Appearance of the Ricini Silmoth
The Samia cynthia butterfly has a brown wing color in different shades of brown and has a beautiful purple stripe along the wings. They also have yellow spots and lines on the wings. At the tip of the wings is a small eye-spot meant to distract predators. The body of the moth is white with brown stripes. The wingspan of the butterfly is up to 15 cm.
The caterpillars look really pretty. When they are born they are very small (0.5 cm) and have a green color with a black head. When the caterpillars molt to their next instar, they become whitish. When they are bigger, they are completely white with a yellowish or blueish hue. On their body are small extensions and their head is yellow. They grow very fast, the caterpillars grow up to 7 cm long in one month.
Butterflies & Moths Species
There are an enormous amount of butterfly species in the world; around 160.000! All of them a different in color, size, habitat and behavior.
The following pages will describe some species that are commonly kept as pets. On those pages you can also read about how to keep them as pets and how to breed them.
Cricula Silkmoth :
The Cricula silkmoth, or Cricula trifenestrata, is an easy to keep butterfly species with very funny looking caterpillars. It is found in India, the Phillipines, Java and Sulawesi.
Cricula trifenestrata is given his name because of the three windows in its wings (tri = three, fenestrata = windows). The “windows” are three places in the wing that are completely transparent. There are no holes there.
Cricula trifenestrata female moth seen from the back
Cricula trifenestrata female moth seen from the underside. It is playing dead.
Appearance of the Cricula Silkmoth
This species of moth is orange with different shades of brown, and has a very nice straight line across the wings. The lower wings have a purple-pink haze. The body is hairy and orange. The butterflies are up to 9 cm in wingspan.
The caterpillars look really nice. When they are born, they are very small (0.5 cm) and yellow with a little bit of hair on their body. As they grow, they become red with white and black stripes. They have long white hair over their whole body. A beautiful color combination!
Food for Cricula trifenestrata
The caterpillars of this species eat many different kinds of plants. You can feed them with one species of plant or with several species, but preferably there must be rhododendron in their diet. They eat the leaves of rhododendron, oak, willow, cinnamon, plum, walnut, apple, and probably many more species of plant leaves. You can check out our Food Plant page to learn to recognize wild plant species.
The adult moths do not eat. They have no mouth!
Cricula trifenestrata male moth seen from the back
Behavior of caterpillars and moths
The caterpillars eat most of their time. They also molt a couple of times, they do this by gluing their feet onto the ground and then walking out of their old skin (which is attached to the ground). When the caterpillars pupate, they spin a yellow cocoon. Their pupa is dark brown and darkens with time. The caterpillars are about 6 cm long before they pupate!
The butterflies can fly and they usually do so at night. Do not grab them by the wings, but let them step on your finger by pushing gently at the moths feet. Sometimes the moths let themselves drop to the ground and they hold their legs to their body. The do not respond to touches anymore: this is playing dead (death feigning).
The caterpillars and butterflies can not bite or sting, they are completely harmless.
Cricula trifenestrata female moth seen from the front
The ideal temperature to keep the caterpillars and moths is about 25 ° C, but room temperature (20 °C) will do.
Caterpillars should never sit too damp, because they can have problems with infections. When you feed the caterpillars new leaves, you can spray the leaves to supply some moisture to the animals.
A suitable residence for the caterpillars of this species is a plastic box with lots of ventilation. This ventilation can be achieved by a mesh cover for example. You can put the leaves in a cup of water to keep them fresh, but you can also lay them down and remove them when they are withered (or eaten). At the bottom of the enclosure you have to place some tissues. You have clean the enclosure once a day by changing these tissues to prevent mold and dirtiness. When you find the cocoons, you can hang them on a thread following this method. Keep the cocoons a bit humid, around 60% RH.
The enclosure for the butterflies should be at least 40 x 40 x 40 cm, preferably (much) more. Bigger is always better, as long as the cage is safe. Do not give the butterflies a glass or plastic cage but rather one made of mesh. They do not require much humidity and they cannot drink or eat.
Cricula trifenestrata cocoon, beautifully golden yellow.
Developmental time at around 24 °C
The eggs take about 10 days to hatch.
The caterpillars eat about one month long, until they pupate.
The pupa develops within 3 weeks to butterfly.
The butterfly lives is still about one week.
Breeding Cricula Silkmoths
The adult males of this species are recognizable by their wings, their smaller size and more pointed abdomen. The females are noticeably larger with broader wings and a rounder abdomen. The most easy way to distinguish the males from the females is by looking at the ‘windows’ in the wings of the moth. The ‘holes’ are much bigger in the females than in the males. The pictures on this page will clarify that.
