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1 June 2015 A Natural Foodplant for Dirphia tarquina (Saturniidae: Hemileucinae) in Suriname
Borgesius G. Beckles
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Dirphia tarquinia (Saturniidae: Hemileucinae) was described by Cramer in 1775 from Suriname and is distributed from Peru through Venezuela, Trinidad and the Guianas to Brazil (Quesnel 1978, Lemaire 2002). Records for Suriname are few: near the Lucie river, July–August 1926 (southern Suriname, primary forest); Saramacca sluice, December 1970 (north, secondary vegetation); Raleighvallen, March 2014 (central, primary forest).

Although its natural foodplants are not known, the species can be reared on Salix (Salicaceae) and Prunus armeniaca (Rosaceae) (Lemaire 2002, Lampe 2010). We describe a natural foodplant for D. tarquinia from Suriname.

Fig. 1:

Life history of Dirphia tarquinia on Vismia cayennensis, Colakreek-Republiek, Suriname; a: gregarious larvae on foodplant, 16-01-2005. Note opposite leaves and glandular punctations at the underside of leaves; b: last instar larvae (03-03-2005); c: pupa (below) cut out of cocoon (above) (13-04-2005); d: eclosed male (20-10-2005).


On 16 January 2005 the first author discovered, 1 km along a sandy track from Colakreek to Republiek, about 40 km south of Paramaribo, savanna area, six larvae of a saturniid (Fig. 1a) at about 2 m above ground on the leaves of a tree, known in Suriname as ‘uma pinya’ or ‘blengitiwiri (van Andel & Ruysschaert 2011). By providing the leaves of this tree as their only food, all larvae were reared to adults according to standard methods. A botanical collection was made of the foodplant (voucher Gernaat023, Herbarium Naturalis Biodiversity Center).

The adults turned out to be D. tarquinia (Fig. 1). The foodplant was subsequently identified as Vismia cayennensis (Jacq.) Persoon (Hypericaceae) (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2:

Vismia cayennensis. Left: branch with opposite leaves, inflorescence and berries (below right); right: details of flowers (drawing by W.H.A. Hekking, Naturalis Biodiversity Center).


Description: Shrub or tree to 8 m, with orange latex. Leaves opposite, 8-13 × 2,5-4 cm; base and apex acute; both sides green and glabrous with black glandular dots; light orange-brown after drying. Inflorescence terminal. Flowers bisexual, 5-merous; sepals green, ovate; petals yellowish-green, woolly inside with white hairs; stamens numerous, fused into 5 bundles, ovary 5-locular, 5 orange styles. Berry cylindrical, green to red, about 1 cm long, crowned by styles. Seeds numerous, cylindrical, wartlike. Vismia cayennensis is distributed in Venezuela, Trinidad, the Guianas, Bolivia and the Brazilian Amazon region. In Suriname, it is common in secondary and riverine forest, and on savanna along creeks (van Roosmalen 1985). In French Guiana, flowering takes place in September and October (Mori et al. 2002).

Although the genus Dirphia comprises more than 40 species, the natural foodplants are only known for a few. These are quite diverse and belong to the Anacardiaceae, Araucariaceae, Fabaceae, Juglandaceae, Meliaceae, Myrsinaceae or Myrtaceae (Lemaire 2002). Further data are needed to assess the importance of Vismia and the Hypericaceae as foodplants for Dirphia and other Saturniids. As the geographical range of D. tarquinia is greater than that of V. cayennensis, other natural foodplants for D. tarquinia are obviously used.


The authors wish to thank Frans Barten for preparing the figures and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments.

Literature Cited


R.E.J. Lampe 2010. Saturniidae of the world. Their life stages from the eggs to the adults. Pfauenspinner der Welt. Ihre Entwicklungsstadien vom Ei zum Falter. Verlag Dr. Friedrich Pfeil, München. 368 pp. Google Scholar


C. Lemaire 2002. The Saturniidae of America. Les Saturniidae Américains. Hemileucinae, vols 1–3: 1388 pp., 140 col. pls., Goecke & Evers, Keltern. Google Scholar


S.A. Mori , G. Cremers , C. Gracie , J.J. De Granville , S. V. Heard , M. Hoff & J.D. Mitchell . 2002. Guide to the vascular plants of central French Guiana. Part 2. Dicotyledons. Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden, 76 (part 2). 776 pp. Google Scholar


V.C. Quesnel 1978. Dirphia tarquinia—a new moth for Trinidad. Living World 14. Google Scholar


T.A. Van Andel & S. Ruysschaert . 2011. Medicinale en rituele planten van Suriname. KIT Publishers, Amsterdam. 528 pp. Google Scholar


M.G.M. Van Roosmalen 1985. Fruits of the Guianan flora. Institute of Systematic Botany, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands. 483 pp. Google Scholar
Borgesius G. Beckles "A Natural Foodplant for Dirphia tarquina (Saturniidae: Hemileucinae) in Suriname," The Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 69(2), 140-142, (1 June 2015).
Received: 8 February 2014; Accepted: 17 January 2015; Published: 1 June 2015

Hypericaceae Vismia
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