Samia ricini, the Eri silkmoth, is one of the few domesticated insects. Samia ricini is not a “true” specie and does not occur in the wild. In fact, it is a polyhybrid of multiple wild Samia species – among which the Samia canningi and Samia cynthia and more – which has been selected for silk production in captivity. This makes them very easy to keep and breed, as they have been adapted to survive in captive conditions. The “ricini” is not a true species, DNA analysis shows that it is a domestic polyhybrid that was created in captivity by humans – it was derived from several other Samia species such as S. canningi and S. cynthia, and then selectively bred for silk production for a few hundred years.
- Difficulty rating: 3/10 (Very good practice for beginners)
- Host plants: Ligustrum, Ailanthus, Prunus, artificial diet has also been developed
- Natural range: N/A (“ricini” is not a true species, DNA analysis shows that it is a domestic polyhybrid that was created in captivity by humans – it was derived from several other Samia species such as S. canningi and S. cynthia, and then selectively bred for silk production for a few hundred years). But it originated from tropical Asia.
- Polyphagous: Yes
- Generations: Multivoltine (continuously brooded)
- Family: Saturniidae (silkmoths)
- Pupation: Cocoons (silk encasing)
- Prefered climate: Room temperature (18C-21C) is perfect
The Samia is a medium-sized moth from the tribe Attacini, which is why it meight remind you of a mini version of the famous Atlas moth. They have a wide range of host plants, inclusing tree of heaven (Ailanthus), and Ligustrum (privet), Ricinus (castor), Prunus (cherries) and many more.
The young caterpillars show social behaviour and during the first few instars they feed communal before becoming solitary during the final instars.
Young caterpillars of Samia ricini
While this specie is quite easy, the most important thing is to keep the caterpillars slightly humid and their environment clean. Especially when reared in large numbers their container should be hygienic.
The cocoons of this species are quite beautiful and silky soft due to them being selected for silk production.
The caterpillars grow quite large and very from blueish/greenish to white and are covered with waxy power (this probably helps them become water-repellent.). A common problem with this specie is inbreeding, which causes deformed/crippled and asymetric moths.
After having spun up, the moths will emerge relatively fast, in about a month.
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