How to Get Rid of Io Moth Caterpillar: Simple and Effective Methods

Gardening can be a delightful hobby, but certain pests can hinder your plants’ growth and beauty. One such pest is the io moth caterpillar. These caterpillars are known for their stinging spines, which can cause discomfort if touched. In this article, we’ll discuss how to effectively get rid of io moth caterpillars in your garden.

Io moth caterpillars are easily identified by their pale green color, white and red stripes, and distinctive yellow or green fleshy protrusions tipped in black. These caterpillars can cause damage to plants by feeding on leaves, but their stinging spines are what make them a more significant concern, particularly for gardeners and their families.

There are various methods to eliminate these pesky insects from your garden, each with its advantages and drawbacks. In the following sections, we will explore some of these techniques, including natural methods, chemical control, and preventive measures to keep your garden safe and thriving.

Identifying Io Moth Caterpillar

Physical Characteristics

The Io moth caterpillar (Automeris io) is known for its unique appearance. Key features of this caterpillar include:

  • Pale green body
  • White and red stripes down the length of their body
  • Yellow or green fleshy protrusions tipped in black extending from the back of the caterpillar1

Adult Io moths showcase different characteristics when compared to their caterpillar stage. Notable features include:

  • Males: Yellowish forewings
  • Females: Brown, rusty red, or purplish forewings
  • Both sexes: Prominent blue and black eyespots on their hindwings2
Characteristics Io Moth Caterpillar Adult Io Moth Male Adult Io Moth Female
Color Pale green Yellowish Brown, rusty red, purplish
Protrusions Yes No No
Eyespots No Blue and black Blue and black

Habitat

Io moth caterpillars are typically found in a variety of habitats, particularly in forests and park-like areas3. As the io moth’s population declines in some regions, its habitat preference may change4.

Problems Caused by Io Moth Caterpillar

Damage to Plants

Io moth caterpillars can cause significant damage to various plants. They primarily feed on the leaves of:

  • Dogwood
  • Elm

The damage caused by these caterpillars affects the overall health and growth of the plant.

Health Risks

The spines of Io moth caterpillars contain venom, making them one of the stinging caterpillars. When accidentally touched, their stings can cause painful effects, including:

  • Itchiness
  • Burning sensation
  • Swelling

In some cases, people may experience allergic reactions to caterpillar stings. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include:

  • Severe swelling
  • Difficulty breathing

Comparison table: Io moth caterpillar vs. Asp caterpillar

Feature Io moth caterpillar Asp caterpillar
Appearance Green with yellow spines Furry with no visible spines
Venom Yes Yes
Sting severity Moderate Severe
Common plants Dogwood, Elm Oak, Elm, Rose, Citrus

It’s essential to be cautious around these venomous caterpillars and manage their population to minimize the risk of damage to plants and potential health risks to humans and animals.

Preventing Io Moth Caterpillar Infestation

Inspecting Trees and Shrubs

Regularly inspect your trees and shrubs, such as willow, oak, maple, apple, pear, and cherry, for signs of io moth caterpillar infestation. Check for clusters of eggs, larvae, and buck moth caterpillars in the foliage. An example of an affected tree may have a red strip on its leaves from the io moth caterpillar feeding.

Io moth caterpillars have a distinct appearance:

  • Pale green body
  • White and red strip down the length of their body
  • Yellow or green fleshy protrusions tipped in black

Promoting Natural Predators

Encourage natural predators of io moth caterpillars and other pests in your garden. For instance, wasps, birds, and spiders can help reduce infestations.

To promote natural predators, consider:

  • Adding birdhouses and feeders
  • Planting native plants to attract beneficial insects
  • Avoiding excessive pesticide use, which can harm natural predators

Comparison Table: Io Moth Caterpillar vs. Buck Moth Caterpillar

Feature Io Moth Caterpillar Buck Moth Caterpillar
Color Pale green Dark, marbled
Strip White and red Orange
Stinging Yes Yes

Io moth caterpillars and buck moth caterpillars both can cause painful skin irritation similar to a bee sting, due to their

Controlling and Removing Io Moth Caterpillars

Physical Removal

Physically removing Io moth caterpillars can be an effective method to manage their presence on your plants. It is important to wear gloves while removing them since their spines can cause skin irritation. Gently pick the caterpillars off affected plants and drop them into a container of soapy water to eliminate them. Some common host plants for the Io moth caterpillar include pear and boxelder.

