SAMIA CYNTHIA (DRURY 1773)


Samia cynthia composited by Bill Oehlke.

TAXONOMY:

Superfamily Bombycoidea Latreille, 1802
Family Saturniidae Boisduval, [1837] 1834
Subfamily Saturniinae Boisduval, [1837] 1834
Tribe Attacini
Genus Samia Hubner, [1819]

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DISTRIBUTION:

Samia cynthia has a very limited range in the United States: southeastern New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.

Originally from Asia (eastern and central China), the cynthia moth ranges throughout southern Asia: China, India, Malaysia, Indochina, Japan, Philippines. The species was imported to France (populations still survive), Italy, Switzerland, Austria, etc., and then to Great Britain, and thence to U.S. in an effort to develop a silk industry. The industry never "got off the ground", but some of the cynthias did.

The native hostplant, Ailanthus altissima, was also imported at the same time.

In Europe, this species is often called by one of its earlier names: Samia cynthia advena. Still older texts list it as Philosamia cynthia.

FLIGHT TIMES:

This species is primarily univoltine in the United States. Moths fly from late June to early July. These insects are not overly attracted to lights, but cocoons are readily found in the fall, after leaf drop, hanging by strong peduncles from ailanthus compound leaf stalks. Thus the collector can get specimens and/or breeding stock.

ECLOSION:


Samia cynthia emerge in the morning through the valve at the base of the peduncle at the top of a long, slender cocoon. Larvae, fed on pin cherry, spin a reddish brown silk as opposed to the silvery tan silk (picture to left) of those fed on ailanthus.

As with all saturniidae, the moth must "hang itself" so that its wings can inflate properly.

This species likes heat and adults will usually emerge from cocoons during a heat wave.

Photo by Dan MacKinnon for Bill Oehlke.

SCENTING AND MATING:

These moths mate readily in captivity, even in small (one cubic foot) cages usually on the evening of eclosion. After dusk the female extends a scent gland from her abdomen. The wind blown pheromone can attract males from several miles away. Mating occurs when the male grasps the scent gland between his claspers. The pair usually stays coupled until the following evening.

It is more difficult to sex adult cynthias than it is to sex most other saturniidae. Wing shape and colouration is almost identical for both genders and antennae structures are very similar. The abdomen of the female is plump and rounded while the narrow abdomen of the male is more conical.

OVA, LARVAE, COCOONS, AND PUPAE:

Ova are small (as many as 400 from a single female) and white and are usually laid in short rows. Incubation is eight to twelve days, and the newly emerged larvae are gregarious for the first two instars. They appear striped about the girth much like promethea larvae due to tiny black protuberances.

Larvae are still gregarious in the second instar and have relatively small black heads and a dull, off-white body adorned with some small black tufts.

In the third and fourth instars larvae are creamy white with yellow heads and legs.

In the background, the bluish green colouration of the final instar is evident.

Larvae like heat and develop very rapidly in early to mid-August.




Photo courtesy of Mark Lasko.

In the final instar, larvae begin to look much more like atlas larvae, pale blue-green and covered with a fine white powder.

There are fleshy protuberances along the back and sides.

The prefered foodplant of Samia cynthia is Ailanthus altissima, but I have reared larvae through to cocoon stage on Prunus pensylvanica with successful eclosions the following year.

Stephen E. Stone lists the following food plants in his book, "Foodplants of World Saturniidae":

Ailanthus altissima
Althaea rosa
Apium graveolens
Azadirachta indica
Berberis
Carica papaya
Carpinus betulus
Cassia fistula
Coriaria nepalensis
Cornus.
Euodia fraxinifolia
Firmiana simplex
Forsythia
Fraxinus
Gmelina arborea
Heteropanax fragrans
Ilex chinensis
Jatropha curcas
Juglans cinerea
Juglans regia
Lagerstroemia indica
Lawsonia alba
Ligustrum
Lindera benzoin
Liquidambar styraciflua
Liriodendron tulipifera
Manihot ultissima
Michelia figo
Plantanus
Plumaria acuminata
Prunus serotina
Pyrus malus
Rhus typhina
Ricinus communis
Salix
Sassafras albidum
Syringa vulgaris
Tilia
Zanthoxylum acanthopodium.....
Zanthoxylum hostile
Zanthopodium alatum
Zizaphus jujuba

Chinese Tree of Heaven
Hollyhock
Celery
Persian lilac
Barberry
Pawpaw
European hornbeam
Indian laburnum
Tanner's tree
Dogwood
Poyam
Chinese parasol tree
Golden-bells
Ash
Gomari
Keseru
Kashi holly
Barbados nut
Butternut
English walnut
Crapemyrtle
Indian privet
Privet
Spicebush
Sweetgum
Tuliptree/White poplar
Cassava/Tapioca plant
Banana shrub
Sycamore
Temple tree
Wild black cherry
Apple
Staghorn sumac
Castor-oil bean
Willow
Sassafra
Common lilac
Basswood/Lime/Linden
Ash
Zanthoxylum
Zanthopodium
Zizaphus jujuba



Visit other websites maintained by Bill Oehlke:

AFRICAN SATURNIIDAE
ASIAN SATURNIIDAE
AUSTRALIAN SATURNIIDAE
CERATOCAMPINAE
EUROPEAN SATURNIIDAE
MEXICAN SATURNIIDAE
NORTH AMERICAN SATURNIIDAE
SOUTH/CENTRAL AMERICAN SATURNIIDAE
SATURNIIDAE OF PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND:rearing info.
SPHINGIDAE OF PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
BUTTERFLIES OF PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

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