Unless you’ve been living under a liverock for the past few months, chances are you have heard the wings of Purple Hornets ripping through the reef community. For those of you unfamiliar with the topic, Purple Hornets are a morph of zoanthids sp. that comes from Indonesia. This stunning morph features a purple backdrop with a yellow/green ring and faint white mouth. The Purple Hornet’s unique alternating skirt color that matches it’s base and ring stops every Zoanthid collector in their tracks. They made their first debut in the summer of 2007 and then went relatively dormant. When they resurfaced again in the winter of 2008, the Purple Hornets created a huge buzz within the community as a single polyp auction on eBay ended with a final bid in the amount of $305. Just when everybody assumed that the zoanthid craze was over, the Purple Hornets proceeded to prove the skeptics and the economy wrong.
The first person to introduce this morph to the zoanthid community was Casey Lacefield. Their origin is from Kupang, Indonesia. According to Casey, the Purple Hornets came up quiet often on the supply list for almost every week before disappearing all together. According to Gary, whom I will soon introduce, they appeared once on the list before Casey was able to acquire the entire colony. At the time they were identified as various different names that were already in existent, ranging from Lemondrops, AOIs, or Alien Eyes. For the most part, the Purple Hornets went unnoticed by the overall public with an exception to few hardcore zoanthid collectors. Similar to many wild zoanthid colonies, the mother colony suffered heavily from fungus and zoapox infections. Fortunately, he was able to relay on a few frags to his locals and most importantly to Gary at reefpets.com before losing his entire colony.
Since receiving his frag in the summer of 2007, Gary allowed the Purple Hornets to grow and color up to their maximum potential. When the Purple Hornets came in from Casey’s T5 lit tank, they exhibited more of a blue coloration. It was only after several weeks under SE 20K Ushio 400W Metal Halide that the Purple Hornets began to show the deep purple coloration it has become famous for. At this time, Gary’s wife coined the name Purple Hornets, which was to be mentioned by many others in the future.
Faced with the growth rate of approximately one polyp per month, Gary saw his five polyp initial frag grow into a 15 polyp mini colony by the winter of 2008. One could say that the growth rate of these zoanthids is almost matched with Rasta zoanthids or the infamous PPE palythoas! Inside the collector’s side of the hobby, many will agree that slow growth rate almost always equates high monetary value of the livestock. The first auction of Purple Hornets took place on Ebay about a year ago. Two polyps that went up were sold for approximately $80. Then they became dormant from the public eyes until the winter of 2008. When Gary noticed that discussions of Purple Hornets have resurfaced within various forums, he decided to put up an auction for a single polyp on Ebay. This infamous polyp, after seven days, was sold for an amazing final value of $305, earning the title “305 PH.” The second auction went for $300.50, then the third for $280.
The news of the Purple Hornets Ebay auctions soon exploded and the level of demand and interest suddenly took over every major Reef forums around the net. Many hobbyists, starting from newbies to experienced old timers, began chiming in on the subject. When asked for his opinion on this phenomenon, Gary stated that he had “no idea that they would be in such high demand and become as popular as they are.” Being a strong believer of letting people decide the true value of his livestock, Gary always started his auctions at $19.99 with the notion that, “if it sells for $19.99, that’s great. If it sells for $300.00, that’s great as well.”
The craze of Purple Hornets that swept through the community died out almost as fast as it exploded. Soon after the initial introductory auction from Gary, there were many Purple Hornets for sale being added to eBay daily. One thing is clear that many will agree to in regards to this incident. The reef market has always been unpredictable, bursting out new trends everyday in most unexpected areas. To many of old time zoanthid lovers, departing well away from the monetary value of Purple Hornets, it was exciting to see another beautiful morph surface to our attention. It truly is amazing how countless the variations can be with zoanthid polyps. (Update 2009.03.05: Soon, another source for Purple Hornets emerged from AquaSD. When asked for point of origin, Will from AquaSD reported that they came from West Java, Indonesia.)