Using Biological Control

Another approach to control Io moth caterpillars involves using biological agents such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a naturally occurring soil bacteria. By spraying Bt on the leaves of affected plants, the caterpillars will ingest the bacteria as they feed, which produces toxins in their bodies that kills them. Please note that Bt only affects caterpillars and is safe for beneficial insects, making it an environmentally-friendly choice.

Pros:

  • Selective and only targets caterpillars
  • Safe for beneficial insects
  • Environmentally-friendly

Cons:

  • Must be applied during specific caterpillar stages
  • May need multiple applications

Bt can be found as a commercial product in various forms such as sprays and powders. To decide which method is best for you, consider factors like the size of your garden and how widespread the Io moth caterpillar problem is.

Additional Tips for Handling Io Moth Caterpillars

Keeping Safe While Outdoors

Io moth caterpillars are found in the eastern United States, including states like Georgia, Florida, and Texas. They feed on a variety of plants such as hickory, aspen, locusts, maples, and palms. When outdoors, especially in these regions, it’s important to:

  • Wear protective clothing (long sleeves, gloves)
  • Avoid direct contact with caterpillars
  • Educate children about the risks

The caterpillars have urticating hairs, which contain poisonous spines that can cause skin irritation, inflammation and pain if touched.

Knowing When to Seek Medical Help

If you accidentally come into contact with an io moth caterpillar, some individuals may experience mild to severe reactions. Here are some symptoms that may require medical attention:

  • Intense pain lasting over an hour
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Swelling that doesn’t subside

Note: People with a known allergy or sensitivity to insect stings and bites should consult their physician immediately after any contact with io moth caterpillars.

Natural Control Methods

If you find io moth caterpillars in your garden, utilizing natural methods like soapy water may help to reduce their numbers. For example:

  • Mix dish soap with water
  • Spray on the affected plants to safely remove caterpillars
  • Monitor and repeat if necessary

Pros:

  • Non-toxic and environmentally friendly
  • Inexpensive and easy to make

Cons:

  • May require multiple applications
  • May not eliminate all caterpillars
Method Cost Efficacy Safety
Soapy Water Low Moderate High

Footnotes

  1. Gardening Solutions: Stinging and Venomous Caterpillars

  2. Missouri Department of Conservation: Io Moth

  3. MDC Teacher Portal: Io Moth

  4. EDIS: Io Moth Automeris io (Fabricius)

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Great Peacock Moth Caterpillar from France

 

Cecropia probably, but which one?
Location: South of France, Europe
July 4, 2011 5:04 pm
This afternoon in our allotment in the South of France (4 july 2011) we almost stepped on this gorgeous giant. I think that it’s possibly a member of the ”Cecropia”-family but ours seems to be yellower and has only cyan dots, no other colours. Can you tell us more?
Signature: Kristi

Great Peacock Moth Caterpillar

Hi Kristi,
We identified your caterpillar on the World’s Largest Saturniidae Site as the Great Peacock Moth,
Saturnia pyri, and we are providing a link to the Saturniidae of Europe site on the species.  The range is listed as:  “Limited to the warmer areas of Europe and the Near East, from northern France (rare) south through Luxembourg, western Switzerland, the Iberian Peninsular to costal regions of Morocco and Algeria. Thence eastwards across southern Germany (rare), Austria, Hungary, the Balkans to the Ukraine. From here it extends southwards across the Caucasus Mountains and Armenia to Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the Alborz and Zagros Mountains of Iran. It is also found on the Mediterranean islands of Crete, Corsica and Sardinia.”  Czechoslovakia issued a nice stamp of the moth and caterpillar in 1987.

Postage stamp from Czechoslovakia

Romania also issued a stamp depicting this lovely moth.