To breed you just need a male and a female and the correct temperature. They will start mating really soon after eclosion. The female lays about 200 to 300 eggs in her life. Just keep the eggs on a moist piece of paper until they hatch. Do not let mold grow on the eggs, this can kill them really easily. The best way to prevent mold is to let the eggs dry a bit before watering them again. Complete drought can kill them tough.
- Ricini Silkmoth :
The Eri Silkmoth, or Ricini Moth, more scientifically Samia cynthia ricini, is a subspecies of the Samia cynthia moth. It is a beautiful big moth found in Asia. The caterpillars are really large and have beautiful white, yellowish or blueish colors.
This caresheet deals with both Samia cynthia and Samia cynthia ricini. The care for both subspecies is the same.
Samia cynthia butterfly
Samia cynthia caterpillar
Food and feeding :
The caterpillars of the Ricini Moth eat privet leaves. They can also eat castor bean leaves, cherry leaves (Prunus sp.), rose leaves, laburnum (Laburnum anagyroides) and ‘Tree of Heaven’ leaves (Ailanthus altissima). In nature or in moth farms they are fed with Tree of Heaven leaves, but they can also be kept exclusively on privet.
The adult moths do not eat. They have no mouth! A consequence of not eating is that they will not live long, generally about 8 to 10 days.
Samia cynthia caterpillars. The green ones are in their first instar stage, the whitish one in its second.
Samia cynthia caterpillars eating privet
Samia cynthia butterfly
Behavior of the Ricini Moth
The caterpillars eat most of their time, all day and night. They molt five times. They do this by gluing their feet on the ground and then just walk out of their old skin. When the caterpillars are going to pupate, they spin a white cocoon in a corner of the enclosure or between branches and leaves. Inside the cocoon the caterpillar becomes a pupa.
The butterflies do not fly much, but sometimes the males will fly in the night. Females can be picked up easily without restraining them, they rarely fly. If you want to pick up a butterfly, NEVER grab the wings. You can coax the moth on your hand by touching it at the feet and letting it step on your hand.
The caterpillars and butterflies cannot bite or hurt you, they are completely harmless.
Environmental conditions :
The ideal temperature is about 25 ° C, but room temperature (20 ° C) is fine for these animals. The lower the temperature, the slower the growth.
Caterpillars should never sit in a too damp environment, because they can develop problems with bacterial infections. You can hold the leaves you feed to the caterpillars under the tap to moisten them. That is enough moisture for the caterpillars. Keep the enclosure very well ventilated.
A suitable residence for the caterpillars is a plastic box with lots of ventilation. For example by a mesh cover. You can put the leaves you feed them in a cup of water to keep them fresh, but you can also lay them down in the enclosure and remove them when they are withered (or eaten). At the bottom of the enclosure you have put tissues to allow easy cleaning. You have to change the tissues once a day and replace them with some clean ones.
If you find cocoons, you can collect them and hang them in a special enclosure suitable for eclosion of the moths. How to hang the cocoons can be read here.
The moth should have a lot of space, but their enclosure should not be made of glass or plastic. Mesh with diameters smaller than 2 x 2 cm is good. Some people set the moths free in a room, then they obviously have the most space! The room should be safe for them though.
Samia cynthia butterfly seen from the front
Samia cynthia male butterfly seen from the front
Developmental time of the Ricini Moth
The eggs take about 10 days to hatch.
The caterpillars eat 35 days long, until they pupate.
The pupa develops within 3 weeks to a butterfly.
The butterfly lives between 5 and 8 days.
The males of the Ricini Silkmoth are recognizable by the broad feathered antennae. The females have antennae with less “hair” on it.
When the moths eclose from their cocoon they will almost immediately start mating. The female lays about 200 to 300 eggs in her life.
Do not release eggs, caterpillars or moths into nature. Samia cynthia is not a native species in many countries, so releasing it could disrupt nature.
Appearance of the Atlas Moth
The Atlas Moth has a wing span of 25 cm. The front wings have two triangle shaped ‘windows’ made of translucent wing material, the back wings also each have a window. The wings itself are a rusty brown color, with light yellow, red, purple, black and pink accents.
The caterpillars are greenish white in color with soft spines on their back. They almost look a bit powdered. On the side of the last feet the caterpillars have a red and blue spot.
