Rothschildia jacobaeae

Rothschildia jacobaeae is a beautiful Rothschildia moth from South America. The adults have beautiful and strong markings, and the larvae are green or yellow with white stripes and orange/red prolegs. The males are noticably smaller than the females (as is usual with many Rotschildia species).

A couple –  the left side the more slender male, on the right the bigger female of Rothschildia jacobaea

  • Difficulty rating: Simple (Easy to breed)
  • Rearing difficulty: 5/10 (From egg to pupa)
  • Pairing difficulty: 4/10 (Archieving copulations)
  • Host plants: Ligustrum, Salix, Syringa, Prunus
  • Natural range:  Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, and other places in South America. 
  • Polyphagous: yes  
  • Generations: Multivoltine (Has two to three generations per year in the wild) 
  • Family: Saturniidae (silkmoths)
  • Pupation: Cocoon (silk encasing)
  • Prefered climate: Occurs in warm and tropical areas, but can endure cold nights and thus does not need excess heat
  • Special notes: The caterpillars can have a very rare yellow colour form. 
  • Wingspan: 80 – 100mm (medium)
  • Binomial name: Rothschildia jacobaeae (Walker, 1855)
  • Health warning: Yes, but of the lowest degree. Most Rothschildia have sharp setae that in some cases can urticate. 

While many Rothschildia species can be reared on a selection of plants from the Rosaceae family (and others such as willow [Salix]) it appears that Ligustrum (privet) produces the best results by far. None of them have ever been hard to breed for me, and Rothschildia jacobaeae seems to be no exception to the rule.

A fully grown caterpillar of Rothschildia jacobaeae

Just like many other Rothschildia species, the eggs hatch in about two weeks time, and the larvae are easily raised in plastic boxes on Ligustrum sp. As long as they are kept in clean and hygiënic rearing conditions, the larvae will thrive on room temperature; both in cages and plastic boxes, though I would advice rearing the final instars (L4/L5) in well ventilaged cages, while rearing hatchlings (L1/L2/L3) in plastic boxes.  R. jacobaeae seems to have a high tolerance of being rearing in conditions with less ventilation, and the mature larvae can be kept in a high density without too much risk of infection, similar to Samia sp. in captivity.

Interesting fact: many species of Rothschildia are social as larvae, but Rothschildia jacobaeae is an exception. From the moment they hatch from the eggs, the larvae prefor to be alone, and will not live in groups.

Love is in the air, a pairing couple of Rothschildia jacobaeae

This species is continously brooded and if kept warm, the cocoons will always emerge within a few months time. The females call at night and the males will easily pair up, even in smaller cages. The moths can be handpaired easily aswell, though that does not seem to be necessary as R. jacobaeae is very eager to copulate.

One thing I have noticed is that the invidual growth speed of Rothschildia jacobaeae seems to show some variation. However, this could also be due to the fact that the males are significantly smaller than the females – perhaps the smaller larvae develop into males. But after breeding R. jacobaeae I often end up with a few extremely fat larvae and a few smaller larvae at the same time, a pattern that has repeated itself multiple times.

Not a “natural” picture but showing a nice harvest of larvae

A quick video:

 

All in all Rotschildia jacobaeae is a beautiful and fun species to breed in captivity,  recommended for both beginners and veteran breeders.

Young larvae of Rothschildia jacobaeae; showing no group behaviour.

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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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