Postage Stamp from Romania

Dear Daniel
Thanks so much for the identification!
We’re lost in admiration for what you guys are pulling off: fantastic site, great service (also to the bugs;-)
Spend the whole evening browsing, oohh-ing and ahhh-ing and developing a guilty feeling about all the wasps I’ve send to wasp heaven (I promise, no more irrational killing)
thank you for the stamps too, they’re lovely.
keep up the good work,
many regards,
Kristi

Letter 2 – Female Io Moth

 

Red Moth
September 6, 2009
I found this outside my door the first week in September. It did not move for two days, but then it moved to the door across from my condo. A few days later it was gone
LP
Bonita Springs, Florida

Io Moth
Io Moth

Dear LP,
This is a female Io Moth.  The males have yellow upper wings.  Had you disturbed the moth, you may have been treated to the startling eyespots on the underwings.  When disturbed, Io Moths, like many other Giant Silkmoths, will reveal these lower wings to startle a predator.  A bird or other predator might then think the creature it tried to eat was a much larger head staring at it, and fearing that it might become the prey instead, the predator might then fly away.

Letter 3 – Great Peacock Moth Caterpillar from France

 

Great peacock moth caterpillar
Hello! I met this chubby fluorescent chap with really bright blue specks on a hillside path near Grenoble, in the French Alps, last August. I am from England and therefore am not used to large, alien-looking insects, so was very excited. I identified it as a great peacock moth caterpillar, the largest European moth. I just wanted to share it with your site’s caterpillar fans. Thank you!
Emilie Pavey, Grenoble

Hi Emilie,
Thanks for sending us your wonderful image of the Great Peacock Moth Caterpillar, Saturnia pyri. We cropped your credit card out of the photo. While we agree it was a good indication of scale, which we generally appreciate, we felt the card distracted from the beauty of the caterpillar. Our readership might want to know that this Great Peacock Moth Caterpillar was longer than a standard Visa card. While researching the web, we discovered an image of this species painted by Vincent van Gogh.

Letter 4 – Great Peacock Moth Caterpillar from Greece

 

What caterpillar is this
Location: northern greece
July 22, 2011 7:47 am
Location: mountains of northern Greece. Hot 95 degree day. Found in our backyard. Under the olive trees and well watered grasses
Date: July 2011
thank you !!!
Signature: mom and kid

Great Peacock Moth Caterpillar

Dear mom and kid,
This is the caterpillar of the Great Peacock Moth,
Saturnia pyri, and you may verify our identification by viewing it on Kirby Wolfe’s website.  Vincent Van Gogh did a painting of the adult moth which you can view on this Van Gogh Gallery website.  The adult moth and caterpillar are both depicted on this Czechoslovakian postage stamp.

Great Peacock Moth and Caterpillar on Postage Stamp

Letter 5 – Automeris Caterpillar from Mexico

 

Subject:  Green and black hairy caterpillar
Geographic location of the bug:  Mayan Ruins (Koba), Quintana Roo, Mexico
Your letter to the bugman:  Good evening! My family and I came across this beautiful gem of a caterpillar and I cannot find it anywhere on the web. Maybe perhaps you might know.
How you want your letter signed:  Keli rae

Possibly Automeris metzli Caterpillar

Dear Keli,
This is a Giant Silkmoth Caterpillar, probably in the genus
Automeris, and quite possibly Automeris metzli which is pictured on Project Noah.  Caterpillars in the genus can sting.

Thank you so much! It’s such a beautiful moth, as well as larvae..

Letter 6 – Automeris Caterpillar in Yucatan

 

Subject: Ok, got an exotic caterpillar for ya
Location: Chichen Itza complex, Yucatan, Mexico
July 17, 2012 9:36 pm
I took a pic of this large caterpillar last week while visiting Chichen Itza in the Mexican state of Yucatan. It was inching along a stone path under tree cover. Sadly I don’t have anything in the image to act as a frame of reference but its length was around 5 inches. My best guess is some sort of Automeris moth caterpillar, but you guys are the experts. What do you think?
Chichen Itza coordinates:
20° 40′ 58.44″ N, 88° 34′ 7.14″ W
Signature: Shannon Hammonds

Giant Silkmoth Caterpillar: Automeris from Yucatan

Hi Shannon,
We agree that this is an Automeris species.  They should not be handled because of the poisonous spines which can cause a very nasty reaction to human skin. We could not find a match on The Kirby Wolfe Saturniidae Collection website in our quick search.  We will give it another try as we try to contact Kirby.

