Giant silk moths, belonging to the family Saturniidae, are undoubtedly some of the most fascinating and beautiful creatures in the world of insects. With their large size, eye-catching colors, and amazing patterns, these moths can capture the attention of even the most indifferent observers. Raising these enchanting insects can be a rewarding experience for both hobbyists and professional breeders.
For those interested in raising giant silk moths, it’s important to note that they can be found in various species, such as the Luna moth, Polyphemus moth, and Cecropia moth, to name just a few. As beginners, you need to be aware of the specific needs and requirements of the moth species you choose, as each may have slightly different care needs. For instance, the Luna moth prefers a leafy habitat, while the Cecropia moth may need a more diverse diet during its larval stage.
Interaction with these stunning creatures can be a fantastic way to learn about their life cycles, behaviors, and habitats. Their compelling presence can provide ample opportunity for conversation starters and raise awareness about the importance of biodiversity and conservation efforts. So, if you’re ready to take on the challenge of raising giant silk moths, the rewards will certainly be worth your efforts.
Understanding Giant Silk Moths
Giant silk moths belong to the family Saturniidae, which consists of medium to large-sized moths with stout, hairy bodies and feathery antennae1. Key attributes:
- Hairy bodies
- Feathery antennae
Notable Species: Cecropia, Luna, Promethea, and Polyphemus
The Cecropia moth is the largest moth in North America2. Features:
- Red body with white stripes
- Wingspan: 5-7 inches2
The Luna moth is characterized by its green color and long, elegant tails3. Characteristics:
- Light green wings
- Tails up to 3 inches long3
The Promethea moth is known for its dark brown and red markings4. Attributes:
- Dark brown and red wings
- Wingspan: 3-4 inches4
The Polyphemus moth is recognizable by its large eyespots on its wings5. Features:
- Eyespots on hind wings
- Wingspan: 4-6 inches5
|Cecropia||5-7 inches||Red, white stripes|
|Luna||3-4 inches||Light green|
|Promethea||3-4 inches||Dark brown & red|
|Polyphemus||4-6 inches||Brown, eyespots|
Life Cycle of Giant Silk Moths
Eggs and Hatching
Giant silk moths, members of the family Saturniidae, lay eggs on the leaves of host plants. Eggs hatch in about 10 days, releasing tiny caterpillars to begin their growth.
Caterpillar Growth and Development
Caterpillars consume leaves to grow and develop. They pass through five developmental stages, known as instars, shedding their old skin at each stage.
Giant silk moth species:
Each caterpillar species prefers specific host plants. For example:
- Cecropia: cherry and willow
- Luna: hickory and walnut
After the final instar, caterpillars seek a suitable location to spin their cocoons. Once the cocoon is securely spun, usually on a branch or under leaves, the caterpillar undergoes pupation.
- Some species overwinter as pupae
- Milder climate species may have 2-3 generations per year
Adult Moths and Reproduction
Adult giant silk moths lack functional mouthparts, so they don’t eat. Their sole purpose is reproduction. Mating usually occurs at night.
Adult moth characteristics:
- Large, with wingspans of 4″ to 6″
- Stout, hairy bodies
- Feathery antennae
Pros and cons of adult moths:
|Essential for reproduction||Short lifespan (7-10 days)|
|Beautiful appearance||Can be vulnerable to predators|
To increase the chances of their offspring’s survival, female moths release pheromones to attract males for mating. Once successfully mated, the female moth lays her eggs, thus completing the life cycle of the giant silk moth.
Caring for Giant Silk Moth Caterpillars
Housing and Containers
Giant silk moths, belonging to the family Saturniidae, include species like cecropia moths and polyphemus moths. To house these caterpillars:
- Use mesh boxes or plastic containers with ventilation holes
- Line the bottom with paper towels for easy cleaning
- Transfer caterpillars to a larger container as they grow
Food Plants and Fresh Leaves
Caterpillars eat specific leaves depending on their species. Examples of host plants for silk moth caterpillars include:
Ensure leaves are from pesticide-free areas and provide fresh leaves daily, placing stems in water to keep them firm.
Optimal Temperature and Humidity
Giant silk moth caterpillars thrive in the following conditions:
- Temperatures between 65-85°F (18-30°C)
- Moderate humidity levels, monitored with a hygrometer
- Avoid placing containers in direct sunlight or drafts
Preventing Pests and Predators
To protect caterpillars from pests and predators like ladybugs and tachinid flies, try the following:
- Regularly inspect the container for signs of infestation
- Keep containers away from windows or doors
- Remove dead leaves daily to prevent bacterial growth
- Introduce native species predators, like ladybugs, as a natural pest control method
|Species||Wingspan Range||Native Host Trees|
|Cecropia Moth||5-7 inches||Maple, wild cherry, apple, lilac|
|Polyphemus Moth||4-6 inches||Maple, birch, willow, oak|
|Promethea Moth||3-4 inches||Wild cherry, sassafras, ash|
Giant silk moths are fascinating Lepidoptera species, and with proper care, their captivating lifecycle can be observed in captivity. Providing a suitable container, the right host plants, and a pest-free environment is essential to raise healthy silk moth caterpillars.
Breeding Giant Silk Moths
Attracting Mates with Pheromones and Scent
Giant silk moths rely on pheromones and their feathery antennae to find mates. Female silk moths emit pheromones, which males can detect from up to three miles away.
- Large, feathery antennae
- Ability to locate females from miles away
Egg Laying and Incubation
Once mated, female giant silk moths lay eggs on suitable host plants for caterpillars to feed on. The eggs will hatch into larvae, which eventually form cocoons and transform into adult moths.
- Takes place on host plants
- Produces larvae, which become caterpillars
Releasing Adult Moths into the Wild
Adult giant silk moths in North America do not feed, as they are focused on reproducing. When ready, release them into the wild to live out their short lives and continue their life cycle.
Giant silk moths:
- Do not feed as adults
- Live to reproduce
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 – Polyphemus Moth
Location: Escondido, CA (North Inland San Diego)
April 22, 2012 6:11 pm
This moth was found sitting on the wall outside of our garage early this morning (4/22/12) in Escondido, Ca. It is a very large, brown moth and it has eyelash like antennas. It hasn’t moved at all today. I have researched online and cannot seem to figure out what species it is. If you can help, that would be great!
This is a male Polyphemus Moth. The feathery antennae indicate his sex since he used his antennae to sense the pheromones of the female. Polyphemus Moths are found coast to coast across North America, but west coast sightings are not as common as sighting in the eastern part of the country.
Letter 2 – Polyphemus Moth
Location: Eastern Pennsylvania
July 12, 2011 2:56 pm
My father found this moth out back while he was cleaning up after the moth and took a few pictures on his camera. When I woke up, he went to get me and told me all about it and I got some myself. It’s a large brown moth with a huge backside. I’m assuming it was pregnant. It’s about mid July so it’s summer and it’s almost 4 PM. I’m not sure when he spotted it.
This beautiful gal is a female Polyphemus Moth, and we are quite happy that you have provided us a view of the wings closed as well as opened. You can tell she is a female by her full body and smaller antennae. The antennae of the male are bushier or more feathered, and he uses them to sense the female’s pheromones. We are post dating this submission to go live over the weekend while we are out of the office.
Letter 3 – Polyphemus Moth
Big brown and gray moth with leaf like antenni.
Thu, Mar 19, 2009 at 2:48 PM
Big brown and gray moth with leaf like antenni.
Today on my porch I came accross a very large brown and gray moth with large antenni that resemble leaves. There are a couple spots on each wing.
Your moth is a Giant Silk Moth known as the Polyphemus Moth. The dorsal surface of the lower wings have large spots that resemble eyes, hence naming the moth after the legendary cyclops Polyphemus from the Odyssey.
Letter 4 – Male Polyphemus Moth
Shy big moth
I was trying to ID this one since I have never seen it before. It is about the size of a Luna but it ran away before I could get good photos. I had to lighten this one to get a good look at the markings. That’s a #6 nailhead to the left of its wings. From wall to outermost wingtip, it is about 2-1/2 to 3 inches. The body and legs are so thick they almost look swollen. I thought it might be newly morphed because its wings were slightly curled at the back.
The undersides of moths wings often differ radically from the upper sides. Generally, the dorsal view is pictured in identification books. We checked with Eric Eaton to be certain and he informed us that this was a male Polyphemus Moth, Antheraea polyphemus.
Letter 5 – King Monkey Moth from South Africa
large dark moth from SA
Subject: large dark moth from SA
Location: Eastern Cape, South Africa
February 11, 2012 2:00 pm
Hi, here is a moth that was visiting my house during a recent warm weather spell. The wingspan was a little over 10 cm. What species could this be? Thanks,
Ed. Note: February 15, 2012
Because of our own classification error in our original response, we were not able to find this species on the World’s Largest Saturniidae Site. Our lack of success is no reflection on the comprehensive database to be found there.
This is one of the giant Silkmoths in the family Saturniidae, but alas, we had no luck finding a match on the very comprehensive World’s Largest Saturniidae Site. We will contact the webmaster, Bill Oehlke, to see if he is able to provide an identification. Unless we overlooked an obvious match, this might be an unrecorded sighting from South Africa, in which case Bill might ask your permission to use your image on his website as well. It is also really great that you provided views of both sides of the wings.
Update: February 13, 2012
After taking advantage of the comment provided by Ryan, Windy wrote back with what she believes to be a King Monkey Moth, Jana tantalus, that she identified on Lambert Smith’s website.
Letter 6 – Giant Silkmoth Caterpillars from Belize: Automeris species
Subject: Hairy green caterpillar in Belize
Location: Cayo, Belize
March 3, 2017 2:52 pm
Found this walking “train” of caterpillars today in Cayo, by the Mopan River in Belize. There were like 35 of them, coming down from a tree, each about 5 cm long. The green hair is toxic, got itchy and painful little bumps when I held one.
This is a Giant Silkmoth Caterpillar in the genus Automeris, or a closely related genus. It might be Automeris metzli which is pictured on the Kirby Wolfe Collection, but we are not certain. We will contact Bill Oehlke to see if he can provide a species identification. He may request permission to post your images to his comprehensive site as well and we hope you will grant permission. The procession image is especially interesting.
Oh WOW! this is an amazing moth! Thank you very much for responding. Of course you have permission to post the images- I could not find a similar caterpillar on google just searching for green hairy caterpillar Belize…but I came across your wonderful site and actually identified another bug there (fig sphinx caterpillar). There is so many interesting insects here, but caterpillars specially are catching my attention as they transform to something completely different. Thank you very much again!
Letter 7 – Polyphemus Moth
Looks like a plump sider had her way with a butterfly.
Thu, Feb 12, 2009 at 9:44 PM
Here’s a picture. I found this insect in Aventura, Florida by doctor’s office and took pictures.
Dear Not Sure,
We don’t know what a plump sider is. At first we thought your subject line might be a typographical error and that you were sending in a Food Chain image of a fat spider eating a butterfly. This is actually a Polyphemus Moth, one of the Giant Silk Moths and she is a female full of eggs. Polyphemus Moths are found throughout much of North America and they are a beautiful species. The common name refers to the large eyespot on each underwing, though the moth actually has two spots and the mythological cyclops Polyphemus only had one. When the moth is startled by a predator and it reveals the eyespots, the predator gets the impression it is about to become the prey and it will quickly depart, allowing the moth to live. Giant Silk Moths only live a few days and do not feed as adults. Their sole goal as adults is to mate and perpetuate the species.
Letter 8 – Polyphemus Moth
What kind of moth
June 14, 2010
This moth hung upside down in a tree next to my home all day. What is he and why was he hanging upside down???
We cannot say for certain why this Polyphemus Moth, Antheraea polyphemus, is hanging upside-down, except perhaps it was more comfortable. We are setting your letter and photo to go live next week since we will be out of the office for a week and we want to maintain a schedule of daily updates.