Samia ricini - The silkmoth has emerged from the cocoon
- Atlas Moth :
The Atlas Moth, Attacus atlas, is one of the largest species of butterfly that can be kept by insect enthusiasts. The moth is beautiful and very large, but also the caterpillars look amazing. The caterpillars are green-whitish with strange soft spines on their backs. Their last feet have a bright red spot on them.
Originally this species is from Sout-East Asia. This is the caresheet for the Atlas Moth.
Atlas Moth male
A male Atlas Moth
The butterflies of the Attacus atlas species do not have a mouth and therefore cannot feed. They live off the energy reserve that they obtained as a caterpillar. This means they do not live that long, generally only 5 to 7 days.
The caterpillars of the Atlas Moth do eat, and a lot as well! They eat leaves of privet, Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), citrus trees, cinnamon trees and mango trees. As you can see they are not too picky regarding their food plant, but they won’t eat any leaf.
Behavior of Attacus atlas :
Atlas Moth caterpillars are easy pets, they do not require attention and won’t try to escape. As long as they have food, they will just eat. When they are about to make a cocoon, they will walk around to find a suitable place.
During the day the moths are inactive, during the evening and night they will start to fly in search of a mate or for a suitable place to lay their eggs. During the day they are easily handled, you can pick them up by forcing them to step onto your hand or finger. NEVER grab them at their wings, because they are very fragile.
A recently eclosed Atlas Moth female
A suitable housing for the caterpillars is a clear plastic box with a lot of ventilation holes. On the bottom of this container you can place paper towels. The caterpillars will live on top of their food leaves and do not need any other decoration. If you choose to place the branches with leaves in a cup of water to keep them fresh, make sure that the caterpillars cannot fall into the water.
The moth should be kept in a well ventilated cage or room. This space can never be too big for them. If you use a glass terrarium or cage with wide gaps between the bars, the moths will destroy their wings when flying against the cage or the glass.
The ideal temperature to keep Atlas Moths and their caterpillars is 25 °C, but room temperature is also find. The temperature should not go below 14 °C
Do not keep the caterpillars too moist, as humidity makes them prone to fungal infections. If you just wet the fresh leaves that you feed them before you put them in their enclosure, than it is already moist enough.
Atlas Moth on finger
Hanging cocoons :
When the caterpillars made their cocoons of silk and changed into pupa, you can collect them and hang them nicely. Hanging the cocoons in a planned fashion will ease the eclosion of the butterfly, opposed to having them eclose at whatever place the caterpillar has chosen.
With a needle you can pin a piece of the silk of the cocoon to and hang it from the ceiling of a cage. You can also use a needle and thread and hang the cocoon from that. Try to put it as far to the edge of the cocoon as possible, so you won’t hinder the butterfly when he wants to get out. Hang the cocoons in a space with at least 30 cm free space all around the cocoons. Make sure the cage has sides that are climbable for butterflies, so they can climb up again if the accidentally fall down. The cage cannot be too big.
Developmental time of Atlas Moths :
The eggs take 10 to 14 days to hatch.
The caterpillars will eat for 35 to 45 days.
The pupa will develop into butterflies in around 21 days.
The butterfly will live for 5 to 7 days.
Just hatched Atlas moth caterpillars and the eggs
Reproduction and breeding :
The males of the Atlas Moth are easily recognized by their broad, feathered antenna. The females have thinner antenna and have fewer feather-like hairs on them. The wings of males and females are also very different. The ‘windows’ in the wings of females are much bigger than in the wings of males. The females are a bit larger in general.
Very shortly after the butterflies eclose from their cocoon, mating starts. The female will spread pheromones to attrackt a male. You do not need to do anything to make this happen. Some people say movement of air, wind, will facilitate mating because it makes it easier for the male to find the location of the pheromones.
The female will produce around 200 to 300 eggs. She will also produce them if she is not mated or if the eggs are unfertilized.
Do not release this moth, its eggs or the caterpillars into nature.
Atlas moth weaving cocoon, Time lapse
Atlas Moth Caterpillar spinning its cocoon
Attacus atlas Moth in the sun!
Cabbage White butterfly
The Small White is a common European butterfly. This species is also called The Small Cabbage White. It’s latin name is Pieris rapae and it’s a small white butterfly with black dots at the tips of the wings. This butterfly species is especially cool because it is so easy to raise. It’s a great pet for children. Also in schools it is a great teaching tool to learn more about nature.
The Small White is found all over the world: across Europe, North Africa, Asia, and Great Britain. Right now it also occurs in North America, Australia and New Zealand even though originally it’s not from there. People accidentally introduced this species to those places.