Thanks, Daniel… you guys are awesome.  Your site is my go-to reference for insects that I can’t ID.

Kirby Wolfe Responds
Hi Daniel,
That caterpillar is a mystery to me.  The only hemileucine that would have a larva that large in Mexico would be Automeris metzli, but this larva does not look at all like that of metzli.  Unfortunately, the most defining character of many Automeris larvae is the midlateral band, which does not show in the photograph.  Sorry to not be of more help.
Cheers,
Kirby L. Wolfe
Research Associate
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Letter 7 – Early Instar Io Moth Caterpillars

 

Subject: do you know what type of caterpillar this is?
Location: central florida
August 4, 2014 9:52 am
Can you please identify this caterpillar for me? And let me know if it is poisenous?
Signature: Alysa Lenahan

Early Instar Io Moth Caterpillars
Early Instar Io Moth Caterpillars

Dear Alysa,
These are early instar Io Moth Caterpillars, which we identified on BugGuide.
  As they mature, the Io Moth Caterpillars turn bright green with white and red racing stripes on the sides, but they maintain their spines.  They are considered one of the stinging caterpillars, and contact with the spines can cause a local reaction, with irritation and a rash.  According to BugGuide:  “Caution, larva may “sting” if handled. The larger the caterpillar the more intense the stinging sensation caused by the urticating spines.”  The adult Io Moth is a gorgeous moth with startling eyespots on the lower wings that will scare a potential predator.

Letter 8 – Female Io Moth

 

This insect in South Florida..
My sister in Punta Gorda, FL, took this picture of what we think is a moth. I have been unsuccessful in finding anything to identify it. Can you help??? Thanks,
Chris Rawstern

Hi Chris,
This is a female Io Moth, but sadly, the most distinctive identifying feature is hidden from view. This species has bold eyespots on the underwings which frighten predators when they are flashed, making the moth appear to be the face of a much larger creature. It is an excellent defense mechanism. Females have brown upper wings and the smaller male has yellow upper wings. There are some excellent images on BugGuide.

Letter 9 – Female Io Moth

 

Moth?
I saw this on a neighbor’s screen door in Satellite Beach, FL on 7 Jan 2007. First picture is what I saw before prodding with a twig to see if it was alive. It didn’t move, but I was able to move the wing coverlets and took 2nd picture.
Charles E. McKusick

Hi Charles,
This is a female Io Moth, one of the smaller native Saturnid Moths. Saturnid Moths do not eat as adults. The females release a pheromone that attracts a mate, often from miles away. These beauties fly just to mate and reproduce. The eyespots are a defense mechanism. If a bird or other hungry carnivore pecks at the moth, ths “eyes” are revealed, startling the would be predator.

Letter 10 – Female Io Moth

 

Do you know the name of this moth?
Location:  SW Florida near Naples
October 14, 2010 8:58 am
This insect was hanging on the purple passion vine yesterday afternoon. It has been there since about 4 PM yesterday and it is still there now. It is 10 AM here now. I am located in SW Florida near Naples.
Signature:  Thank You. Elaine

Female Io Moth

Hi Elaine,
We are very happy to post your photo of a female Io Moth.  The males of the species have yellow, not brown wings.  The underwings, which are hidden from view, have eyespots that are used to frighten predators.

Letter 11 – Female Io Moth

 

Subject: I do not know what type of moths these are so please Help!
Location: Middle of florida
June 22, 2013 11:07 am
Dear Bugman,
I am a kid and i found these moth of some sort on my porch near a light. I am wondering what these moths are, what they eat, and if they are native. Please reply soon! Thanks.
Signature: Dr. Erica Marie Kilkenny

Female Io Moth
Female Io Moth

Dear Dr. Erica Marie Kilkenny,
Congratulations on eaning such an advanced degree while still being a “kid”.  This lovely moth is a female Io Moth, and in this resting position, she is concealing her underwings.  If she is prodded by a potential predator like a bird, the Io Moth will reveal her underwings which contain large spots that resemble eyes that might startle the predator into thinking that a much larger creature may harm the predator, thereby saving the moth from being eaten.  Io Moths exhibit sexual dimorphism, meaning males and females are very different in appearance.  The male Io Moth, which is the poster moth for National Moth Week, has yellow upper wings while the female’s upper wings are brown.  Io Moths are Giant Silk Moths in the family Saturniidae, and like other members of the family, they do not eat as adults.  Io Moths only survive a few days to a week as adults during which time they mate and the female lays eggs.  Caterpillars of the Io Moth have spines and they should be handled with caution to avoid being stung.