Letter 9 – Giant Silkmoth Caterpillar in South Africa: Gonimbrasia (Nudaurelia) wahlbergii
, anSubject: Black caterpillar with orange spikes
Location: South Africa
December 20, 2016 6:59 am
I would like to find out what butterfly or moth might be the adult of this black caterpillar with orange spikes and white spots found feeding (in groups) on a Pigeonwood tree (Trema orientalis) in our garden in South Africa.
Signature: Craig Morris
Your caterpillar will eventually metamorphose into a Giant Silkmoth in the family Saturniidae. We are posting your submission as unidentified prior to beginning any research. This morning is our last day in the office before catching a plane in a few hours for a holiday trip and we may not be able to provide a species name for you because of the time needed to research your caterpillar’s identity. In our own archives we have an image of Predatory Hemipterans feeding on the caterpillar of Imbrasia wahlbergi and it looks like the same species as your caterpillar. Images posted to iSpot Nature confirm that identification. We also have images in our archive of Gonimbrasia (Nudaurelia) wahlbergii and we believe they represent the same species.
Thank you for your very speedy reply. That looks spot on – very similar to the Wahlberg’s Emperor Moth (Nudaurelia wahlbergi) found here.
I appreciate your help.
Have a good holiday.
Letter 10 – Giant Silkworm from Mexico: Leucanella species
Subject: black caterpillar with yellow spines
Location: Chiapas, Mexico
October 31, 2012 8:42 am
This caterpillar was found in the highland region of Chiapas, Mexico by a worker who was clearing out a field outside of a rural clinic where I was working. I was told four different names for it, some in the local Mayan language: ch’ix tul, xaktaj, xaxaltojo, and ramudo. I was told it turns into a large yellow moth and that the caterpillar is very poisonous. It was pretty large – maybe 10 cm. Thanks!!
We are rushing to post your photo, and we cannot do the research at this moment. We can tell you that this is a Caterpillar from the genus Automeris, a large group of Giant Silkmoths. We can also tell you that this is a stinging caterpillar, so keep away from the spines. We are copying Bill Oehlke on this response as he might be able to provide the species for us both. Should Bill request permission to reproduce your photo on his website, we hope you will comply.
Thanks so much for your quick response. This is very helpful. Yes, you
have permission to repost the photo. I’ll look forward to your
response whenever you have the time. Thank you so much –
this is a great website and a great service!
We were wrong about the genus. We found a photo on Bill Oehlke’s excellent website that indicates these caterpillars are probably
Leucanella leucane or possibly Leucanella saturata. Here are photos of Leucanella leucane from Masterfile and another from Art.com. We hope Bill Oehlke can verify our identification.
Looks just like Leucanella saturata! Thanks so much for this, and
thanks again for your website!
Letter 11 – Giant Silkmoths from Costa Rica
Location: Monteverde, Costa Rica
September 9, 2010 6:15 pm
I was wondering if you could identify this species of moth for me. I saw them in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve.
These moths are Giant Silkmoths in the genus Rothschildia. There are several different species found in Central America, and we believe your specimens are Rothschildia orizaba orizaba, one of the four species known to fly in Costa Rica. We identified a specimen back in 2008. BugGuide reports two species in the genus Rothschildia from Southern Texas and Arizona.
Letter 12 – Male Polyphemus Moth
Subject: Large Moth
Geographic location of the bug: Central Texas
Time: 04:36 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: This mother got inside my house last night, and has been hanging around for a few days. Also is it poisonous to dogs? I’m worried my dog might try to eat it.
How you want your letter signed: Tania Pinto
You can tell that this gorgeous Polyphemus Moth is a male by his extremely feathery antennae. Polyphemus Moths are not poisonous and it poses no threat to your dog. We hope you had an opportunity to view it with its wings opened, revealing the effective protective eyespots that will frighten off predators.
Letter 13 – Giant Silkmoth from Sierra Leone: Eudaemonia argus
Pink moth with long tail
Location: Sierra Leone, Africa
January 24, 2012 6:12 am
snapped this photo this morning and have been unable to find the identification for this moth.
The moth’s [body] was probably 4cm long while the tail was about 20cm long.
Signature: thanks, Keith
What an amazingly beautiful moth this is. We believe we have correctly identified it as Eudaemonia argus and you may verify that on the Bold Systems website. We are copying Bill Oehlke on this response so he can confirm our identification and he may also request permission to post your photo on his amazing World’s Largest Saturniidae website.
Here is what I wrote to Keith.
Daniel is correct. It is Eudamonia argus.
I would be delighted for you to publish the pics.
please do correct my grammar in the write-up though, wrote it all very quickly without proof reading and its missing the the word “body” ( the Moth’s body was 4cm).
Other than that, please find attached the higher res pics I have.
Many thanks in your help on the matter of identification.
Thanks for the higher resolution images Keith, and also for allowing Bill to post to his website as well.
Letter 14 – Polyphemus Caterpillar
Some type of sphinx caterpillar
Location: Palm Beach County FL
December 1, 2010 5:56 am
I found this beauty in my live oak tree, along with a easily 3 dozen pink-striped oakworm caterpillars. I’ve not been able to decide what type of sphinx it is, although I’ve been on this site, bugguide, and Bill Oehlke’s site as well. It doesn’t seem to have a horn, as seems to be common on so many sphinxes.
You were unable to identify your caterpillar because it is not a Sphinx, but rather, a Giant Silkmoth. This is a Polyphemus Moth Caterpillar, which BugGuide describes as: “Larva: body large, bright green, with red and silvery spots below setae, and oblique yellow lines running through spiracles on abdomen; diagonal streak of black and silver on ninth abdominal segment; head and true legs brown; base of primary setae red, subdorsal and lateral setae have silver shading below; end of prolegs with yellow ring, and tipped in black.“
Letter 15 – Locating Giant Silkmoths in Connecticut
Subject: Finding Saturniidae
May 2, 2013 7:10 am
This spring and summer I’d like to find and identify and photograph as many of the large Saturniidae silk moths common to CT as I can find. I have always waited for my insects to find my lighted porch at night and THEN photographed them, but this time I want to be sure to see certain ones.
So, in southern CT, right now (beginning of May), I should be looking for cocoons, emerging adults, caterpillars, what? And where? Under trees? in trees? I’d like to bring a few caterpillars/cocoons to a butterfly cage on my porch and feed them, watch and photograph them hatching and stretching, and then release them safely to do their thing. My 5 yr old and I have been closely observing and photographing the insect life around our home for several years now and want to take the next step of watching captive caterpillars emerge.
I’ve looked but am probably not wording it correctly, so could you direct me to a website with pertinent info for my geographic area, and any advice or opinion you may have on the endeavor, keeping mind that I have done a bit of homework and know for certain that these creatures are plentiful and un-threatened, AND I plan to safely release them almost right after they emerge.
Thanks, and love your book! Helen Epley
Signature: Helen Epley
Thanks for your kind remark about The Curious World of Bugs. The best websites for information on North American Moths include BugGuide and The Butterflies and Moths of North America. You might also want to check with your local natural history museum to see if they have any programs. With National Moth Week gaining in popularity, you can also check if you have a local group that you can get involved with. We expect that now is the best time to find cocoons and adults. Caterpillars should appear later in the season. We applaud your involvement with natural history and education of your five year old. Good Luck.
Daniel, thank you so much! I’m going to look into all this info and check back in as you suggested, and if I have any super pix, I’ll share them. Thanks again for sharing your time and expertise.
Letter 16 – Giant Silkmoth from Ecuador: Caio harrietae
Subject: Large moth on the coast of Ecuador (2/20/2019)
Geographic location of the bug: Manabi Province, Ecuador (Santa Marianita)
Time: 02:11 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi Bugman, thanks for all the resources you’ve provided on your website! I live at sea level, (actually a 2 minute walk to the beach) and after the rains I’ve been trying to figure out what sort of giant moths are taking over. On my own I just can’t seem to pin it down (I checked a taxonomy website and the only other google search like them is an captioned stock photo.
They’re all around the same size, maybe varying by an half an inch or so and come in various shades of brown to silvery gray, with what look like shaggy fur on the backs, shared features being the sort of half-moon markings and band across the bottom from what I an tell.
Here’s some photos (one with a standard usd quarter next to it) and I’ll try and answer anything if you need more info!
How you want your letter signed: Ada
This is a Giant Silkmoth in the family Saturniidae. Members of this family do not feed as adults, so they only live about a week, long enough to mate and reproduce. We believe your individual might be in the genus Arsenura, which is well represented on Bold Systems. There are several species from the genus found in Ecuador. We will attempt to contact Bill Oehlke to see if he can provide a species identification.
Bill Oehlke Responds
This is a Caio species, either harrietae or championi.
It is quite dark in either case, but that might just be the lighting. I favour harrietae.
Please see if I have permission to post to website as harrietae? And check to see if photographer wants to be credited?
Thanks for thinking of me.
The pictures were all taken in late morning (11am) in indirect (overcast), I agree, they look unusually dark but the pictures are as accurate as they appear in real life as far as color goes, I would agree that the one was unusually dark in color.
They’re amazingly beautiful (and as big as a bat!), usually I only see the wings on the sidewalk, to see alive specimens during the day was very awesome.
Letter 17 – Male Polyphemus Moth
Subject: Butterfly or Mothra?
Location: Washington, DC
August 11, 2015 5:19 am
Yesterday morning I opened my front door and promptly was ready to become an agoraphobe, because of what was awaiting me on my porch. While my initial thought was it was the size of a football, I will now acquiesce that perhaps a child’s football is more accurate – not an NFL sized one. The wingspan was about 5″ – 6″.
Anyhoo, my fearless father poked it, and it fluttered to the ground, appearing quite dead, allowing him to snap the attached picture. However, as he prepared to move it, it suddenly came back to life (perhaps it is a Zombie Mothra) and flew away.
Which lead to a debate about whether it was a Butterfly, Moth, or alien sent to kill me. (Suffice to say I’m not the world’s biggest insect fan).
Can you help?
This male Polyphemus Moth is a member of the Giant Silkmoth family Saturniidae, and adults do not have functioning mouthparts, so they are incapable of either eating or biting. Helping with the identification was an easy matter, but it seems convincing you that insects are wondrous creatures might be a bit more difficult.
I sincerely thank you for your help! I’m going to endeavor to be less scream-and-run-crying-like-a-baby about insects, but I make no promises. I *did* however this morning refrain from squishing a small white spider in my house and instead lured it onto a piece of paper and relocated it outside. Baby steps… 🙂
Letter 18 – Mating Polyphemus Moths
what are these bugs?
My name is Sarah. Attached are pictures of some moths that I found mating on my husband’s car. I’m in Jacksonville, Florida the beaches area. Any idea as to what they may be? Thanks!
When we first sent you the rather truncated response with just the Polyphemus Moth identification, we had every intention of formatting your lovely photos and posting them. We especially like that your photos demonstrate a change in position and open and closed wing views. Thanks for your lovely addition to our archives.
Letter 19 – Polyphemus Moth
Tue, Mar 10, 2009 at 7:04 AM
My husband found this moth outside of his work. He thought it was fake at first and tried to pick it up, to his surprise it began to flutter a little and then settled back to sleep. Knowing that I love bugs he brought it home in a shoe box to show me. I was able to take some amazing pictures before this amazing creature passed on. Someone said they believe they only live for a couple of days but they couldn’t remember what the name of this moth was. It is hard to tell in this picture but this moth is huge. It is significantly larger than my opened hand. His antennae look like beautiful ferns. We saved him , we really wanted to release him but he only lived for about 45 mins. Thanks so much for checking it out for me. 🙂
Tampa, Fl. USA
Dear Rachel Riot,
This stunning moth is a Polyphemus Moth, one of the Giant Silk Moths that do not feed as adults. Moths in this family, Saturniidae, only live long enough to mate and lay eggs, generally a few days to a week. The Polyphemus Moth ranges over much of the continental U.S. The antennae indicates that this is a male moth. The male moth uses his antennae to locate a female moth through her pheromones. The female moth has less feathery antennae.
