar of Rinaca lindia resembles the fourth quite strongly.

Rinaca lindia L5
Rinaca lindia L5

Once their development is finished, the larvae will stop feeding and then spin brown, papery, oval cocoons. Within these cocoons, the pupae will hibernate. The species has one generation a year – and as far as I’m aware – pretty much always hibernates in the pupal (cocoon) stage. This means that in captivity, it is necessary to store the cocoons cold (10C-5C) for several months and then gradually warming them up in spring to break their diapause (and trigger their pupal development).

Rinaca lindia cocoons

If you’ve done everything correct up until this point – warm the cocoons up, and gradually bring them from cold temperature to room temperature (>20C). And behold; in about a month after warming them up, one can expect the first moths to emerge from their pupae.

Females have thin, stumpy antennae, while males have broad and feathered antennae. Males have more triangulare and slender wings, with sharper edges. Both sexes have incredibly beautiful, deep red eyespots surrounded by subtle pink scaling; it’s almost as if they’re blushing.

Rinaca lindia female

Rinaca lindia ocelli
Rinaca lindia female
Rinaca lindia male

In captivity, this species mates rather easily – even in low temperatures. Include males and females together in insect pop-up cages, and place them in a dark space with some airflow (open a window, or place them outdoors); and at night, males and females will pair up.

Rinaca lindia pairing

After mating and laying eggs, the moths will quickly pass away and leave behind eggs that can be collected. Your new generation of moths is on the way!

For those who are willing to see a life cycle video of the moth Rinaca lindia; here is a video of how to raise them in captivity! It shows further details, such as the setup I used to raise them. Video:

Rinaca lindia life cycle video


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Citations: Coppens, B. (2022); Written by Bart Coppens; based on a real life breeding experience [for citations in literature and publications] 

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