Letter 12 – Female Io Moth

 

Subject: Lovely moth
Location: Navasota, Texas
April 24, 2015 12:06 pm
My daughter found this beautiful specimen in our garage several nights ago. I relocated him (her?) to a bush in our side yard. From looking online I thought it might be a Polyphemus, but when I compare the pictures, the colors aren’t quite right. It looks more like the Automeris sp. from Ecuador, but we live in Texas, so I’d be very curious to know what kind of moth this is. Thank you!
Signature: Curious Mom

Female Io Moth
Female Io Moth

Dear Curious Mom,
This lovely moth is a female Io Moth, and she can be differentiated from male Io Moths which have yellow instead of brown forewings.  This extreme visual difference between the sexes is known as sexual dimorphism.  Hindwings of both species have bold eyespots or oculi that are used to frighten predators like birds.  Io Moths often rest with their hindwings covered, but when disturbed, they reveal the eyespots which effectively startle the predator into thinking it is about to be eaten by a larger creature.  Io Moths like other members of the Giant Silkmoth family Saturniidae, only live a few days and do not feed as adults.  Their purpose is to mate a reproduce.  Handle the Caterpillar of the Io Moth with caution as they have stinging spines.

Thanks so much for your speedy reply! We have not seen any caterpillars but I appreciate the warning to steer clear. Your website is a fabulous resource, especially for someone like me with inquisitive kids. Thanks again.

Letter 13 – Female Io Moth

 

Subject:  Moth Outside Our Classroom Door
Geographic location of the bug:  Orlando, FL 32803
Date: 08/27/2018
Time: 04:31 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi!
We found this amazing moth outside our classroom and we would love to find out which species it is.  This is our fifth grade class at Orlando Gifted Academy.
Thank you
How you want your letter signed:  Mrs. Kuerzi’s and Mr. Burnett’s Sudents

Female Io Moth

Dear Mrs. Keurzi’s and Mr. Burnett’s Students,
This impressive moth is a female Io Moth, but she has hidden her most dramatic feature while resting.  If disturbed by a predator like a bird, the Io Moth opens its wings, revealing the colorful eyespots on its underwings, often startling the predator into perceiving a threat that might eat it.

Letter 14 – Female Io Moth

 

Subject:  Moth
Geographic location of the bug:  Northern lower Michigan, near traverse City
Date: 06/28/2019
Time: 12:54 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Found this next to my door when I got home around 5pm on a hot, humid day. My best guess is some type of sallow moth, but I’m lost and curious.
How you want your letter signed:  AJ

Female Io Moth

Dear AJ,
This is a female Io Moth and in her current resting position, she is hiding her most distinctive features, the eyespots on her underwings.  When startled by a predator, she reveals the eyespots, potentially frightening a predator into thinking it has awakened a sleeping giant.

Letter 15 – Female Io Moth

 

Subject:  Pink Moth with Fuzzy Red Head
Geographic location of the bug:  Florida
Date: 09/15/2019
Time: 04:15 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  We found a moth with beautiful pink wings. It’s fuzzy head was a dark red with the color transitioning into the wings. Fuzzy thick arms and on its underside it was brown. It’s currently September in Central Florida. It was sitting on a window at a pharmacy.
How you want your letter signed:  🙂

Female Io Moth

Dear :),
This is a female Io Moth, but her most distinguishing physical feature is not apparent in your image.  Both female and male Io Moth have striking eyespot markings on the underwings that are hidden when the moth is at rest.  Once startled, the moth reveals the underwings, potentially frightening a predator into perceiving that it has wakened a sleeping giant that could turn around and eat the predator.  This illusion is protective mimicry.  We suspect this individual was attracted by the pharmacy lights and then decided to stay and rest during the day until the following night.