Letter 20 – Polyphemus Moth
what type of moth is this?
April 28, 2010
would you please let me know what type of moth is this?
thanks for you time and help
The Polyphemus Moth represented in your photograph ranges across the continental United States and Canada from North to South and East to West.
Letter 21 – Giant Silkmoth from Philippines: Samia luzonica perhaps
Giant Silk Moth?
Location: Mindanao Philippines
January 16, 2011 2:33 pm
Hi bugman. I took this photo in 2006 in Mindanao Philippines and am curious about what type of moth it is. I woke up one morning to find it on my window sill and it is about 5-6 inches head to tail, with a larger wing span. Please help solve the mystery? Thanks.
We found a website that lists the Giant Silkmoths that are found in the Philippines, The Saturniidae of the Philippines, but it does not contain any images. We were able to then do a web search of the species listed. We wish you had taken this photograph from a better camera angle as the extreme foreshortening is not ideal for identification purposes. We did notice a resemblance to an Asian species, Samia cynthia, the Cynthia Moth, which was introduced to North America. The caterpillars of the Cynthia Moth feed upon the Ailanthus or Tree of Heaven, but alas, the feeding of the caterpillars has done nothing to curb the spread of this noxious weed tree. Two members of the genus are among the list on The Saturniidae of the Philippines, and Samia luzonica, which we located on the Bugmaniac Webshop, is a pretty close match to your specimen.
Letter 22 – Male Polyphemus Moth
Subject: Large moth
Geographic location of the bug: Colorado, Monument, close to the mountains
Time: 04:22 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Dear Bugman, my friend found this moth resting on his window and I got to take some photos. I searched several archives of known moths in the area and I found similar moths but nothing that was quite right. Can you please identify this moth for me? The date is June 15th and the moth was found around 1pm. It has been very wet the past few weeks which has been followed by high 80 to mid 90 degree weather for the past three or four days.
How you want your letter signed: BigMothus
Letter 23 – Polyphemus Caterpillar
Big, Bright Green Caterpillar in Northern New Jersey
July 10, 2010
While hiking at Norving Green Park we found a nearly thumb-sized caterpillar on the ground (not sure if it’s health was good–seemed sluggish and when we moved it of the trail it made noticable clicking noises). Bright green, almost plastic-like flourescent, had few hairs sticking from small yellow dots, body segments mid line marked by a thin white/yellow line with small veritical ovals of white with reddish center. Horizontal eyespots(?) at tail area –perhaps raised? Segments very pronounced–Michelin Tireman-esque with pronounced angularity. Caterpillar was gripping onto moss like clot(perhaps about to metamorphose?) and may have been knocked from a tree by a bird.
My daughter and I are curious to find out what it may be–some sort so sphinx moth larva? Any thoughts appreciated. Thanks.
Northern New Jersey
According to BugGuide, the “oblique yellow lines running through spiracles on abdomen” identify this as a Polyphemus Moth Caterpillar, Antheraea polyphemus.
Thanks so much–after looking at pics online, it definetley does look like a polyphemus.
Letter 24 – Polyphemus Cocoon
Subject: Found cocoon
Location: Charlotte NC
December 4, 2012 1:30 pm
Hey there. I believe I have a sphinx moth but am not sure. Found this beauty on my chrysanthemum and pulled it off thinking it was dead twig. After I had it in my fingers it started rattling around in the cocoon. Would love to see it hatch but don’t want to hurt it. Suggestions? Thanks!!
Signature: Friend in Bugs, Danielle
This is not the cocoon of a Sphinx Moth. Most Sphinx Moths do not spin a cocoon, but rather the caterpillars burrow and form a naked pupa underground. We believe this is a Giant Silkmoth Cocoon, most likely that of a Polyphemus Moth or possibly a Luna Moth. This image of a Polyphemus Cocoon from BugGuide looks very similar. We will contact Bill Oehlke to see if he can confirm its identification. You should not bring the cocoon indoors as it will most likely hatch prematurely and the adult moth will not be able to find a mate and reproduced. A cage in a protected area that is approximately the same temperature as the outside environment will provide a suitable habitat and you may be lucky enough to witness the eclosion or emergence of the adult moth.
I contacted Bill already and he confirmed it is a Polyphemus moth!! I am truly excited. I have never seen one around my home. He suggested that the rattling was the pupae, not the moth and to bring it in to the fridge crisper now and let it emerge in April. He gave me instructions and links to follow to insure my moth doesn’t get hurt. Since they only live to reproduce for a week, I don’t want it to emerge now! I appreciate your response as I know you guys are very busy . I will be putting a cage out in the spring so we can see the emergence! Will send pictures then. Hope you all have a safe and happy holiday!
Letter 25 – Male Polyphemus Moth
Subject: Cecropia Moth?
Location: Edom, Texas (near Tyler)
March 20, 2013 9:14 am
Found this very beautiful but very lethargic moth on my front doormat this morning. Is it a cecropia moth? Furry body and antennae are feathery. It was also very large!
Signature: Trixie in Texas
This Polyphemus Moth is a member of the Giant Silkmoth family like the Cecropia Moth, but it is a distinctly different species. You can tell your Polyphemus Moth is a female because of the shape of her antennae. The are not as plumose or feathered as the antennae of the male Polyphemus Moth.
Ed. Note: Thanks to a comment, we inspected the antennae more closely and we now agree that this is a male Polyphemus Moth.
Letter 26 – Giant Silkmoth: Asian Atlas Moth, NOT Rothschildia species
What family is this butterfly?
Hi, I’ m doing one entomologic colection and i have a doubt about which is the family of this this butterfly. Can you help me ? I didn’ t found its classification. Thanks
Eduardo (Sao Paulo, Brazil)
This is a Saturnid or Giant Silkmoth possibly in the genus Rothschildia.
“Rothschildia” by Eduardo from Sao Paulo, Brazil is not a moth from Brazil, but one of the Attacus species. Maybe he is having fun with you. Maybe the cocoons came from southern Asia and they hatched in Brazil Kirby Wolfe site is not a pay site.It has just moved to a new location It is maintained by me, Bill Oehlke http://www.silkmoths.bizland.com/kirbywolfe.htm Kirby has images of I think about three hundred worldwide Saturniidae on this location. My private membership site called the World’s Largest Saturniidae Site is the one you refer to as costing $40.00 to become a member. It has images of over 1450 worldwide Saturniidae, including, with permission, all of Kirby’s images. The private membership site also has country checklists for most countries in the world and I work on it almost daily and have for many of the Central and South American countries created checklists at provincial or department level, one stage below national level. There are many worldwide species that are very similar in appearance. Geography is very useful in identifying some of them. Larvae of many species are also depicted.
Letter 27 – Giant Silkmoth from Trinidad: Rhescyntis species
Huge moth on Lounge chair
Fri, Jun 19, 2009 at 8:12 AM
Hello there, I came across this website a couple months ago when I was randomly surfing the internet. I think this is a great asset because I’ve always encountered some downright weird bugs here in the tropics. I encountered this moth early one morning after waking up. I must admit, I’m a sissy when it comes to bugs so I inched my way back inside my house without even taking my eye off the moth to ensure that it wouldn’t fly at me. lol. It was pretty big, about 5 inches across and I was amazed at how pretty it was and sort of silky looking. I would greatly appreciate it if you could tell me what it is or at least offer a suggestion because I have been curious about it for a long long time. Thank you!
Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies
This is a Giant Silk Moth in the family Saturniidae, and the best place to identify specimens from this family from around the world is on Bill Oehlke’s private website: The World’s Largest Saturniidae Site. Since there was no way to search the species from Trinidad, we searched Venezuela. You should know that islands around the world are notorious (that is a good thing) for having endemic species and subspecies because the longer they have no contact with their nearest relatives on the mainland, the more evolutionary changes result in distinctly different populations. This is the foundation of Charles Darwin’s studies in the Galapagos Islands. We have identified you moth as being in the genus Rhescyntis and the two species found in Venezuela are Rhescyntis hippodamia and Rhescyntis hermes. Of the two, Rhescyntis hermes is the darker moth. The subspecies Rhescyntis hippodamia norax, which is found in Central America including Panama might be the frontrunner for the proper identification. We finally located an image of Rhescyntis hippodamia on the Moths of Belize website, and this was the only image of the genus we could find that has public access. It should be noted that your photo is not of the highest quality, and this might make exact identification quite difficult. Posting your letter and image has taken us over an hour due to the research and the lethargy of our long outdated computer. We really need to buy a new computer which will facilitate faster postings and enable us to post more letters per day. We have other work to do today and this may be our only posting today.
Letter 28 – Giant Silkmoth Caterpillar from Rwanda
Jessica’s Pet Caterpillar
On Jan 24, 2011, at 6:07 PM
“puffy hews”. what kind of beastie will emerge from this rwandan living cactus??
julian thinks he’s a type of moth – a wild silk moth – a saturnidae.
I agree with Julian that this is a Giant Silkmoth Caterpillar, family Saturniidae (you dropped an i and failed to capitalize the family name). I have been unable to match it to any Rwandan species on the World’s Largest Saturniidae Site, so I have contacted Bill Oehlke who oversees that website to see if he is able to provide any information.
Bill Oehlke responds
I am pretty sure it is one of the Imbrasia species. That genus has been divided into Imbrasia and Gonimbrasia, and Gonimbrasia genus has been further divided into Gonimbrasia and Nudaurelia subgenera.
I think in the next few years there will be a few more genera/subgenera added. Currently, I would say it is Gonimbrasia (Nudaurelia) dione, but I have been advised there are probably many new species that will be described in the next little while as a result of DNA barcoding.
Dione has an all black larvae with yellow spinage and white spiracular ovals, and it likely flies in Rwanda. I have never seen a published list of Saturniidae species found in Rwanda.
The list I have composed is largely based on interpolations from lists sent to me by Thierry Bouyer for other African countries and from internet publishing of specimens for sale. I think Thierry’s information is quite reliable, although subject to the upcoming revisions based on DNA barcoding; the other sources would be less reliable.
There currently is nothing more reliable in print or on the internet, at least not so far as I have seen.
Is it possible she can provide a larger image?
We are inquiring about a larger image. Meanwhile, we did locate links to the adult moth on Thorne’s Insects Shoppe and on FlickR where it is also represented on the Moths Tanzania page. There are also photos of the adult moth on an African Moths website we located.
List of foodplants on Gonimbrasia (Nudaurelia) dione file.
If she still has it in Rwanda, use natural hosts. If it is now in US, use US host.
This species does not make a cocoon, but would pupate in a tub between paper towels if treated as per north america earth pupators like regalis.
I would love to see moth if she is successful.
Ed. Note: Food Plants from WLSS
“Listed below are primary food plant(s) and alternate food plants listed in Stephen E. Stone’s Foodplants of World Saturniidae and/or on various internet sites. It is hoped that this alphabetical listing followed by the common name of the foodplant will prove useful. The list is not exhaustive. Experimenting with closely related foodplants is worthwhile.
China wood oil tree
Barbados nut/Physic nut
Castor oil bean
Also, the caterpillar is pictured on this postage stamp from Congo.
great info. a famous caterpillar!
of course, several skin allergy producing food species listed…
jessie – get out the paper towels for puffy hews to pupate – i do hope he is still alive…
i love that it eats ricinus… let’s get some for elyria!
oh, but it eats sumac, too. not so useful!
is mr. oehlke an entomologist?
Letter 29 – Giant Silkmoth from Panama: Rothschildia fabiani
I found this moth on a mountain road in Palo Alto in the mountains above Boquete in Panama in April 2011.
I believe the genus may be Rothschildia but I really don’t know.
I would be grateful if you could possibly advise as to the full species name and any common names in English or otherwise for this beautiful creature.
