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first, second n third instars - Samia cynthia - Samia cynthia

first, second n third instars - Samia cynthia - Samia cynthia
Notice the remnants of molt on third instar
captive hand reared moths

Location: Bryans Road, Charles County, Maryland, USA
Date: July 30, 2009

Images of this individual: tag all
empty egg casings - Samia cynthia - Samia cynthia First instar - Samia cynthia - Samia cynthia Second instar - Samia cynthia - Samia cynthia Third instar - Samia cynthia - Samia cynthia Third instar - Samia cynthia - Samia cynthia first, second n third instars - Samia cynthia - Samia cynthia Samia cynthia  - Samia cynthia Samia cynthia  - Samia cynthia

Moved from ID Request. Sorry - didn't see this other thread -made a guide page and moved for now. Feel free to delete node and frass images if that's the consensus.

Due Diligence
You shouldn't create a guide page unless you've checked to make sure the IDs are correct- or at least IDed by someone qualified to do so. Checking to make sure there aren't dissenting opinions is important, too.

If you had taken normal steps to insure there was justification for creating a guide page, you would have seen the comments. Moving images to a guide page without looking at the comments on them is even worse.

Please make sure you check things before creating guide pages or moving images.

See forum topic
here. If these are not native and not living free and wild in North America, we're not sure there is a place for them on BugGuide?? Thoughts from others on this?

Maryland is potential "wild" range
S. cynthia's introduction to northeastern US includes parts of Maryland, and it was recorded there in 1960. Which is a pretty long time ago, but still, Maryland could be a location where a naturalized wild population remains.


The Wild Silk Moths of North America P.M. Tuskes, J.P. Tuttle, M.M. Collins (1996) Cornell University Press.

See pages 185-186 and Map 33 (available in Google Books preview - this link works now, don't know if it'll remain valid forever).

Coin flip
but if I had to pick I might choose frass, but a tough call. Certainly remove all location data, right?

Location Data Removed
I removed all location and date information from the location and date fields and documented them in the comments (with corrections- corrected dates were take from the EXIF data). That should be standard practice for captive specimens of unknown provenience as soon as it's determined they're captive.

Location data can be left in if it's valid for the specimen at the time of capture, or if it's valid for all its captured wild ancestors at the time of capture.

but what if someone else finds one?
The book I cited (published in 1996) reports a wild population of S. cynthia "rediscovered" in Philadelphia in 1992. The book also cites published evidence (from 1989) that the insect "still maintains large numbers in metropolitan New York City." Those are fairly recent records, no more than 20 years ago. More-recent records may exist that aren't available online, too.

It is possible that those wild populations and/or others still exist, and a person might find one and look it up on the Guide. If these current images are frassed, the person will not find a match and the whole lengthy process of identification will need to be repeated. (And this debate might be repeated, too.) With documented evidence of the species in the wild w/in the past 20 years, shouldn't there be a Guide page and representative images of it?

Yes, but of a mounted specime
Yes, but of a mounted specimen, or stock photos of immature stages, clearly stating for reference purposes only. Samia cynthia is most likely History in the US. And reindroducing them, while an aesthetically pleasing solution to the scourge of ailanthus, will not solve the mystery of why the are extirpated, given the abundance of hostplant and habitat advantages (in urban areas, other saturniids are less common or absent, as are their parasitoids). Also, American cynthia (derived from Samia cynthia advena) is very different from other feral races that have settled into urban areas internationally, the nominate species in natural habitat, or the strains that are farmed in Asian sericulture to this day. If "our" cynthia is indeed gone, it is gone for good, no matter how plastic this species is.

stock eggmass photo, too?
Large, distinctive eggmasses in long, white, lumpy strands, draped over or attached to the edges of leaves. I'm going to look for them with binoculars next year. Probably won't see any, and maybe no one in the U.S. ever will, but they might be the best way to find the species if it's still around.

Maybe I'm so stuck on this because I live in Philadelphia, the last recorded wild location that I can find. I'm not giving up on the species, but after this I will give up on talking about it here!

Hmm. . .
The question is: Is it also found in the wild? If so, we may have to add it to the guide and I would also add it to the list of non-natives.
It may help to control the Ailanthus tree, but it still makes me uneasy to know that people are rearing these introduced moths.

free-living introductees
The insect is in David Wagner's caterpillar guide and some less-authoritative butterfly/caterpillar pocket guides I have, I don't think it'd be there if it wasn't living wild. Perhaps its current scarcity is due to the introduced parasatoids to control the introduced Gypsy Moth...they've had a field day with our native silkmoths, and the non-native S. cynthia probably suffered too because it's less established here and its foodplant isn't as widespread. Ailanthus has taken over the city here, but I don't see it in the parks, woods, and suburbs much. (Yet.)

adorable! Are you rearing them?
I'd love to see more of their life cycle. They're so darn cute at the early instars, and the 3rd instar is fascinatingly decorated.

I'm a caterpillar nut, when I see little gregarious first instars I start acting the way most women do around little baby humans. (Around baby humans, on the other hand, I have absolutely no clue what to do...)

Adult pic available
I just linked the hand raised adult to these pics. They are beautiful and I hope you enjoy the pics.

A new friend is rearing them
I met a young man who is rearing them. He reminds me of Steve Irwin the crocodile hunter. He talked very fast, very passionate about nature and moths in particular. He is extremely knowledgeable and a self taught naturalist. Regrettably, I can’t remember the Latin names he used, I will write them down from now on. I think the instars were C. Cynthia (sp?) and they were on an ailanthus bush (sp?) the Chinese tree of heaven.

I will confirm the information when I talk to him again.

I plan to get the entire life cyle and will post them.

provenance of these individuals
The whole debate about putting your photos in the Guide seems to center on whether the insects depicted are wild. Some comments seem to assume that these insects are the same ones your friend is rearing - is that the case, or did you find these individuals independently?

For that matter, where did your friend acquire his insects? - were they found in the wild, or did they come from captive adults? If wild, from what city/county/state?

If it's the case that you have photographed larvae of captive parents, I can see why there's so much debate. But nothing in your original posts, as far as I can see, actually *says* that these individuals are captive, or that they're the same ones your friend raised, or that those he raised were from captive parents.

Clearing that up could streamline the whole debate! Opinions will always vary, but facts shouldn't.

Captive descendants of wild individuals are ok, as long as the date is removed from the date field (the comments section is ok), and the location fields reflect the location when the wild ancestors were wild.

Captives not collected wild in our area or descended from specimens collected elsewhere are sometimes ok as placeholders when there are wild populations and we have no images of the taxon in question- but everything should be removed from the date and location fields.

If the captive specimens are known to be different from any wild populations in our area, they shouldn't be used unless there's a very good reason, and the differences are clearly explained here.

go, Ailanthus eaters, go!
Those pesty trees are the bane of city sidewalks, outdoor potted plants, the tiny concrete "yards" of rowhouses...they grow anywhere, crack the pavement, have nasty-smelling flowers and zillions of wind-borne seeds, and shoot up faster than Jack's beanstalk. Any caterpillar that eats them is a beneficial species, in my book! Whenever I find a big nest of Ailanthus webworm caterpillars, I separate them and deposit a few on as many trees as I can. Whoever coined the name "Tree of Heaven" cannot have been in his/her right mind at the time...

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