Small Cabbage White butterfly
Appearance of the The Small Cabbage White
The small cabbage white butterfly is white with black wing tips. The wings also have a small black dot. This species also looks a lot like the Great White or Great Cabbage White butterfly (Pieris brassicae), but as the name suggests, this species is smaller.
The caterpillars of Pieris rapae are light green with very short fluffy hairs all over its body. The bigger species, Pieris brassicae, has caterpillars that have black spots all over their body.
The Cabbage White butterfly eats cabbage when its still in its caterpillar stage. As an adult butterfly it eats nectar from flowers. In captivity you can feed it sugar water.
You can feed the caterpillars with leaves of cabbage, this can be green cabbage, red cabbage, Brussels sprouts, Bok Choy or kale. The best is organic vegetables, because regular cabbage could contain too much pesticides for the caterpillars.
Adult buttterflies drink nectar or sugar water with their long tongue. If you do not release the butterflies, you should feed them with sugar water. Mix 1 part sugar or honey with 7 parts water and stir until all sugar is disolved. Put the sugar water in a plastic cup and cover it with a thin mesh, for example a mosquito net. The water level should reach to around 1 cm under the mesh. Place this cup inside the butterfly environment. The butterflies will sit on the mesh and stick their tongue into the sugar water. They can drink without them falling into the sugar water. Replace the water every day as it will spoil.
Behavior of the small white :
The caterpillars of this species are very docile and don’t move much. If they are on their food plant, cabbage, they will only move to reach the next bite. If they do not have any food, they will walk around actively abeid slowly trying to find a new leaf.
The Small White butterflies are very active. They fly around during the day and rest during the night. Especially in warm environments these butterflies really like to fly and could end up destroying their wings if you place them in a too small container.
Environmental requirements :
The Cabbage White is a very easy butterfly species to keep. The caterpillars, pupa and butterflies need to be kept at temperatures around 20 °C. In the night the temperature could drop to 15 °C without problems. The day temperatures could be as high as 35 °C. So there is a wide range of temperatures that are OK for keeping this species. For humidity it also does not have a lot of requirements, just not too humid. Mold grows at high humidity and mold close to the pupa or caterpillars is deadly. If you notice mold you should keep the humidity down, by not adding water or by increasing the temperature in the enclosure a bit.
Housing Cabbage White caterpillars and butterflies
You can house the caterpillars of this species very easily. They need a plastic or glass container with a good lid. In the box or the lid there should be plenty of air holes for proper ventilation and oxygen. Place some paper on the bottom of the container for easy cleaning. Just lay the fresh cabbage on top of this. Gently brush the caterpillars on top of their food, or place a piece of their old food with the caterpillar on it on top of the new food. The caterpillars will walk to their food without problem. Provide the caterpillars with fresh cabbage every day.
You can keep the Cabbage White pupa in a similar container. Keep the pupa on a damp piece of kitchen paper, the paper should never be wet but just a bit moist. Make sure the container has plenty of ventilation. Keep it at the proper temperature, as described below.
You can keep the Cabbage White butterflies in a huge cage. A cage with mesh sides is best, this gives a lot of ventilation and prevents the butterfly from flying into the sides of the cage. A glass cage or terrarium also works, but the butterfly will damage its wings as it flies into the glass. The best is to release the butterflies into nature as soon as they emerge from their pupa. This is only possible if the Small Cabbage White occurs naturally in your country and area. You can do a lot of damage to nature by releasing new invasive species like the Cabbage White. In some countries its illegal to release non-native insects. Please check the law for your country before releasing these butterflies into the wild.
The pupae of Cabbage White. You cannot easily hang them on a thread because it can harm the pupae. Just keep them on a piece of paper inside a container.
Cabbage White butterfly emerging from its cocoon
Reproduction and breeding
It’s easy to breed Small Cabbage White butterflies. If you have raised the caterpillars succesfully and the pupa eclosed into adult butterflies you can start to breed with them. Just keep male and female butterflies together in a big enclosure. Make sure they have plenty of food, a temperature above 20 °C (best is 25 °C) and a big enclosure. The butterflies will mate by themselves. Place a cabbage leaf in the enclosure, on this leaf the female will deposit her eggs. The eggs are small and yellow.
How to distinquish male and female Small White butterflies? That is easy. The females are bigger than the males. The females also have a lot more black markings on their wings. The females have larger black tips at the end of the wings and two larger black spots on the middle of their wings. The males have only one small black dot and a small marking on the tip of the wing.
cabbage white butterfly