Thanking you in anticipation
This is one of the Giant Silkmoths in the genus Rothschildia, and our research indicates there are four species or subspecies in Panama. In our opinion, this most closely resembles Rothschildia orizaba which is pictured on the Moth Photographers Group website.
Correction Courtesy of Bill Oehlke and special request
March 15, 2013
should be Rothschildia fabiani, another one described in 2012.
Regarding the R. fabiani image posted by Seamus O’Malley, I request that you ask him via email or on WTB page, to contact me regarding image use, and possibly a larger image. Perhaps when you make the correction you can ask him to contact me on the site. I do not mind that my email is given: email@example.com
Letter 30 – Giant Silkmoth from Trinidad: Rothschildia vanschaycki
July 10, 2011 1:35 pm
I found your homepage by chance when I tried to identify 3 very large moths we saw two weeks ago in Trinidad.
No1 is probably a white witch (picture taken at Asa Nature Lodge); No2 should be a Rothschildia taken at the ladies restroom in the visitor Centre of the Caroni swamps. No3 is a large silkmoth (at least 10cm wingspan)we had at the Radio and Tropospheric Scatter Station at Morne Bleu (670m high in the northern range). It would be nice, if you could help me with identification and/or confirmation of the three species.
Signature: Harald (Heidelberg, Germany)
Hi again Harald,
We learned on the World’s Largest Saturniidae Site that your Giant Silkmoth is Rothschildia lebeau amacurensis. Your specimen appears to be a male of a subspecies of Rothschildia lebeau which is also found in Venezuela. The Encyclopedia of Life website has a photo of the female.
Correction: March 15, 2013
Based on 2012 Entomo-Satsphingia journal, the Rothschildia on the following page
Is Rothschildia vanschaycki, described in 2012.
I will shortly be sending another Rothschildia update.
Letter 31 – Giant Silkmoth from South Africa
Location: Hazyview, Mpumalanga, South Africa
July 25, 2011 10:21 am
Found this moth sitting next to the pool in Hazyview (outside Kruger National Park) in South Africa. Hope you guys can help identifying it.
Kind regards, Jan
We believe we have identified your Giant Silkmoth at Pseudobunaea irius, but we are going to check with Bill Oehlke for verification. Bill may request the use of your photo on his own website as well. Here is a photo from Kirby Wolfe’s website that shows the underwings that are not visible in your image. Your individual is a male, so the points at the apex of the forewings are more hooked. We posted a similar photo in 2008.
Bill Oehlke confirms identification
It is Pseudobunaea irius
Letter 32 – Giant Silkmoth from Peru: Copaxa medea
Photos from Off the Grid in Peru
Location: Sacred Valley, Peru, November 2011
November 22, 2011 1:48 pm
Heya Bug Guy! It’s been awhile since I have submitted photos and I owe you a giant thank you for your awesome website! THANK YOU!! I have a few photos for you today. First is what I believe to be a Silkmoth. They’re very common in the Sacred Valley of Peru and have a 4” wingspan. Second, I’ve a little green Crab Spider snacking on an unsuspecting Honeybee! He carried the bee around all day….I got the impression the spider bit off more than he could chew and wasn’t sure how to get his catch to the dinner table! Lastly, I believe is a Running or Giant Crab Spider. Every morning, I find one in my sink. Well, today I forgot and he took a sudsy bath in dishwater. I gently rinsed him, then very tenderly dried him in a towel where he embedded his fangs. I am happy to report that 3 hours later, he is up and running, good as new! And clean! Thanks again, you are my favorite resource as I learn Entomology!
Signature: Off The Grid in Peru
Dear Off The Grid in Peru,
We are thrilled to get your marvelous images. We are only posing the photo of the Giant Silkmoth at the moment because we do not like postings with multiple species unless they are logically combined. We hope we will have time to format your other images as well. We believe we have correctly identified your Giant Silkmoth at Copaxa medea based on photos posted to the Kirby Wolfe Saturniidae Collection website.
Letter 33 – Giant Silkmoth Cocoon
chrysalis or cocoon
Location: Mountains of North Carolina
December 2, 2011 9:51 am
Found on Physocarpus , a North American native shrub.
What is inside it?
Thank you for your help.
This is the cocoon of a Giant Silkmoth in the family Saturniidae. A Cocoon is generally a silken structure that is spun, possibly incorporating leaves, branches or the hairs from the caterpillar in its construction. The cocoon helps to protect the naked pupa inside. The pupa of a butterfly is often called a chrysalis. We hope that helps some with the proper terminology. We believe this may be a Polyphemus Moth Cocoon (see BugGuide) or possibly a Luna Moth Cocoon (see bugguide), though the cocoons of the Luna Moth generally fall to the ground among leaf litter where a blanket of snow helps to insulate them from the cold.
Letter 34 – Giant Silkmoth from Nicaragua: possibly Arsenura armida
What Moth Is This?
Location: Jinotega, Jinotega, Nicaragua (12°55′N 85°55′W)
February 2, 2012 3:13 pm
Could you try to identify this moth so I can try to find better image of it?
This is in Jinotega, Nicaragua, during the rainy season in the last week of July 2010.
Signature: Cheers! SRW
The photo you submitted does not provide much detail in the moth, but we decided to attempt an identification. We first found a moth that looks like a good match on the Evolutionary Biology webpage, but it is not identified and the caption reads “Nightlife at Lake Apoyo.” You need to scroll down the page a bit to see the image. We continued to search and we believe this image of Arsenura armida on FlickRis a good match. Over the years we have posted several aggregations of Central American caterpillars that have been identified as the larvae of Arsenura armida.
Letter 35 – Giant Silkmoth from Tanzania
Location: Arusha Tanzania. November
March 26, 2012 4:20 am
Beautiful big moth,tattered, but very happy to sit on my hand-never seen the larvae but believe they are beautiful too.
This Giant Silkmoth is in the same family, Saturniidae, as the Atlas Moth, but it is a different species. It somewhat resembles Epiphora bauhinia which we found on http://www.silkmoths.bizland.com/kwebauhinia.htm, but we believe you have a different species. We will contact Bill Oehlke to see what he can provide in the way of information.
Bill Oehlke provides an identification
Epiphora mythimnia male.
Do you have date and or location in Tanzania?
Letter 36 – Giant Silkmoth from Costa Rica
Costa Rica moth
Location: Platanillo, Costa Rica
May 10, 2012 6:37 pm
This beauty was attached to the side of my casa today in Platanillo, Costa Rica – can you identify her? Your website contains a wealth of knowledge – thank you so much!
This is one of the Giant Silkmoths, a group of large colorful moths, many with garish eyespots on the lower wings that have adapted to frighten off predators. Giant Silkmoths do not eat as adults and only live a few days to a week as adults. We believe we have identified your moth as Automeris belti and we will check with Bill Oehlke to verify that identification. Your photo reminds us of the colors of tropical sorbet.
Bill Oehlke Concurs
Recently many new Automeris species were described.
If you have a more precise location in Costa Rica, that might help.
I cannot say for sure what it is. It might be belti, and that would be my
first guess, based on what I can see.
Platanillo, CR – 7 miles up from Playa Dominical. Thank you both for your help – it is such an incredible country to discover amazing new bugs! I have also seen another one of those inside my casa – I took it outside and it flew off to live another, eh few days – it’s wing-span was easily 7 inches across, yellow with spots 🙂
Folks: I looked at the link for the Automeris belti – I found this poor baby in my casa a couple of weeks ago 🙁 He was not nearly as big as the pale yellow ones I’ve seen, but of course looks precisely like the one in your link. I have also attached a pic of a stunning butterfly, which I took about a month ago.
Thanks so much for peaking my interest in these fascinating creatures. I love being in Costa Rica – I am a native Texan, and the butterflies in Dallas don’t hold a candle to the moths here. Keep up the great work!
We will try to identify your butterfly and create a distinct posting for it.
Letter 37 – Giant Silkmoth from Argentina: Arsenura paraorbignyana
Location: Misiones, Argentina
September 25, 2012 8:13 pm
I found these two lovely Giant Silk Moths in Missiones, Argentina, and Sao Paulo state, Brazil,respectively, this past August. Could you tell me what they are? Thanks.
Signature: James Colborn
We believe we have correctly identified your second moth as Arsenura orbignyana. Here are some images from the Fauna of Paraguay website for comparison.
Bill Oehlke makes a correction
In 2010 Brechlin and Meister put forward a new name for the moths previously designated as Arsenura orbignyana from Misiones, Argentina.
They appear very similar to Arsenura orbignyana, but DNA analysis indicates they are a different species, and images of larvae also seem different. The moth in question, if from Misiones, Argentina,
would be Arsenura paraorbignyana which is reported from Misiones, Argentina and from Paraguay.
Brechlin and Meister also removed Arsenura angulatus (Minas Gerais, Brazil) from synonymity with Arsenura orbignyana which it now seems is a Bolivian species.
A forth very similar species, Arsenura xanthopus, flies in Paraguay and Southeastern Brazil. It has yellow legs, while legs of the other three similar species are dark brown. Xanthopus also has a slightly produced forewing apex followed by a hollowed out area below the apex, while the other three species lack the produced forewing apex and have slightly convex outer margins.
We can definitely rule out xanthopus because of wing shape, and, based on the relatively wide and very dark intramural pm band of orbignyana and its location, it can also be ruled out.
Paraorbignyana and angulatus are very similar, and I would not want to rule either of them out as possibilities, but if the stated location is correct as Misiones, then paraorbignyana is most likely correct.
I am also looking at larger images of spread moths and am trying to compare them to the smaller image in question of a live moth. I do note the angulation of the forewing cell marks does seem a better match for
Paraorbignyana. Based on all of the above, I think it is paraorbignyana, but if James writes back and indicates this moth is from Brazil it would almost be a toss up between paraorbignyana and angulatus.
There was some confusion in the original submission, because James attached two files of two different Giant Silkmoths that were found in two different locations. He has since clarified that the moth you identified as Rhescyntis pseudomartii, was photographed in Sao Paolo, Brazil, so we can deduce that this individual is from Misiones, Argentina.
Letter 38 – Giant Silkworm: Gonimbrasia species
Subject: name of insect
Location: Malawi, Zomba
April 9, 2013 4:15 pm
I have this beautiful larvae and would like to know the name of the insect. I got this one around my fish farm pond in Africa, Malawi.
Signature: type written
Dear type written,
This is a Giant Silkworm in the family Saturniidae. We believe it is in the genus Gonimbrasia, and there are several species found in Malawi. In our opinion, it looks close to the caterpillar of Gonimbrasia zambesina which can be viewed on the African Moths website. The caterpillars feed on the leaves of Mango and some other trees. We will check with Bill Oehlke to see if he is able to determine the species of this caterpillar.
Bill Oehlke confirms identification
I am pretty sure you are correct.
Letter 39 – Giant Silkmoth Caterpillar from Swaziland: Gonimbrasia wahlbergii
May 1, 2013 2:39 am
We have these caterpillars in our garden on a number of bushes. The are numerous and devour every leaf before moving to the next plant. I live at Motshane in Swaziland and this is where the caterpillars are. I would like to know what moth or butterfly they come from.
Thank you for a wonderful site.
Alas, the best we can do right now is to provide a family for you. This is a Giant Silkmoth Caterpillar in the family Saturniidae. We will try to research the species later, but for now, we cannot take the time as we must leave for work. We will also contact Bill Oehlke to see if he can provide the species for you. The adult moths of members of the family Saturniidae are often quite large and beautiful. It does look quite similar to this Imbrasia species we posted recently from Rwanda.
Bill Oehlke provides an identification
It is Gonimbrasia (Nudaurelia) wahlbergii
Please send more precise location and date if you can so I can document it
on the website.
Where can I find information relating to the caterpillar. I am interested in the breeding cycle and would like to follow the caterpillar through the various stages.