Letter 16 – Giant Peacock Moth from Bosnia

 

5″ wingspan moth
Mon, May 11, 2009 at 2:57 PM
Hi,
I chased this lovely beast out of my livingroom tonight with much screaming from my wife!
I’ve no idea what type of moth this could be, maybe you can help?
It was hiding behind the sofa and I had to use a biscuit tin to catch and release it.
Mick Holstead
Capljina, Bosnia Herzegovina

Giant Peacock Moth
Giant Peacock Moth

Hi Mick,
This is a Giant Peacock Moth, Saturnia pyri, the largest moth in Europe. This moth was  the subject of a Vincent Van Gogh painting, but the artist misidentified the moth as a Death’s Head Moth.

Letter 17 – Great Peacock Moth Caterpillar from France

 

Subject: caterpilar
Location: SW France
January 5, 2014 2:48 am
Hi, this caterpillar was seen in my neighbours garden in SW France and I cannot find it in any of my books, it is about 7 to 8cm long, can you help.
many thanks
MARLAND
Signature: Marland

Great Peacock Moth Caterpillar
Great Peacock Moth Caterpillar

Dear Marland,
We get very few identification requests from France, and we are not certain if there is a general disinterest in bugs in France, of if the language barrier is leading French speakers elsewhere for their identifications.  This is a Great Peacock Moth Caterpillar,
Saturnia pyri, and you can find additional information on the Saturniidae of the Western Palaearctic website.

Hi Daniel, wow what a great service you give, insect identified in just 45 minutes!! I think the French are interested in insects but perhaps they do not know about your site, I will start spreading the word and just hope you do not get inundated with requests.
Many thanks
Marland

Letter 18 – Great Peacock Moth from France

 

Very large moth
My daughter took this photograph two days ago in France. Can you identify it please. Thanking you in anticipation
Jane

Hi Jane,
This beauty is the Great Peacock Moth, Saturnia pyri. We located it on a site entitled Saturniidae of the Western Palaearctic which states this species is rare in Northern France.

Letter 19 – Great Peacock Moth from France

 

Subject:  Great Peacock moth
Geographic location of the bug:  Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, 78700, France
Date: 04/24/2019
Time: 04:47 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  As per my message on the forum. Thank you very much for checking it out.
How you want your letter signed:  Jane

Great Peacock Moth

Hi Jane,
Thanks for sending in your tragic images of a female Great Peacock Moth,
Saturnia pyri, that has become a roadkill victim.  The comment you placed on one of our prior postings reads:  “This is not for the faint-hearted I’m afraid, but I’ve just taken a couple of photos of a massive, and magnificent, but unfortunately dead moth I just found on the road. I’m 100% sure it’s a Great Peacock moth, but I seem to live much further North of their reported range.”  According to Saturniidae of the Western Palaearctic, the Great Peacock Moth is:  “Limited to the warmer areas of Europe and the Near East, from Paris, France (Leraut, 2017), south through western Switzerland, the Iberian Peninsular to costal regions of Morocco and Algeria. Thence eastwards across Austria, Hungary, the Balkans to the Ukraine. From here it extends southwards across the Caucasus Mountains, the Republic of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan (Zolotuhin, Didmanidze & Petrov, 2011) to Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the Alborz and Zagros Mountains of Iran. It is also found on the Mediterranean islands of Corsica and Sardinia, but not Crete.  It now appears to be extinct in northern France (north of Paris), Germany and Luxembourg.”  Its presence might be due to a reintroduction effort, or perhaps global warming is causing it to expand its range into regions from which it had been previously extirpated.

Great Peacock Moth

Hello Daniel
Thank you for taking the time to respond to my message, and confirming my identification.
I’ll try to find a local wildlife group/entomologist as I think it may be of interest to them. Such a pity the poor thing was dead, but at least I’ve been able to report the sighting.
Thanks again for your kind help.
Best regards
Jane

Letter 20 – Great Peacock Moth from Israel

 

i have just found this beautifaul creature ,and have no idea what it is-butterfly or moth?
please can you help me to identify this creature? we are living in the south of israel. i have also found millions of hairy ginger little caterpillars in big webs like spider webs-know what they are? thanks
a.beeri (israel)

Hi A,
Your moth is a Great Peacock Moth, Saturnia pyri. Coincidentally, we just posted a photo of a caterpillar from this species photographed in France. Adults do not feed, the caterpillars eat leaves from a variety of shrubs and trees, and the species ranges throughout most of the warmer areas of Europe, the Mediterranean, and into the Middle East.

