Giant Silkmoth from Mexico: Copaxa lavandera

Subject: Mexican moth?
Location: Mexico city
August 26, 2013 11:51 am
This winged beauty was found in my garden on August 24. Before dark it had expired. I took two pictures-before and after it passed. The wings are rather mangled and it had a difficult time fluttering about. The previous day it had rained continuously, but the afternoon was sunny and breezy. I took the picture in my roofgarden in the middle of Mexico city.
Signature: Monica

Giant Silkmoth:  Copaxa species
Giant Silkmoth: Copaxa lavandera

Dear Monica,
This is a Giant Silkmoth in the family Saturniidae, and we believe it is in the genus
Copaxa.  It most closely resembles either Copaxa lavendera or Copaxa lavenderojaliscensis.  We will contact Bill Oehlke to get his opinion, and we suspect he may request permission to use your photo on his own website.

Bill Oehlke Confirms ID
Hi Daniel,
It could be Copaxa lavendera or Copaxa lavenderojalicensis.  I am not sure
if the new (2010) species (lavenderojaliscensis) will stand the test of
I think only DNA barcoding analysis can be used to “accurately” distinguish
between the two species, and it may be that the parameters for determining
new species have been set too low regarding degree of difference for
determination of new species. In other words I would not be surprised if
lavenderojaliscensis is really just a slight DNA variation of lavender and
should be synonymized with that species.
Bill Oehlke
I will post it on WLSS as lavendera.

If you can find the elevation for this species, it might help to determine
between lavenderojalicensis and lavendera.
Do you have name of photographer? And contact info.

Monica responds
Dear Daniel and Bill
Wow! I am exited. You should know I sent it to you ID page on a whim, for I had already reported it to
Re your questions: I am a Biologist and specialized on marine and wetland birds, but having lost my job a couple of years ago as technical adviser on wetlands for the federal government, I started paying more attention to my roofgarden.
I have a lot of different plant species: orchids, cacti, herbs, strawberries, among tomatoes, peas, squash, green and red tomatoes, Ficus trees, wild Mexican cherries (capulines), limes and mandarins, and many other edible and ornamental plants. I will attach a view of the garden. I have been cultivating it for the past 20 years.
I am a block away from Insurgentes Ave., the main road crossing Mexico city. You could say I am in the middle of the city. Not many green area near by, but most streets are planted with trees.
The month of August has been unusually mild and rainy. Just yesterday it rained the whole day, probably on account of a storm system in Oaxaca and Veracruz. This has been a good year for butterflies, probably due to the zinnias I planted this year, which have attracted many butterflies.
The moth in question I saw around noon past Saturday as we were getting ready for a birthday celebration. I could not believe my eyes when I discovered the specimen. It was alive, perched on an agave, probably A. variegata. I watched it for about an hour and wondered what it was doing at that time of day in such an exposed location. Around fourish it started fluttering about the garden, but seemed confused, flying low, not staying anywhere more than a few seconds. I left to attend my guests and about an hour latter it was flat on the flour. It seemed dead. So, I picked it up, took another series of pictures and left it for Mother Nature to take care of –in the shade of a potted lime tree. When I came back on Tuesday to check on it, it had disappeared. I thought maybe a bird or ants had taken care of it.
You may certainly make use of the images I took. My name is Monica Herzig and I live in Mexico City. Elevation at the site is circa 2240 m above sea level. If you check my report on you will find a map with the exact location, including coordinates.
Please keep me abreast with your findings. I have been visited by unusual species, including invasive ladybugs, and the Biologist inside me wants to scream climate change, climate change; thus, I would love to know more about this sighting.
Best regards,
Mónica Herzig (M.Sc.)

Dear Daniel and Bill
i went to this site in search for “my” moth
I was not aware there was such a variety of coloration for the species. Of all the images depicted there, the 2 images that most resemble my specimen are herewith attached. I would think that the specimen ending in <164> looks more like my moth only because both have a double wave-like design on their hind wings. In terms of the shade of fawn-colored wing surface, I would go with specimen <140>.
The valley of Mexico is surrounded by the Neovolcanic mountain system and the states of Puebla, Hidalgo, Edo. de Mexico, Tlaxcala and Morelos all all interconnected. I read the species is found from Mexico southward all the way to Peru. I would assume it in of Neotropical origin. Where can I find more info on its habitat preferences, breeding and behavioral habits?
Thank you for any info you may send my way. Best regards,

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