Hi again Jacqui,
You already know what leaves the caterpillars feed upon. You just need to provide them with a habitat for raising in captivity. We do not raise caterpillars, but since you are now in contact with Bill Oehlke, he should be able to provide you with all the information you need.
Letter 40 – Giant Silkworm Caterpillar from the Yucatan
Subject: Yucatan Caterpillar
Location: Chuburna Puerto, Yucatan, Mexico
July 9, 2013 9:38 am
July 9th, 2013, 0915 hrs. Chuburna Puerto, Yucatan, Mexico
I came across a great number of these Caterpillars crossing an asphalt road near the Chuburna Marina. They all were traveling north to south, coming from a sandy beach area and headed into a swamp/marshy area. Who are these guys.
We believe this is a Giant Silkworm Caterpillar in the genus Automeris, and there are many species in Mexico. We browsed the World’s Largest Saturniidae site and we believe this might be Automeris zozine, and we have contacted Bill Oehlke for his opinion. Caterpillars in the genus Automeris should be handled with caution as they have stinging spines.
Thanks, so much. Love your site. YTM
Bill Oehlke provides his input
I believe it is Periphoba aracaei.
Any contact info so I can use image?
Letter 41 – 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.
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
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.
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.
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 iNaturalist.org.
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 iNaturalist.org 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.
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,
Letter 42 – Giant Silkmoth from Japan: Caligula jonasii!!!
Moth Genus Named for notorious Roman Emperor!!!
Subject: Moth from Japan
Location: Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan
November 3, 2013 3:39 am
Here is a photo of a beautiful moth that visited my school in Japan. It was found on November 1, 2013 in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan. It is quite furry and, I’m sure you will agree, has gorgeous markings. I tried to find a match online, but was unsuccessful.
Yours in curiosity,
Subject: Moth identified!
Location: Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan
November 3, 2013 4:14 am
Hi Mr. Bugman,
I just submitted a moth, but with the help of a friend, I think I figured out what it was.
Saturnia jonasii (a kind of Giant Silkworm Moth)
or in Japanese
hime yama mayu
(”Hime” means ”princess”, so I think that is a fitting name for this moth!)
Sorry to have bothered you!
It is no bother posting your beautiful photos of Saturnia jonasii, but we do want to consult with Bill Oehlke, a specialist in Saturniids, to see if he can confirm your identification. We do not feel confident making the call ourselves, but we do acknowledge the resemblance to the mounted Saturnia jonasii that is pictured on the Harmony Museum site.
Bill Oehlke confirms, and provides some food for thought!!!
Saturnia (Rinaca) jonasii also known as Caligula jonasii.
We can’t help but to wonder who would name a genus after the most notorious Emperor of Rome. This might demand a bit more research on our part. The name Caligula jonasii (Butler, 1877) is used on Lepidoptera.pro and on Global Biodiversity Information Facility. Does the genus Caligula replace the genera Saturnia and Rinaca or was it later reclassified into Saturnia? Any information on this is greatly welcomed.
Clarification courtesy of Bill Oehlke
As far as I know Saturnia is the correct and most recent genus placement and (Rinaca) is a subgenus of Saturnia. Whenever you see the second name capitalized and bordered by ( ) it is a subgenus.
There are several jonasii subspecies so this one is actually Saturnia (Rinaca) jonasii jonasii
Letter 43 – Giant Silkworm from Uruguay
Subject: Caterpillar in Uruguay
March 20, 2014 12:16 pm
I came across this amazing caterpillar in Uruguay in February. It was about 2 inches long. I would love to know what it would become. Thank you for your help.
Signature: Martin Summers
Your caterpillar bears an uncanny resemblance to a North American Imperial Moth Caterpillar, and we strongly suspect your caterpillar is in the same genus, Eacles. We believe it might be Eacles imperialis magnifica, which would make it a subspecies of our North American Imperial Moth. We will contact Bill Oehlke to get his opinion, and we hope if he asks, you allow him to post your photograph to his own comprehensive website.
I am most grateful to you and I concur with your identification that it would turn into an Eacles Imperialis Magnifica ( what a magnificent name ). By all means use my photograph.
Bill Oehlke Concurs
Yes, It is Eacles imperialis magnifica. Please see if you can find out a more precise location in Uruguay and forward that info to me as I would like to record it.
March 26, 2014
Here is the location where I found this amazing caterpillar on Feb 26th 2014. I have a house and a large garden there and we are blessed with an amazing variety of Butterflies, Moths and Caterpillars and occasional huge swarms of Dragonflies. As you can imagine it is paradise for the birds.
Many thanks for your help and if I may, I might ask you for more identification as and when I find more exotic caterpillars.
Letter 44 – Giant Silkmoth Caterpillar spins Cocoon in Costa Rica
Subject: Huge caterpillar found in Costa Rica
Location: Zona Norte, San Carlos, Costa Rica
October 17, 2014 11:10 am
Hi. I live in the Zona Norte in Costa Rica. Two nights ago, I found a huge green caterpillar crawling in our yard. It was 4-5 inches long and about 2.5 inches in diameter. It didn’t appear to have any hair or spines, or, if it did, they were very short. It also appeared to have narrow, yellow bands. The underside was black, I think. It rather looked like the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland. In the picture, it’s next to a full size Maglite to give perspective. It made a cocoon the next day. Any help you can provide would be much appreciated.
While we are unable to provide you with an exact species, we can tell you that this is a Giant Silkmoth Caterpillar in the family Saturniidae. Adult Giant Silkmoths are often large and spectacular looking.
Letter 45 – Reintroduction of Luna Moths in Ohio
Subject: luna moth release
January 12, 2015 1:05 pm
Hello Mr. Daniel Marlos,
My sister, Louise has been releasing Luna moths into the wild as part of an annual event called “A Midsummer Night’s Garden” at her greenhouse Auburn Pointe, in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. After only 3-4 years her neighbors started reporting Luna moth sightings on their screen windows. My dad even spotted one at his house which is 20+ miles away.
The event is 2 weekends, check website, usually the last weekend in July/first weekend in August. auburnpointegreenhouse.com. Please join us for this spectacular event!
My sister, single-handedly is successfully reintroducing Luna moths into the wild with great success. You could try this in your own backyard!
Signature: Anne Reiling
Thanks so much for relaying information about this wonderful program. We are sure our readers will be very interested. We removed your telephone number from the message you sent as a courtesy. Please let us know if you want to be contacted by phone and we will include the telephone number.
Letter 46 – Lobobunaea angasana, Giant Silkmoth from Mozambique
Location: Northern Mozambique
April 20, 2015 11:00 am
Hi, I found this guy on the ground in Nampula, Mozambique. We can’t find anything that it will eat and we are wondering what to feed it and what it will turn into. We have it in a bug box to hopefully watch the metamorphosis. We also found an amazing moth we’d love to identify. Thank you!
The Giant Silkmoth is a much easier identification than the Caterpillar, so we are starting there. Your moth, which we identified on Bizland, is Lobobunaea angasana.
Letter 47 – Mating Promethea Moths and other Giant Silkmoths
Subject: Promethea moth mating
Location: St Paul MN
May 28, 2015 4:37 pm
Hi, here’s a pic of a pair of Promethea moths mating in a silver maple tree. The sexual dimorphism is easy to see. This is in St Paul MN. The female is one I raised from caterpillar last year; the male is wild, as far as I know.
Also here’s a neat shot of a cecropia and a luna on our porch. Not great quality but neat to see them together.
You have provided us with such a marvelous posting. It must have been thrilling to witness the mating of the Promethea Moth you raised. Your location seems to be ground zero for Giant Silkmoths.
Letter 48 – Giant Silkmoth from Panama: Automeris hamata
Subject: Royal Moth?
Location: Panama, Central America
December 17, 2015 9:37 pm
Can you identify this moth., about 4″ wing span. In Boquete Panama, elev 4500’… Tropical cloud forest. Thx!
Signature: Curious clare
Dear Curious Clare,
This is not a Royal Moth, but a Giant Silkmoth in the subfamily Hemileucinae, known as the Buck and Io Moth family in North America. We believe we have correctly identified your moth as Automeris hamata on the World’s Largest Saturniidae Site, a member’s only site, and it is also pictured on the Fauna of Paraguay site. Many members of the genus have pronounced eyespots on the underwings that are hidden when the moth is at rest, but revealed if the moth is disturbed by a predator. A bird thinking it might be about to eat a tasty moth would be surprised into perceiving a potentially larger predator with enormous eyes, providing a defense mechanism for the moth. We will check with Bill Oehlke to verify our identification as there are many similar looking members of the genus. We suspect Bill may request permission to post your images on his site as well, and we hope you provide that permission.
Yes, that is hamata.
Thanks for thinking of me. Would be great to get the date.
Daniel, thank you! This is so cool to have a resource such as yours ….I scanned and scanned sites but could find no exact match so thanks again. Of course, Bill may use the photos …no credit necessary.
Letter 49 – Giant Silkmoth from Peru: Rhescyntis hippodamia
Subject: Giant Moth of the of Peruvian Cloud Forest
Location: Cloud Forest – Manu Park, Peru
December 24, 2015 9:46 am
This Massive moth flew into our cabin in the Cloud Forest of Peru ( we stayed 1/2 way down the the road to Manu). I thought it was a large bat at first, and took this picture. I believe they were 1 inch slats, but this picture was taken several years ago (2007 I think), and it could be 1/2 inch slats at the minimum.
Can someone tell me anything about this moth, the species, range. Unfortunately it’s the only picture of this moth I took ( as I was horrified by the thing). Now I see that it rivals the worlds largest moth. I think it was well over a foot and had of wing span of more like 14-17 inches..
Signature: Wendy B
We were out of the office for two weeks when you wrote, and we are catching up on unanswered mail, but since you waited 8 years to write to us for an ID, we gather you were not in a big rush to learn your moth’s identity. Though the camera angle makes seeing the details of the wings rather difficult, we believe we have correctly identified your moth as Arsenura rebeli, and you can compare your image to these images on Colombian Insects. We will contact Bill Oehlke to verify the ID, and he may request permission to post your image to his site.
Thank you very much for your email. I hope that you had a nice holiday, that is if you were on holiday. Yes, I guess I was not in much of a hurry to identify the moth. It is funny as I was actually horrified that it flew into our room. I’m scared of moths ( which I recognize as ridiculous, as they are harmless, and I’m fine with spiders and snakes)…. But I digress, but I think that is why I’ve not bothered with trying to identifying it until now. I finally thought it would be nice to know what it was, and because it was such a large creature. I’d never seen a moth or butterfly close to that big. I thought a bat had flown into the room. (And then I wish a bat had flown into the room).
I received the email quoted below from Adrian Hoskins. Given the colour and markings, I think he may be correct that it was a Rhescyntis pseudomartii http://insecta.pro/taxonomy/16131. Check it out and see what you think. I really appreciate you spending time at this.
I will be interested in Mr. Oehlke’s assessment. He may, of course, use the photograph(s) for his website if he chooses to.
That is an impressive species. I’ve never seen it myself but I’ve come across closely related species occasionally.
It is Rhescyntis pseudomartii, or possiblyRhescyntis hippodamia (Saturniidae, subfamily Arsenurinae). They may actually be different forms or subspecies of the same taxon.
Females can measure up to about 170mm across the wings, comparing quite well with the Giant Atlas Attacus atlas, which measure about 250mm across.
That actually does look like a better match. I don’t believe R. pseudomartii ranges in Peru, but R. hippodamia does. I will wait until Bill Oehlke writes back.
Bill Oehlke provides the identification.
It is Rhescyntis hippodamia hippodamia by location and Rhescyntis hippodamia colombiana by markings
Letter 50 – Giant Silkmoth from Trinidad: Copaxa marona
Subject: Moth, Trinidad
Location: Asa Wright, Trinidad
March 1, 2016 1:37 pm
Hi, we found this moth at the Asa Wright center on Trinidad in February. It was about 4 inches across. I’ve been searching but haven’t yet found anything quite like it.
