Rearing the Eyed Hawk Moth (Smerinthus ocellata)
Added 26/07/2012 to General News
As a child I was always amazed at the array of both butterfly and moth species found in the UK.
I reared Garden Tiger moths (commonly known as Woolly bears) caterpillars in jam jars and fed them copious amounts of dandelion leaves. Then watched in awe their journey and transition from larvae to adult moth.
During the last few years and especially after the birth of my daughter Emily and son Harry, it has made me revisit those early years and I’m again rearing these magnificent species.
Having children really does give you the excuse to be a little boy again and I suppose I never really grew up!
Last year I was given x6 Pupae of the Eyed Hawk moth. As pupae they would need to be overwintered until the following year 2012.
Our method of overwintering the pupae involved the fridge and a cunning stealth mission was planned to smuggle them in without my wife Anne noticing! (Nb of course she noticed, but she is used to seeing odd looking pots appearing around the house)
They remained in the fridge from July 2011 until Mid-May 2012. The fridge affords the pupae a constant cold stable temperature ideal for successful overwintering. The pupae were removed around second week in May 2012 and laid in a peat tray ready for emergence in a few weeks. Every few days they were sprayed with a garden hand mist sprayer.
Around 16 days later the pupae started changing colour to a different shade of black and were soft on inspection.
A couple of days after these observations at around 20.30 hrs our first Eyed Hawkmoth emerged and we were lucky to capture some of this event.
Eyed Hawkmoth short video clip of emerging moth.
Freshly emerged adult moth. Wings pumped up looking more Moth like.
Around 20 minutes the moth had pumped its wings to reveal a more moth like appearance.
Over the next few evenings the remaining pupae emerged successfully. The adults emerge around dusk which helps avoid some forms of predation.
During the next couple of days all seemed very quiet in the flight cage. This species does not feed but relies on the energy stored as larvae to fuel its life as a moth.
Adult at rest on tree trunk. Absolutely stunning.
Around midnight on the third evening a mating was observed. This pairing lasted for around 3-4 hours before the adults went their separate ways. During the next few days other pairing were observed in a similar fashion.
The next couple of evenings were very quiet with very little activity from the moths. Now pairing was complete when could we expect eggs?
The answer not long around 19.00 hrs a loud buzzing noise was heard from the flight cage. The females were buzzing warming their wings for flight. Over the next few hours the females deposited eggs singly all over the netting of the cage.
Text Single Eyed Hawkmoth ova laid on cage netting.
Over the next 48 hours a large number of eggs were laid. I carefully removed these from the netting and placed them in a small Perspex box with lid.
After 7 days we were excited to find the eggs hatching. They were everywhere!
It is very important to offer the newly hatched larvae food as soon as possible. This species of moth will accept both Sallow, Willow and some other tree species but we selected Sallow as this was readily available in our garden.
Over the next few weeks the foodplant was changed daily and the larvae consumed large amounts of Sallow leaves. They passed successfully through each instar. Each instar involves the larvae successfully shedding their skin completely.
Large Eyed Hawkmoth larvae a big change very quickly.
Final instar larvae nearly ready to pupate.
Finally the larvae lost their appetites and left the Sallow leaves and wandered around the box looking for a suitable pupation site.
I created this by placing them in small margarine tubs lined with tissue paper and placed them in a dark place. Around a week later most of the larvae had completed their transition from Larvae to pupae.
Project complete Pupae ready for fridge overwintering. Start the lifecycle all over again!
Posted by Michael Leigh-Mallory
All photographs and text Copyright. Michael Leigh-Mallory 2012.
This entry was tagged Eyed Hawk Moth