Madagascan Sunset (Chrysiridia rhipheus)
Madagascan sunset moth, a day-flying species of the Uraniidae family, is indigenous to Madagascar as its name suggests. However, initially, experts regarded Bengal or China to be its place of origin that was ruled out eventually. Described in 1773, entomologist Dru Drury considered it a butterfly and put it in the Papilio genus. Later, in 1823, Jacob Hubner identified it as a moth, placing it in the Chrysiridia genus. Bright and colorful, mostly due to its wings, the moth generates an impressive and appealing appearance.
Description and Identification
The larva has a whitish-yellow body spotted in black and also red feet covered with black hairs. The five pairs of prolegs of the caterpillar are fixed to the third, sixth, and tenth abdominal segments. On the other hand, its six real legs remain attached to its thorax. On hatching, they mainly feed on the tissues situated in the middle of the veins of the leaves. Eventually, they start consuming many other things like fruit, tendrils, petioles, young stems, and flowers. They spin silk that is a part of their adaptation strategy, helping them cling on to their host plants’ leaves.
- Family: Uraniidae
- Genus: Chrysiridia
- Scientific Name: Chrysiridia rhipheus
The larva remains enclosed with the cocoon, and the pupal stage spans between 17 and 23 days.
Sexual Dimorphism: Present
Color and Appearance: When opened, the wings are black with iridescent markings of green, blue, and red. White scales remain present on the edges of all four wings, wider and more prominent on the hind wings. When closed, patches of pink and purple are also visible alongside other colors.
A variation in the pattern may occur from one species to another, and the color distribution on the wings is asymmetrical. The males are much brighter than their female counterparts.
Average wingspan: 7 – 11 cm
Flight pattern: Consistent
Season: March–August (maximum); October-December (minimum)
The eggs weigh about 1 mg and have a dome shape, with 17 projecting ribs. The females lay them near the host plants in a cluster of about 80 at a time.
|Other names||Madagascar sunset moth|
|Habitat||Diverse, from deciduous forests to rain forest regions|
|Predators||Wasps, birds, ants|
|Lifespan of adults||Not recorded|
|Host plants||Species of the Omphalea genus (O. ankaranensis, O. occidentalis, O. oppositifolia, O. palmata|
|Adult diet||Nectars of flowering plants like Terminalia catappa, Camellia sinensis, Mangifera indica, Eucalyptus saligna|
Did You Know
- It made its appearance on a postage stamp in 2007.
- Because of its magnificent look, it has been a sought-after choice of collectors, also making its way into several coffee table books.
- During the Victorian era the wings of the Madagascar sunset moth were made into jewelry.
- Its multi-colored shimmering wings replicate the sunset, thus the name.