This Giant Silkmoth is in the genus Copaxa, and on the World’s Largest Saturniidae site, it most closely resembles Copaxa decrescens, though it is not listed for Trinidad. It can be viewed on BizLand. Since you live on an island, your individual may represent a different species or subspecies. The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History site lists Copaxa rufinans on Trinidad, but there is no image. We will contact Bill Oehlke to get his opinion. He may request permission to post your images and we hope you will be amenable to that.
Bill Oehlke provides a Correction: Copaxa marona
It is Copaxa marona which replaces decrescens in French Guiana, Guyana and Suriname and probably in Venezuela and Trinidad. DNA barcoding has shown that decrescens is probably limited to southeastern Brazil
and surrounding areas. This is mentioned on the decrescens page, but I have not updated all the original country checklists. Thanks for thinking of me. I will add marona to Trinidad page and will add it also tentatively to Venezuela page and will remove decrescens as ? from Venezuela, based on DNA barcoding analysis. Hard to tell marona from decrescens just by appearance.
Letter 51 – Giant Silkmoth from Colombia
Location: Tangaras Reserve, Colombia SA
March 19, 2016 4:12 am
I’ve just returned from Colombia, South America and I’ve managed to identify everything except these remaining photos. I hope you can assist. They’re tricky, that’s for sure!
The Giant Silkmoth image you submitted is most likely a member of the genus Automeris, probably a close relative of the North American Io Moth. We will contact Bill Oehlke to see if he can provide a species name.
Letter 52 – Giant Silkmoth from Panama: Rhescyntis hippodamia norax
Subject: Large moth
Location: Panama, Azuero Peninsula
May 8, 2016 4:25 pm
We live in Panama (pacific coast) and a few days ago, after the first rains, this large moth (wing span about 22 cm (8 inch) honored us with a visit. Do you have any idea what family or species this is?
Best regards and many thanks in advance
Signature: Kees and Loes
Dear Kees and Loes,
This spectacular Giant Silkmoth from the family Saturniidae is a female Rhescyntis hippodamia norax, which we identified on the World’s Largest Saturniidae site and then verified on Nature Watch where we learned the species ranges “from Mexico to Brazil.” The species is also pictured on Costa Rican Moths and on FlickR. Adult moths from this family do not feed. They have atrophied mouthparts and they survive off of fat stored by the caterpillar. Adults usually live less than a week, long enough to mate and lay eggs.
We highly appreciate your very fast identification service and quick reply.
Feel free to use our photograph for your database and other educational uses.
Thank you again.
Loes and Kees
Letter 53 – Giant Silkmoth from Mexico: Rothschildia species
Subject: Silkmoth Caterpillar (Thank to you!)
Location: State of Mexico, Mexico
July 5, 2016 12:29 am
Hi, last October I wrote asking for help to identify some 4-really big caterpillars (Rothschildia spp.). But because they we’re very exposed (at neighborhood tree) I decided to remove them and place them in my own tree. Do not worry, both are Ligustrum spp.
Once the pupae were OK, I removed them and kept them equipped for survival. Then, eight months after (July 16 & 17) the first two butterflies were born. Something really wonderful to see. Up to eight males came to fertilize the first female (I’m on the city). They measure 15x7cm, and one of them left some eggs before going away, now caterpillars
The remaining two pupae remain safe, but no butterflies yet. They are solid, heavy and safe. I understand that Rothschildia are sometimes difficult to identify, but you know. It may be useful a bit. Thank you.
Signature: Alfredo Perez
Thanks so much for following up on the progress of your Rothschildia caterpillars. Back in October, Bill Oehlke provided this tentative identification: “I think it is more likely Rothschilida orizaba orizaba or Rothschildia peggyae, based on location. … Many of the Rothschildia adults and larvae are quite similar.” We will contact Bill Oehlke again to see if he can identify the adults more specifically. We understand that in Spanish, the term Mariposa can be used for both butterflies and moths, but in English there is a distinction. Your adult Rothschildias are Moths, not Butterflies.
Letter 54 – Giant Silkmoth from Costa Rica: Xanthodirphia amarilla
Subject: Yellow and red moth from Costa Rica
Location: Northeastern Costa Rica
August 8, 2016 2:36 am
Here is another fairly striking moth that I haven’t been able to put a name to.
It was taken in lowland forest, at the La Suerte Biolgical Station, in northeastern Costa Rica, on July 18, 2009.
Thanks in advance
Signature: Thibaud Aronson
Hi again Thibaud,
We started with the World’s Largest Saturniidae Site and we found several mounted specimens representing Xanthodirphia amarilla, but no images of living individuals. The World’s Largest Sturniidae Site states: “Males come in to lights readily, but females are seldom taken at lights.” The markings on your individual look like it is most likely a male. We did locate a few images of a live individual on the Gallery Kunzweb site. When especially nice images like your own are submitted to us, we frequently contact Bill Oehlke who maintains an excellent database of both Saturniids and Sphingids for verification, and we also request permission for Bill Oehlke to post the images. We hope you will allow Bill to use this lovely image of an equally lovely moth.
Bill Oehlke Comments
It could be either Xanthodirphia abbreviata or Xanthodirphia amarilla. Describers of abbreviata indicate forewing is always less than 4cm long while that of amarilla is always greater than 4cm.
The type specimen of abbreviata shows yellow specimen with grey brown markings and relatively small median field. In same publication, amarilla is also yellow but with more reddish brown markings and a larger median field (am and pm lines not so close together), so I favour amarilla.
Letter 55 – Giant Silkmoth Caterpillars
Subject: Beautiful Green Caterpillar
Location: Southern Oregon
September 22, 2016 8:55 pm
I found two beautiful, large, green caterpillars in my yard (mid July). I was thinking maybe they’re Luna Moth Caterpillars but they don’t have any red on them as some of the pictures I found do.
Can you tell me what they are? I took both of them out of the way and placed them on Oak Trees hoping that wasn’t a mistake but worried that they may otherwise be harmed.
Also, I want to write an article for our local paper about helping beneficial insects during the fall. I welcome any advice you have (especially about preserving some leaf litter for insects), and I will gladly quote you and ideally drive more traffic to your site.
These are Giant Silkmoth Caterpillars from the family Saturniidae and the genus Hyalophora. There are two species from the genus in Oregon. We are requesting assistance from Bill Oehlke to verify their species identity.
Bill Oehlke Responds
In southeastern Oregon they should be Hyalophora columbia gloveri. In southwestern Oregon, they should be Hyalophora euryalus.
There are hybrid blend zones in some areas and it is very difficult in some cases to differentiate even between adult moths whether they are [H.] euryalus, [H.] columbia gloveri or a naturally occurring hybrid strain.
Awesome! Thank you! Are they pollinators?
Caterpillars are not considered pollinators in the traditional sense of the word, but we would not rule out that they might accidentally transfer pollen from one blossom to another while eating leaves. Adult Giant Silkmoths do not feed, so they are not considered pollinators.
That’s great information, thank you Daniel.
So, here’s a potentially silly question, what value do the adult moths bring to biodiversity?
We have a long-standing mission on our site to promote the interconnectivity of all forms of life on our planet. While they are Caterpillars, Giant Silkmoths store vast quantities of fat in their bodies to help them survive as adults which do not eat. Adult Giant Silkmoths provide a valuable source of nutrition to many predators, including bats, birds and mammals.
Letter 56 – Giant Silkmoth Caterpillar from Honduras
Subject: Identity of caterpillar
Location: Lago Yojoa Honduras
November 13, 2016 10:20 pm
Saw this guy in the Lago Yojoa area of Honduras just today, November 13, 2016. It was shortly after noon and he was very active. Do you know what it is?
This is a Giant Silkmoth Caterpillar from the genus Leucanella. They should be handled with caution as the spines are capable of stinging.
Letter 57 – Giant Silkmoth from Mexico
Subject: moth Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico
Location: Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico
June 22, 2017 9:43 am
This Giant Silkmoth in the family Saturniidae is quite lovely, and its muted colors help to camouflage if from predators. Our research indicates it is in the genus Caio, possibly Caio richardsoni based on an image on The Kirby Wolfe Collection. We will contact Bill Oehlke to see if he can verify that species identification. He may request permission to post your image to his site as well, and since he is a valuable resource for us regarding both Giant Silkmoths and Sphinx Moths, we hope you will grant that permission.
Thank you so much, Daniel. You guys are amazing. Of course you can use this image. Tom
Bill Oehlke Confirms ID
Richardsoni would be my first guess.
Letter 58 – Giant Silkmoth from Panama
Subject: Moth with transparent triangles
Geographic location of the bug: Panama, Cerro Punta
Time: 01:39 AM EDT
Just sharing this beauty Rothschildia orizaba
How you want your letter signed: Mr
According to the World’s Largest Saturniidae site, there are six similar looking Giant Silkmoth species from the genus Rothschildia found in Panama. While this might be Rothschildia orizaba, we are leaning more towards Rothschildia fabiani.
Very interesting, thanks for the clarification
Letter 59 – Giant Silkmoth from Uganda is Ludia species
Subject: I believe it’s a moth
Geographic location of the bug: Uganda,Kampala.
Time: 07:01 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: What is the name of this moth.
How you want your letter signed: None
This is a Giant Silkmoth in the genus Ludia, but we located four different, similar looking species ( Ludia dentata, Ludia hansali eximia, Ludia orinoptena, Ludia pupillata) on the World’s Largest Saturniidae site, so we cannot say for certain to which species your individual belongs. FlickR has an image of Ludia dentata for comparison and Silkmoths and More has an image of Ludia orinoptena.
Letter 60 – Giant Silkmoth Pupa
Subject: I’ve never seen anything like this bug
Geographic location of the bug: McKinney Texas
Time: 04:23 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I found this bug when working on my foundation. I thought it was a tool at first, I put it on my workbench outside. This AM when I started working outside I found it again and wondered how it fell off the bench and made it that far away. I put it back on the bench and got back to work, about an hour later I saw it moving… a lot. I put it back where I got it from. I had that thing close to my face, smelled it and everything…. gave me the creeps after I found out it was a bug. If you look at it closely the little pattern resembled a decoration you might find on an older tool’s handle.
How you want your letter signed: Paul in McKinney
This is a moth Pupa, the intermediate state between the caterpillar and the adult during which time metamorphosis occurs. Large moth pupae found underground are generally members of two families: Sphingidae the Sphinx Moths and Saturniidae the Giant Silkmoths. We believe your pupa is a member of the latter family, but we cannot provide an exact species identification. We do not believe it is an Imperial Moth or Regal Moth because it differs from these individuals posted to our site. Most members of the family found in Texas build a cocoon, but a number of species form a naked pupa underground like the one you discovered.
Letter 61 – Giant Silkmoth Caterpillar from Tanzania
Geographic location of the bug: Mbeya, Tanzania
Time: 03:27 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugma: We found this caterpillar in our yard today! We’re wondering what it will turn into? It sure is beautiful!
How you want your letter signed: The Ornelas family
Dear Ornelas family,
This is a Giant Silkmoth Caterpillar from the family Saturniidae. This Caterpillar does not look well and we fear it will not survive to adulthood. Perhaps it is the victim of internal parasites. We will attempt to identify the species.
Letter 62 – Giant Silkmoth from South Africa
Subject: Moth id
Geographic location of the bug: Hoedspruit Limpopo province south africa
Time: 04:02 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Please help wuth the identification of this huge moth. Emperor family perhaps. Currently summer in south africa
How you want your letter signed: Andriette
You are correct that this is an Emperor Moth or Giant Silkmoth in the family Saturniidae, and we believe it might be Pseudobunaea irius based on images posted to Lepidoptera Barcode of Life.
Bill Oehlke Responds
I agree with irius.
