Rothschildia moths come in many shapes and colours; from big to small, from colourful to dull, from noctunal to diurnal. Among the smaller end of the spectrum, they can be medium sized Saturniid moths – but among the bigger end of the spectrum, they can be absolutely huge! Rothschildia triloba definitely falls in the “huge” category. With a wingspan of up to 145mm (males 115mm), this species of Rothschildia is one of the giants.
Rothschildia triloba is one of the bigger species of Saturniidae from central America. For a long time, it was considered to be a subspecies of Rothschildia orizaba (Westwood, 1854) – old records often mention them as Rothschildia orizaba triloba – but recent research split them into seperate species. Indeed, it’s true that triloba and orizaba are similar looking species. But it’s possible to seperate them; in the triangular transparant wing “windows” (fenestrae), the edges are straight in true orizaba, but are curved in triloba. Secondly, triloba is brighter in colour than orizaba. Thirdly, it seems that triloba is continuously brooded, while orizaba are more inclined to diapause – potentially due to a stronger difference in dry and wet seasons in their habitat.
In captivity, Rothschildia triloba is simple to breed to any hobbyist that has basic experience with Saturniidae. The larvae grow and adults can be impressively big, although it is a challenge to raise them to their ‘full’ size (in captivity, dwarfism seems to happen fast with this species). In the wild, they feed on several types of Araliaceae (Aralia sp., Schlefflera sp.), Lacistemataceae (Lacistema sp.) and most likely more plants and shrubs; in captivity the larvae have proven to be exceptionally polyphagous, feeding on Oleaceae, Anacardiaceae, Rosaceae, Altingiaceae, Salicaceae and more. Saturniid enthousiasts commonly raise these giants on Ligustrum (privet) or Prunus (cherry).
The larvae of Rothschildia triloba are just as impressive as the moths. While their backs are bright neon green with small orange tubercules, their stomachs are dark green, and covered with white fuzzy hairs.
- Difficulty rating: Average – not hard to breed
- Rearing difficulty: 6/10 (From egg to pupa)
- Pairing difficulty: 6/10 (Archieving copulations)
- Host plants: Liquidambar (sweetgum), Hedera helix (common ivy), Schinus molle (Peruvian pepper), Fraxinus (ash tree), Ligustrum (privet), Ailanthus (tree of heaven), Prunus padus (bird cherry), Aralia humilis, Schefflera brenesii,
- Natural range: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama
- Polyphagous: yes
- Generations: Multivoltine – continuously brooded in tropical locations, in 2-3 generations per year
- Family: Saturniidae (silkmoths)
- Pupation: Cocoon (silk encasing)
- Prefered climate: Hot, and humid (tropical)
- Special notes: It is very difficult to raise captive specimens close to their “original” size in the wild. They grow well on many host plants and are easy to breed, but rarely develop to moths as big as wild caught specimens. In the wild they are very big compared to captive animals in most cases.
- Estimated wingspan: 110mm-145mm (males smaller than females; very big species
- Binomial name: Rothschildia triloba (Rothschild, 1907)
The eggs of Rothschildia triloba are round, and pale white. In captivity, they are expected to hatch in a timespan of 10 to 16 days in most cases.
Once the eggs hatch, they can be carefully placed inside a plastic container.