Letter 21 – Great Peacock Moth from Serbia

 

Large moth. Cecropia?
July 2, 2010
I once found an alien looking being, took a picture, but lost it in a catastrophic PC failure a few years ago before I could identify it. Out of massive amounts of data that I’ve lost only those pictures and a few audio recordings really bothered me and I think about them every once in a while. Today I was finally fed up and decided to pour over the internet for as much time as I needed to and make as much of a fool of myself describing the weird creature on forums as I must until I find out what was it. I was ready! I was pumped!
Three minutes later it was all over… I immediately found your site, and found what I was looking for in a few more clicks of the mouse. You kind of destroyed my initial enthusiasm for a quest, but don’t get me wrong – the site is awesome and I was very grateful once the adrenalin wore off. 
Now I still have a small problem. The being I remember looks a lot like a Cecropia Moth Caterpillar, and the moth itself (pictured on your site) looks a lot like the moths I see all the time. But they’re not quite the same! I actually have a few pictures of the moths I’m used to, but only when I searched through them trying to find a good one to post here I noticed there are differences. Hence the two images.
I would very much like to know if the moths on my pictures are indeed Cecropia moths or some variety thereof, and if the caterpillar I’ve seen is from the same species. Is it weird that I see the moths all the time for as long as I can remember and the caterpillar only once? Are my moths of different varieties?
Thank you very much!
Image 1: taken in May
Image 2: taken in August
Same location.
John
Europe, Serbia, 43.37N, 20.41E, ~400m

Giant Peacock Moth

Hi John,
Your letter has us quite intrigued.  Your assumption that your moth resembles the Cecropia Moth is understandable, as they are both in the same family, Saturniidae, but the Cecropia Moth is a North American species.  If you saw one in Serbia, it must have been introduced or it escaped from captivity.  The moth in your photo is the Great Peacock Moth or Giant Peacock Moth,
Saturnia pyri, the largest moth in Europe.  You may read more about the Giant Peacock Moth on the Saturniidae of the Western Palaearctic website.   Your second moth is a Sphinx Moth or Hawkmoth in the family Sphingidae, but we need to do additional research on the species.

Letter 22 – Io Caterpillar stings Bug Humanitarian!!!

 

Subject: Big Fat Spiky Caterpillar
Location: Charleston Int’l Airport
October 26, 2012 10:00 am
Found this caterpillar outside my office on the sidewalk. Picked it up because someone was going to step on it. Mistake! My index finger is killing me now. My wife tells me this was stupid and ”everyone” knows not to touch these. ’Cept me apparently. Not looking for medical advice, just curious if it’s a toxic or if a spike is in my finger. Would like to address it. Sincerely, Major Wuss
Signature: Major Wuss

Io Moth Caterpillar

Dear Major Wuss,
The sting of the Io Moth Caterpillar is rumored to be quite painful.  WikiHow has 8 steps to treating Caterpillar Stings, and the Io Caterpillar is reported to have poisonous spines.  If it is any consolation, we are tagging your posting with the Bug Humanitarian award for your good intentions.

Letter 23 – Bug of the Month April 2019: Male Io Moth

 

Subject:  Large ( not huge ) brown moth, two spots
Geographic location of the bug:  Clearwater Florida. West central fla
Date: 03/30/2019
Time: 02:19 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Large is relative, I suppose.  This was about 1.25 inches long. Doesn’t sound big but it’s a lot larger than any other moth I have seen around here. Thanks.
How you want your letter signed:  Pk

Male Io Moth

Dear Pk,
This is a male Io Moth, one of the smaller of the Giant Silkmoths that are native to North America.  Like many members of the family Saturniidae, Io Moths have large eyespots on the underwings that enable them to frighten predators.  Here is a BugGuide image of an Io Moth with markings similar to your individual.

Thanks!   I wondered if there was more to the wings than it was showing.  Now that you have explained “Underwings” I will be a better moth identifier.  Might even try to intentionally startle a moth to see those eyes.   Thanks a lot!

