The Tailed Comet (Argema mittrei) is probably the most spectacular long-tailed species of "moon moth" known to lepidopterists. It is larger than any comparative species and it's resplendent golden yellow color, eyespots, and reddish elongated tails (with yellow tips) lend it a grandeur without comparison.
It is endemic to Madagascar where in nature it lives at the southern end of the island near the Indian Ocean. The larvae are sizable and spin a silver filigree-like cocoon, which is very strong. In life, these moths are said to smell very strongly of puff ball fungi.
Madagascar Jan.1962 Male/ex.cocoon... Prepared by Monsignor Rene Vieu
I received my beautiful example from a very fine old collection being parted out. It was purchased by the owner from a french priest stationed in Madagascar during the early-mid sixties. It was told to me that the priest had a small cottage business selling off highly desired ex-pupa examples of this moth for extra money to make his stay there easier. This specimen was received spread already and the owner remarked how he was happy how well it looked and that he didn't have to risk working it up himself for fear of breaking a tail !
Remember, this was at a time when these moths were not bred in numbers and the caveats of their rearing were still not understood or fully known.
A lot of time has passed since the days of old when full grown larvae or cocoons were collected from the wild to supply the growing demand of the hobby. Now, these gorgeous creatures are bred by the hundreds and one has to wonder how much of their natural habitat is even left to support the species in the wild !
I raised one in my bedroom when I was a teenager. The pupae made about 3 months to hatch so it was a surprise. I was awaken during the night by the noise of its flight, almost as loudy as someone applauding in your room. Very impressive !
I still have the specimen in my coll.
Last Edit: Jan 21, 2019 10:44:54 GMT by wollastoni
Wow, very cool story ! And to think that I thought myself lucky when I had a Polyphemus or Cecropia moth hatch from a cocoon that I had found. They are simply no comparison to what you had available to you...
I remember well my first experience seeing an actual specimen of this moth for the first time. It was when I was a young lad of 14 or 15 years of age. My mother took me and my brother to a nearby town to do some Christmas shopping. There were a lot of small shops that ran up and down a 3 block stretch including some located on nearby side streets. As we went in and out of various shops we happened upon a shop like no other... It was a curio shop ! That's something almost extinct these days but, some are still out there.
We entered it and I found myself mesmerized. It was really part Natural History store, curious goods store, and military collectibles store. The owner dabbled in it all... On the Natural History side he offered various animal head mounts (some exotic) from hunting trips, an assortment of various african shields/spears as well as masks and artwork from Papua New Guinea. All of it was positively authentic so I think he either purchased things from estate sales or had connections in these far off lands.
Anyway, amongst all this cool stuff which abounded there was a wall of framed insects!! Each handmade box had a specimen of insect other than lepidopteran. The Leps were presented in the old fashioned Riker mounts of old (you know the ones with the soft white cotton for the specimen to rest on). Not that fiberfill crap you can only buy them with nowadays.
Well, low and behold I spied this huge long-tailed moth residing in an 8x12 riker. I swear, while my mother and brother ambled about the shop I stood there just fixated on this gloriously beautiful moth. The owner walked over and asked if I'd like to see it up close. I was just speechless; I think all I could do was nod my head up and down ! He brought it over and placed the riker in my hands. My eyes probably looked like saucers at that point. He said, young man that is the Tailed Comet moth and it comes from Madagascar.
Of coarse, as luck would have it he wanted $25.00 for it. It was 1974 and that was a lot of money to spend on anything for a kid (unless it was something like a bike). Since, mom had already pretty much spent the allotted money on other gifts; getting it was a tender but, firm"no son we can't do anymore today". I wasn't really heartbroken about it because after all who expected to ever run across a situation quite like this. Five or six moths later we paid the shop another visit and it was of coarse long gone but, I did get a couple of lesser "nice" things...
In time, I ended up visiting the shop at least twice a year and I wound up with 8 or 10 cool exotic insects of various sorts hanging on frames in my bedroom. Never saw another A. mittrei ever at the shop but, in later years (and age) I would finally secure a fine specimen from an old collection. Funny, how when you are young some events can leave such an indelible impression upon you. I suppose that is why I had to create a thread about this marvelous species...
Curio shops used to be a lot of fun, but I haven't been in one in ages. While in New York for a couple of days in the late '70's, I idly checked the Yellow Pages under "butterflies" and there was an entry (other than Mr. Glanz' business, then at Far Rockaway). It was a shop within walking distance called "It's Naturall" or something about like that. I visited and saw the usual wall full of shadow boxes with pretty exotics, nice shells, etc. I wasn't interested in them but I asked the clerk if they had any unmounted butterflies in back. He said sure and brought out a huge box of Columbian leps for me to look through. I picked out the biggest male M. cypris I've ever seen and bought it pretty reasonably. Still have the the bug, too. Cheers, jh
Yes the same with me, when I was young I bought some cocoons from Mr. Roland Viossat. I also let them fly in my room and I have one still in my collection. I always wondered how this speciemens like other actias can fly with this long tail but I think it is good for them to keep balance. jh