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Hey yall, so I have a Polyphemus moth that has laid eggs, but I’m not exactly certain what to feed it. I know they feed on oak, but I don’t know exactly what species they’ll eat. I tried feeding them white oak last time, but they only lasted a couple of days. Hopefully someone here can help me with this, I’m pretty much at a loss and it’ll be just a few days until the eggs hatch, thanks in advance! 

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56 minutes ago, Bugboy3092 said:

Hey yall, so I have a Polyphemus moth that has laid eggs, but I’m not exactly certain what to feed it. I know they feed on oak, but I don’t know exactly what species they’ll eat. I tried feeding them white oak last time, but they only lasted a couple of days. Hopefully someone here can help me with this, I’m pretty much at a loss and it’ll be just a few days until the eggs hatch, thanks in advance! 

Whatever species of oak is the most common in your area, that's probably the best one to try first.  But, polyphemus accepts quite a wide variety of food plants, including elm, hickory, walnut and sweet gum, to name a few.  The main thing to remember when rearing the caterpillars is to be very careful about the humidity level, and definitely don't use an airtight container, as a build-up of moisture and carbon dioxide released by the leaves can quickly kill them, especially when newly hatched.  Same for eggs.

Some basic rearing info.

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@Bugboy3092

Antheraea polyphemus is known to feed on variety plants including American elm, beech, birch, grape, hickory, honey locust, lemon, maple, oak, pear, plum, walnut, etc. Different reference always tell you different things. However, that does not mean they are all fully compatible with your caterpillars. Some of these can be primary preference, while others are secondary preferences (because primary preference is just not available). If you personally collected the female, and if you know what plants were nearby, try feed THAT plant instead of trying a random one of so many known host plants.

I attempted rearing Actias luna, Dryocampa rubicunda, Eacles imperialis, Automeris io, etc. which are known to feed on red oaks, did not actually fed on oak at all and just died in hunger. So what I think is that there are some different host preference over where the original specimen (or parent specimens) are collected. Say... If you collected a mated female in a maple forest, then the caterpillar's primary preference would potentially be maple and similar species, not pine or oak. Just my thoughts over my experience...

I tried feeding different plants (red oak, sweetgum, pines) for Actias luna (caterpillars from a mated female I collected), but caterpillars only fed on sweetgum, which was interesting. The mated female is collected in a pine forest with some sweetgums and oaks were available here and there. The exact location where I found the mated female had sweetgums all over the place. SO... I think that's why the caterpillars only fed on sweetgums, instead of pines (or oak).

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Thanks! Although I really just need to know if they have a specific oak species preference

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5 hours ago, Bugboy3092 said:

Thanks! Although I really just need to know if they have a specific oak species preference

I've reared polyphemus on oaks in the Red Oak (Lobatae) group, but I'd not be surprised if they would also accept the leaves of broad-leaf oaks from other groups.  What I used, was my locally common Quercus buckleyi.

JKim
I attempted rearing Actias lunaDryocampa rubicundaEacles imperialisAutomeris io, etc. which are known to feed on red oaks, did not actually fed on oak at all and just died in hunger. So what I think is that there are some different host preference over where the original specimen (or parent specimens) are collected. Say... If you collected a mated female in a maple forest, then the caterpillar's primary preference would potentially be maple and similar species, not pine or oak. Just my thoughts over my experience...

True - it appears that for various Lepidoptera species, the preferred host plant varies by geographic location.

I tried feeding different plants (red oak, sweetgum, pines) for Actias luna (caterpillars from a mated female I collected), but caterpillars only fed on sweetgum, which was interesting. The mated female is collected in a pine forest with some sweetgums and oaks were available here and there. The exact location where I found the mated female had sweetgums all over the place. SO... I think that's why the caterpillars only fed on sweetgums, instead of pines (or oak).

It seems that some saturniid species may be more particular than others in regard to their food plant preference.  For example, many years ago, I reared some luna caterpillars (from a locally collected moth) on oak without any problems.  Then, two years ago, I again very successfully reared a group (again from a locally collected moth) on sweetgum, as I had heard that luna was known to do well on it.  As compared to oak, sweetgum is not particularly common in my area.  But, it may simply be that the luna in my area is not very particular about food plant preference.  In any case however, caterpillars that are started on one host plant should be maintained on that plant for the rest of their development, as they might not be able to easily adapt to a different kind.

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https://www.nhm.ac.uk/our-science/data/hostplants/search/list.dsml?searchPageURL=browse.dsml&Family=Saturniidae&Genus=Antheraea&Species=polyphemus&Country=&sort=Family

This is a database of larval hosts for Lepidoptera. I would be careful of using species that only have one listing on this database. 

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Thank you! It looks like white oak was one of the most used, maybe something was just wrong with my tree

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they’ve now hatched, and seem to be doing well on white oak (though not from the same tree)

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