Letter 63 – Giant Silkmoth from Costa Rica: Pseudodirphia menander
Subject: What’s the name of the bug
Geographic location of the bug: Costa Rica
Time: 12:44 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hello,
I went on a trip to Costa Rica and saw multiple bugs. Now I am making a photo book and I would like to know the name of the bugs. Hopefully you can help me.
How you want your letter signed: H. Appels
Dear H. Appels,
We are posting your image of a Giant Silkmoth, Pseudodirphia menander, which appears to have recently emerged from the pupa and its wings have not yet fully expanded. We located images of the moth on Discover Life, and there is also an image on BioLib. Your other images are of a Cicada nymph and a Fishing Spider.
Letter 64 – Giant Silkmoth from South Korea:
Geographic location of the bug: South Korea, Cheonan, Seonggeosan
Time: 07:30 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hello
Could you tell me if this is a moth? And what species is this please?
This was a very large insect with beautiful patterns on its wings!
Many thanks for your help.
How you want your letter signed: Paul Scott
This Giant Silkmoth is positively stunning. We quickly identified it as Brahmaea certhia thanks to this Ebay posting, and we verified its identity on The Insect Collector. Bold Systems, a more reliable source, confirms that identification. We are quite curious about the unusual nature of the different tonalities in the underwings. The left underwing is considerably lighter than the right side.
Letter 65 – Giant Silkmoth Caterpillar from South Africa: Nudaurelia wahlbergi
Geographic location of the bug: Mapumalanga south africa
Time: 12:55 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Please id the catepillar
How you want your letter signed: Normal
Based on identifications we have made in the past, we are confident this Giant Silkmoth Caterpillar is Nudaurelia wahlbergi.
Letter 66 – Glover’s Silkmoth Caterpillar
Subject: Green Caterpillar
Geographic location of the bug: Angela, Montana
Time: 02:43 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: My daughter found this by some of our grain bins and she loves bugs. Just curious what kind it was. Thanks!
How you want your letter signed: Hadlie Mae
This is a Giant Silkmoth Caterpillar in the genus Hyalophora, but we are not certain of the species. BugGuide recognizes three species in North America, and BugGuide reports two of those species, the Ceanothus Silkmoth and the Columbia Silkmoth from Montana, and the third species, the Cecropia Moth, is reported from the nearby Dakotas as well as Wyoming, and since Angela, Montana is in the eastern half of the state, we would not rule out the Cecropia Moth. We will try to contact Bill Oehlke to see if he can distinguish the actual species. Here is a BugGuide image of the Glover’s Silkmoth Caterpillar, the western subspecies of the Columbia Silkmoth. We suspect your caterpillar is preparing to spin a cocoon.
Thank you! He stared to change the night we emailed you.
Hi again Hadlie,
Thanks so much for sending in images of the cocoon spun by your Giant Silkmoth Caterpillar. We are hoping to hear back from Bill Oehlke regarding a species identification.
I am pretty sure it is Columbia gloveri due to three sets of orangey dorsal scoli instead of two sets in cecropia. Both species are likely present in Rosebud County.
Letter 67 – Giant Silkmoth from Ecuador
Subject: rothschildia in Yasuni National Park Ecuador
Geographic location of the bug: Orellana, Ecuador, Yasuni National Park.
Time: 10:52 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: See https://www.inaturalist.org/ob
How you want your letter signed: Trevor
We also have trouble with Rothschildia species, so we are contacting Bill Oehlke to see if he can identify the species.
Update courtesy of Bill Oehlke: September 23, 2019
Daniel, I do not think I previously responded to this one
Rothschildia arethusa rhodina
I anticipated it in Orellana, but I think this is first confirmed report.
Letter 68 – Gum Emperor Moth from New Zealand
Subject: Big Hairy Moth
Geographic location of the bug: Lower Hutt Wellington NZ
Time: 02:24 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi, found this moth dead.
Never seen it before.
Please help identify.
How you want your letter signed: Sophie
This is a Gum Emperor Moth, Opodiphthera eucalypti. According to CitSciHub.NZ: “The Emperor Gum moth, Opodiphthera eucalypti, is a large hairy nocturnal species of moth native to Australia and were introduced to the North and South Islands of New Zealand about 1939 .
The moths live for no more than a couple of days and they never eat.”
Thank you! I worked it out in the end.
No wonder it was dead as it has such a short life!
Letter 69 – Habitat for a Polyphemus Caterpillar
Food and Environment for Polyphemus Moth Caterpillar?
November 13, 2011 1:25 pm
My husband found one of these crawling the grass at our neighborhood playground in Dallas, TX. We’d love to try and see it through to becoming a moth. What should we provide it for it as far as food, habitat etc? Interestingly enough, a few weeks ago we were given a butterfly habitat(large mesh cylinder with a lid).
Your butterfly habitat should do fine. You can also use an old aquarium with a screen top. Chances are quite good that when the Polyphemus Caterpillar left the trees it was feeding upon, “birch, grape, hickory, maple, oak, willow, and members of the rose family” according to BugGuide. The caterpillar will spin a loose cocoon around a large leaf, so provide some old, but not dried leaves on the floor of the habitat for the Polyphemus Caterpillar to spin its cocoon. Here is a nice post from our archives showing stages of Polyphemus metamorphosis.
Letter 70 – Male Polyphemus Moth
Subject: Prometheus Moth? Female or Male
Location: Salem Oregon right about at the 45th parallel
June 13, 2012 3:50 pm
My brother- who did a stint at the Smithsonian Insect Museum as a teen when I was a little kid- says this is a Prometheus moth. So far he looks correct, of which I had little doubt :). girl or boy? I am sending pics of last nights shots and todays. June 12/13 2012. Since you might want them for something. she is just hanging out on a wall, next to kale fennel and other veggies…
thank you so much for ID’ing him. I appreciate it. And frankly between you me and the bedpost, I take a small bit of ‘little sister’ pleasure out of that fact that my brother was wrong 🙂 …
Poly was gone when I got home later in the evening, maybe he’ll come back so I can see his super pretty blue spots. I have some sweet pea flowers growing and a lot of dianthus already blooming as well as various lavenders- all pots… There is a small maple in a pot and a tree nearby… as well as a wild space behind my complex that the city (Salem, Oregon) has cultivated. And this year I came up with a creative way to kill weeds in a non toxic way so the gardeners don’t spray herbicides on stuff (at least not back in my patch) so maybe whatever food source will attract more 🙂
again, thanks, off to research him so I can figure out why he dropped by. I do have a vibe of ‘come hang out, I mean you no harm’ coming from my apartment, but I doubt it’s just that…. who knows? enjoy your summer and thanks again 🙂
Letter 71 – Male Polyphemus Moth
Location: Great Lakes, IL
September 30, 2013 2:54 pm
This moth was on the steps outside of our building at the Great Lakes Naval Base about halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee. It was huge (almost the size of a small hand). Can you tell us what species it is?
You can tell this Polyphemus Moth is a male because of his well developed antennae. We hope you had an opportunity to view him with his wings lying flat because then you would understand where he got his name. There is a large eyespot in the center of each lower wing, and though the moth has two eyespots, one on each side, it was still named for the monocular cyclops from Greek mythology, Polyphemus.
Letter 72 – Male Polyphemus Moth
Subject: What kind of moth is this?
Location: Austin, TX 78731
March 21, 2014 9:38 am
On the night of March 19th 2014 I saw this little guy/girl on my window. The body was about the size of a large thumb and was very furry/fuzzy. It had leaf-like antennae and large full wings. When I turned the flash on my camera phone the moth closed its wings but was not frightened away. I apologize for the poor quality of one of the three photos. I was just curious to figure out what it was.
Signature: Kimberly Spears
You should have tried to see this male Polyphemus Moth from outside the house because his coloration is much more dramatic on the dorsal view. The ventral view that you have provided most likely acts as a type of camouflage coloration that will blend in with wood and leaves, but the dorsal view includes dramatic eyespots, that when they are revealed, would likely startle a predator into sensing it was about to be eaten by a much larger predator with huge eyes. The male uses his well developed antennae to sense the pheromones of the female, allowing him to locate her so they can mate and reproduce.
Thank you so much for your reply!
I just moved to a very wooded area and expect to find many little creatures out here.
Have a wonderful weekend!
Letter 73 – Male Polyphemus Moth
Subject: What’s that bug in Mobile, AL?
Location: Mobile, AL
April 4, 2014 9:54 am
Daughter saw this today at a park. Can you identify?
Signature: Interested Nana
Dear Interested Nana,
This beauty is a male Polyphemus Moth, one of the Giant Silkmoths.
Letter 74 – Male Polyphemus Moth
Location: Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
July 10, 2014 6:11 pm
I am curious about this moth I saw recently inside Mesa Verde, especially the antenna. Thanks, Betsy
This is a male Giant Silkworm Moth in the genus Antheraea, and based on the location, we would deduce it is the Polyphemus Moth, Antheraea polyphemus. The extremely feathery antennae of male Giant Silkworm Moths in the family Saturniidae enable them to locate a mate. Adult moths in this family are often very large and they do not feed as adults as they have inherited atrophied mouthparts that are not functional. They store energy as caterpillars and most individuals live less than a week as adults, during which time males must locate mates. The antennae enable the male to sense a female who may be many miles away because of the pheromones she releases.
Letter 75 – Male Polyphemus Moth
Location: Huntington West Virginia
June 1, 2015 12:05 pm
I need to know what type f moth this is , because it is in my room and it has been hanging out with me for an hour now. I want to get a tattoo of it , because it is so awesome. I live in Huntington West Virginia . And it is June first .
Signature: Elizabeth Crupe
Hopefully you had a chance to view this male Polyphemus Moth with his wings opened, which would have revealed the stunning eyespots that help to scare off predators like birds. Because we will be away from the office later in the month, we are postdating your submission to go live in our absence.
Letter 76 – Male Polyphemus Moth
Location: Aroostook county maine
July 9, 2016 7:13 pm
I found this on my screen door one morning, it is approximately the size of a Luna Mo h but not as pretty. What is it????
While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it is somehow unfair to judge the prettiness of this male Polyphemus Moth based on the markings on the undersides of the wings, which act as a very good camouflage with dried leaves. When the wings are opened, and the magnificent eyespots on the underwings are revealed as in this image from our archives, you might feel differently.
Letter 77 – Male Polyphemus Moth
Subject: Found in spring green WI!
Location: Spring green, wisconsin
May 26, 2017 8:03 pm
Found this today!! It’s so pretty, it hung out for about an hour. Can anyone identify it?
Signature: Malgal 36
Dear Malgal 36,
This is a male Polyphemus Moth, and resting in this position, he is well camouflaged among dried leaves. If he feels threatened, like by a predatory bird, he will open his wings revealing a pair of false eyespots, which often startles the predator into thinking it might be about to become a meal instead of finding a meal.
Letter 78 – Male Polyphemus Moth
Subject: Unidentified moth
July 6, 2017 8:40 am
This little guy is visiting me this morning. Wing span is probably 4-5 inches. Located in southern Vermont.
Thank you so much! Yes, his eye spots were amazing!!
Letter 79 – Male Polyphemus Moth
Location: Spotsylvania, VA
August 21, 2017 7:57 pm
My husband spotted this insect. Its antennae are characteristics of moths but the wings appear to be held vertically which I think is more commonly found in butterflies. It has some markings of a luna moth but the color is very different and seems to lack other luna moth features. Thanks!
The feathery antennae indicate that this Polyphemus Moth is a male. Hopefully you and your husband had an opportunity to view the impressive eyespots that adorn the upper surface of the underwings of Polyphemus Moths. Reported from all 48 continental United States, the Polyphemus Moth is a very wide ranging species.
Letter 80 – Male Polyphemus Moth
Geographic location of the bug: Danbury Ct
Time: 10:23 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: What is this large interesting moth?
How you want your letter signed: David
This is a male Polyphemus Moth. The Polyphemus Moth is even more impressive in its defense posture of exposing the large eyespots on its underwings, which might startle a predator into thinking it has disturbed a much larger creature capable of eating the predator.