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

37 thoughts on “How to Get Rid of Io Moth Caterpillar: Simple and Effective Methods”

  1. I saw one last night attracted by the light outside my house in Menites on the island of Andros in Greece. Truly amazing
    .

    Reply
  2. I saw one last night attracted by the light outside my house in Menites on the island of Andros in Greece. Truly amazing
    .

    Reply
  3. I found a Great Peacock Moth caterpillar on my potato plants. It is more a tan/brown colour (rather than the greenish tinge the photos on your website have) with the tiny blue spots all over.
    Haven’t ever seen the adult moths around. We live in Aghios Apostoles, Evia. I bought a potato bag to plant the potatoes and this bag had advertising and instructions in Slavic languages – so perhaps the bag had eggs which had travelled here from afar??

    Reply
  4. I found a Great Peacock Moth caterpillar on my potato plants. It is more a tan/brown colour (rather than the greenish tinge the photos on your website have) with the tiny blue spots all over.
    Haven’t ever seen the adult moths around. We live in Aghios Apostoles, Evia. I bought a potato bag to plant the potatoes and this bag had advertising and instructions in Slavic languages – so perhaps the bag had eggs which had travelled here from afar??

    Reply
  5. I had this beautiful caterpillar in my garden yesterday, only recognised by your site. It was a wonderful thing to see. I live in France in the Deux Sevre . Never ever seen anything like it. fourbob

    Reply
  6. When we were playing in the garden, we came across this Great Peacock Moth Caterpillar climbing up the wall of the swimming pool. All the kids were intrigued and we were able to identify it on your site-thank you. We are situated in Chatellerault, 86100, Vienne, France.

    Reply
  7. The great peacock moth doesn’t exist in Germany! It also does not exist in northern france, in luxembourg it is extinct.
    But in parts of switzerland and austria this moth lives.

    Rolf

    Reply
  8. The great peacock moth doesn’t exist in Germany! It also does not exist in northern france, in luxembourg it is extinct.
    But in parts of switzerland and austria this moth lives.

    Rolf

    Reply
  9. Hi,
    My daughter ( age 6) found a giant peacock moth caterpillar in our garden in south west France. Are they common though out France ?
    Oh yes & Amélie would like to know do they change colour before turning into a pupa? Thank you

    Reply
    • Many Saturniidae caterpillars change color prior to pupation, but we cannot say for certain that the Giant Peacock Moth Caterpillar is one of those. We do not believe they are as common as they were in the past.

      Reply
  10. Hi,
    My daughter ( age 6) found a giant peacock moth caterpillar in our garden in south west France. Are they common though out France ?
    Oh yes & Amélie would like to know do they change colour before turning into a pupa? Thank you

    Reply
  11. We have one in our garden yesterday. Very LARGE!!! This is the second time we have found one. We live in Dept 24. The grandchildren were very interested in finding out what it changes into. Thanks

    Reply
  12. This is not for the faint-hearted I’m afraid, but I’ve just taken a couple of photos of a massive, and magnificent, but unfortunately dead moth I just found on the road. I’m 100% sure it’s a Great Peacock moth, but I seem to live much further North of their reported range. I live in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine (78700). I’d be happy to share the photos But I’m not sure how to post them here.

    Reply
  13. We’ve seen two on a cherry tree on Elba. While having breakfast they were wandering around the terrace. Lizzards showed up and approached them. To eat them? The lizzards ran of anyway, seemingly impressed of their size. Yesterday in bed I heard some high pitched solitary chirping outside. Was that the

    Great info here!

    Reply
  14. We’ve seen two on a cherry tree on Elba. While having breakfast they were wandering around the terrace. Lizzards showed up and approached them. To eat them? The lizzards ran of anyway, seemingly impressed of their size. Yesterday in bed I heard some high pitched solitary chirping outside. Was that the

    Great info here!

    Reply
  15. HI I have one in my garden now, it was a caterpillar 2 days ago and is now a pupa. I watch every day to see what is happening. We saw one emerging about 14 years ago and didn’t know what it was. We are in Morbihan, the south of Brittany.

    Reply
  16. We had one of the moths on our back wall a few years ago, maybe 2019 ? in the Gironde department. It posed while we took pictures. A magnificent creature.

    Reply

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