Variable Princes: Giant Silkworm Moths from South Africa

Moth idendification
February 8, 2010
Please can you identify this moth for me! One seems to male and the other (Bigger) female
Luka Geertsema
Pretoria, South Africa

Variable Prince female

Hi Luka,
We identified your moths as Holocerina smilax, the Variable Prince, on the World’s Largest Saturniidae Site.  According to the website, females are larger, and the Caterpillars are probably a “valuable human food source.”  You may see photos of the adult moth and variable caterpillars on the Bizland Silkmoths website.  It is not possible for us to determine from the photograph which of your images if of the larger moth, so we are unable to label the sexes.  Normally in Giant Silk Moths, the antennae of the male are more developed and feathery, but due to the position the moth assumes when at rest, the antennae are not visible.  We are going to copy Bill Oehlke on this response as he may have additional information to provide for us.

Variable Prince male

Sexing Information from Bill Oehlke
Thanks. Yes they are Holocerina smilax. The male is the one which has the more produced forewing apex and very triangular hindwings with acute anal angle..
Bill Oehlke

Thanx a million, attached are more pics should they be usefull. PS, the one on the bark was the female with antenae without “feathers”, the other one (male) on the green vetivar grass leaf. Is it suppose to occur in SA?

Variable Prince female

Yes, it is native to South Africa.  Thanks for the additional images.

Variable Prince male

More images as Promised 3
Luka Geertsema

2 thoughts on “Variable Princes: Giant Silkworm Moths from South Africa”

  1. The edibility question:
    From what I’ve read, there are roughly 40 to 60 species of Saturnid caterpillars consumed in Africa [at least in terms of documented species]. I learned that Holocerina agomensis larvae are (or perhaps were) consumed in Zambia. Likely smilax is also. Yet I’m curious to know where that quotationed phrase came from.



  2. it’s possible that that “40 to 60” number may shrink when more focused research is applied, and as implied, it’s likely that consumption of various insects is decreasing around the world.


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