Friday, 17 April 2015

Emperors again

I've been rearing Emperor Moths annually since 2006.  Having failed to "assemble" a single male to a female anywhere last season despite repeated attempts, it was not until a gravid female came to a light trap in woodland in north-west Bucks on 24th April 2014 and left me some eggs that I managed to secure a continued supply of off-spring to rear for this year.  The caterpillar stage takes a bit of effort, especially towards the end, but they'd all pupated by late-June.  The cocoons are fairly easy to sex based on size and I sorted them into two separate cages in our shed during the winter.  My first adult emergences occurred early afternoon today (five females and two males) and, as usual, the men were kept confined in their cage until the ladies had had a chance to do their business here at Westcott.  The net cage containing the females was hung out at 3pm and the first "wild" male arrived at 3.45pm, adding the species to this year's garden list.  Within half an hour another four males had turned up (as Martin mentioned in his earlier post, afternoon and early evening seem to be the best times for "assembling").  I kept watch throughout because it didn't take long at all for our garden Robins and Blackbirds to notice the arrival of this potential supply of food for their youngsters.  Two of the males were allowed into the cage to pair up, leaving me the other three virgin females (and whatever else may emerge tomorrow) to hawk around the county over the weekend.   In Bucks we have post-millennium records from twenty 10km squares so this beautiful moth is widespread if sometimes thinly spread.  The same will almost certainly be true for Berks and Oxon.  I see that a pheromone lure is now available for Emperor but using it will be no substitute for the pleasure to be gained from rearing them through and using the real thing!
Dave Wilton

Synchronised emergence - a new Olympic sport?!

Newly-emerged female, Westcott 17th April 

"Assembling" in progress, Westcott 17th April

1 comment:

  1. Great fun watching the action, Dave. I kind of miss it after rearing the ones you gave me for four years, but i didn't always have the time to look after all the larvae on top of other species i was rearing.


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