Letter 81 – Male Polyphemus Moth
Geographic location of the bug: Douglasville, GA
Time: 09:16 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: What is this??
How you want your letter signed: Natalie
Letter 82 – Mating Polyphemus Moths
I just found your site tonight and I love it. Speaking of love, maybe you’d like a photo of a couple polyphemus moths gettin’ it on. I assume that’s what was going on. They weren’t distracted at all when I moved them from the middle of the street to under a bush. ken
Thanks for the image Ken. It is a nice addition to our new Love Among the Bugs page.
Letter 83 – Mating Polyphemus Moths
MOTHS MATING what are they
My son stumbled upon these two while mating. Might I add, they scared the living daylights out of him (he’s 20 months old) He screamed bloody murder! I went to see what in the world would make him scream like that and found the pair on the ground mating. Thay were the size of luna moths and look similar but the coloration was different. Any idea what they are? I went back out with a tape measure to measure wingspan but they already taken flight. I would guess about 5 inches across. Thanks,
Marla and the scared 20 month old in Georgia
Those eyespots are designed to frighten predators, and young children are not exempt. These mating Saturnid Moths are Polyphemus Moths, our featured insect for July. You can still see a beautiful specimen posted on our homepage.
Letter 84 – Mating Polyphemus Moths
a friend said to send thiese to you
when i came home from work..this was on my door…
and then the next morning..they were like this.. have fun
These are some of the most gorgeous mating Polyphemus Moth photos we have ever seen. Thanks so much for sending them our way.
Letter 85 – Mating Polyphemus Moths
I took this picture of a very interesting spider near my home in southern New York. It was quite aggressive, staring me down and flicking it’s fangs at me each time I moved. Can you tell me what it is? Also, I photographed this pair of Polyphemus moths mating last year and thouht you might like the picture. I have the originals if you’d like them (I reduced these for my weblog). Thanks!
Your spider is one of the jumping Spiders. It is your mating Polyphemus Moth photo thought that we are really interested in posting.
Letter 86 – Mating Polyphemus Moths
butterfly, moth, what is it?
Last night we had a visitor on the porch and this morning two. I have been trying to figure out what they are all day so I can share with my 9 year old daughter who is very curious about them. We have figured out that they are male and female. Could you tell me what they are and a bit about them please? Thank you,
These are mating Polyphemus Moths. The male is the one on the left with the large feathery antennae, the better to sense his mate’s pheromones. The female is the one on the right with the bulkier body, the better to lay 100s of eggs. The Polyphemus Moth has a large pair of “eyespots” on the underwings to startle birds into thinking they are a threatening creature. The Polyphemus Moth was named for the legendary cyclops Polyphemus, a one eyed giant, in Homer’s Odyssey.
Letter 87 – Mating Polyphemus Moths
Mon, Jun 29, 2009 at 10:13 AM
This couple was observed hanging from an impatian basket on my deck this morning in Kent, Ohio. The romance lasted all morning long.
Lifelong Moth Watcher
Dear Lifelong Moth Watcher,
We were lucky enough to see a female Polyphemus Moth on the observation tower at Fellow’s Riverside Garden in Mill Creek Park in Youngstown Ohio in early June. Your mating Polyphemus Moths are a welcome addition to our Bug Love section. Thanks for your contribution. The male with his more feathered antennae is the upper individual.
Letter 88 – Mating Polyphemus Moths
More Polyphemus Love
March 9, 2010
Last week we found a large cocoon on ground, brought it inside, and hung it in a jar. Last night we saw a large moth struggling in the bottom of the jar. We took it outside to a ficus tree on the patio, where it climbed up a few feet and stopped. As you can see in the first picture, the wings didn’t expand properly. But apparently male moths don’t care so much about pretty wings, because she found a mate in a matter of hours.
Matt in Houston
Thank you for your wonderful written account and your stunning photograph of mating Polyphemus Moths.
You’re welcome. I appreciate the site where I could find out exactly what it was quickly!
Wow, the life of a moth is short. Out of her cocoon barely a day, it appears she is already dead, or nearly so. But there are several eggs along the limbs, so the cycle continues.
Letter 89 – Mating Polyphemus Moths
Subject: Moth mates
August 31, 2013 7:10 am
I found a large cocoon that dropped from tree and after 10 days a beautiful moth hatched. The next night , a male moth found her and mated. He left that afternoon and she left that night. It was a beautiful but fast life cycle to observe but what kind of moth was she? She had fat furry body and he had huge plumed antennae.
Signature: Connie the one in dallas
You are so lucky to have witnessed and photographed the emergence and subsequent mating of your female Polyphemus Moth. Though the pheromones of the female are quite a powerful attractant to the male, if there are no mature males nearby, or if they encounter hungry predators while on the way, the luckless female will not mate and she will not produce fertilized eggs.
Female Polyphemus Moths that are lucky enough to mate will produce several hundred eggs to perpetuate the species.
Letter 90 – Mating Polyphemus Moths
Subject: Polyphemus Moths mating
Geographic location of the bug: Pottstown,Pa.
Time: 04:18 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: My husband found these two hanging out at our pool. We were Amazed! We have Never seen anything so beautiful.
How you want your letter signed: Bev Farris
Thanks so much for sending in your images of mating Polyphemus Moths. They are indeed a wondrous sight. The lower moth in the pair is the male, as evidenced by his much bushier antennae that he uses to locate a female by the pheromones she releases.
Letter 91 – Mating Royal Moths in Brazil
Moth in Brazil
Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
June 13, 2011 11:05 am
Found a strange looking moth, haven´t figured out which species it might be. Can you help me out?
Signature: Mary Drumond
We believe we have correctly identified your mating Royal Moths as a pair of Citheronia laocoon, but we would like to copy Bill Oehlke on our response to get his opinion. He may also request permission to use your excellent photo on his website. The smaller individual in your photo is the male, and we do not know if this size discrepancy is normal, or if this is just an abnormally small male. The male has a wider yellow band on the upper wings than the female. Here are some photos of mounted specimens of Citheronia laocoon on the Lepidoptera Barcode of Life website.
Bill Oehlke confirms identification
Thanks for thinking of me. Here is email I just sent to Mary.
Yes, it is Citheronia laocoon.
Males are typically smaller than females, but it would appear that you probably have encountered a smaller than average male pairing with a larger than average female.
Thanks for permission to post photo.
I am very interested in seeing and posting images of Saturniidae and Sphingidae with dates and locations. I should be able to help with identifications of any moths from those two families.
Dear Mr. Marlos and Mr. Oehlke,
Can you tell me if this month is native to Brazil (rio de janeiro) as its the first time i see anything like it around here.
Thank you so much for you reply, and yes, you may use the picture.
Thank you once again
I realized that neither Bill Oehlke nor I confirmed that this is a native species for you.
Well, i googled it (ha ha)
Apparently its native to south america, but i didnt get specifics on my state, rio de janeiro, which is on the coast. Like i said previously, i had never seen anything like it befor. Our moths tend to be small, dull and to be quite honest, ugly.
Big beautiful moths like these are a real treat.
My friend thought they were from argentin and might be escaping volcanic ash from the chilean volcano this week.
Seems a bit far.
Thank you for all your time and attention.
Letter 92 – Metamorphosis of a Polyphemus Moth
Polyphemus inflates his wings
Location: S. Illinois
April 7, 2011 7:55 pm
Found this Polyphemus as a cocoon in a tree nursery last fall. He hatched out this afternoon, here he is at emergence plus 5 minutes, and plus 4 hours.
We’ll release him in the woods tomorrow at dusk.
Thanks so much for sending in your photos of a newly emergent Polyphemus Moth.
Letter 93 – Newly Eclosed Female Polyphemus Moth
Subject: Mystery bug
Geographic location of the bug: Northern Illinois
Time: 05:16 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: What type of bug is this?
How you want your letter signed: Kate
This is a newly eclosed (just emerged from the pupa) Giant Silkmoth in the family Saturniidae, and its wings have not yet fully expanded. The antennae indicates it is a female. Of the species represented on the Illinois Department of Natural Resources site, it looks most like a Polyphemus Moth. The TYWKIWDBI site has images to support that identification. The Polyphemus Moth has very impressive eyespots on the underwings (not visible in your image) that are used to frighten predators.
Thank you so much! I did take another look 15 minutes later and the wings had grown with large dots just as you described. Your time is greatly appreciated.
Letter 94 – newly emerged Polyphemus Moth
Thanks to you, I know this bug!
I was showing a friend your What’s That Bug site today. When I happened upon your Polyphemus photos on the moths pages, I remembered these photos that I took with my daughter several years ago. One summer afternoon, we found something wriggling frantically in the grass. It was good sized, about the size of a cocktail wiener, though a little shorter and a little fatter. My grass was long at the time, and the bug seemed to be having trouble, so we let it crawl onto a stick and transferred it onto the trunk of a nearby tree. It settled there and proceeded to pump up its wings, ending up as a gorgeous Polyphemus. Unfortunately, I didn’t time stamp the initial photos, but I think it took about 4-5 hours. When it was wriggling in the grass, the wings were little more than nubs on the body, but they ended up about 5 inches tip to tip. Thought you might enjoy the progression.
Thank you for the marvelous example of metamorphosis in action.
Letter 95 – Newly emerged Polyphemus Moth
Subject: pac nw wood moth
Location: gig harbor washington 98329
June 26, 2015 6:17 am
found this guy on back of house near night light, this morning rather warm yesterday and this morning, live in dense forested area, when this moths wings were opened it was hot pink or fuchsia with large dark circles or eyes in the center/both sides of course, the body and wings in general were dark brown mottled/like tree bark about 1-3/4″ in length, wingspan was about 2-1/2″ the out line shape of the wings was like a lime hawk moth, very irregular……………..so what is it? thnx, Kim in Gig Harbor Washington
This Polyphemus Moth has just emerged from its cocoon and its wings have not yet fully expanded.
well i looked at the pics of your identification and do not agree, sorry try again, kind regards, Kim
You are perfectly entitled to disagree with us, but you are mistaken.
Letter 96 – Newly Metamorphosed Polyphemus Moth
What is this thing???
Location: Mid Missouri
July 20, 2011 8:44 pm
My cousin found this bug or whatever it is in the bed of her truck. I nor anyone that I know have never seen anything like it?
This is a newly metamorphosed male Polyphemus Moth whose wings have not yet fully expanded and hardened.
Letter 97 – Polyphemus Caterpillar
Is this a picture of a Tomato bug? (The one on the right) We found it in the yard and have not checked if anymore exist in the garden.
Your tomatoes are safe Tina,
You have a photo of a Polyphemus Moth caterpillar. Caterpillars eat the leaves of many different trees, including chestnut, elm, hickory, maple, poplar, sycamore, alder, basswood, and beech. Adults, named for the Cyclops because of their eyespots, do not eat.
Letter 98 – Polyphemus Caterpillar
What is it?
This caterpillar was found in Osoyoos, British Columbia, Canada in July 2005. It is approximately 3 inches long. Do you know what it is?
We believe this to be a Polyphemus Caterpillar, one of the Giant Silkworm or Saturnid Moths.
Letter 99 – Polyphemus Caterpillar
The first 2 attachments are of a very large Caterpillar that sent my Mom running for the hills, claiming she would “…never go outside ever again.” (she has since gone outside…) After finding your site I think it is a Luna moth Caterpillar, but I can’t find a picture that has the same patterns. Do they vary that much? or is this some other creature? The second attachment shows a very interesting “X” on his rear end. The 3rd attachment came from my tomato garden and I think it is a tomato horn worm with parasitic wasp larvae. This creature and attachments just about sent my Mom into convulsions. (It creeped me out too.) By the way, we live in Elkridge, Maryland. Also just wanted to say that your site is terrific it has helped me several times this summer identify weird and wonderful things in our yard.
Your caterpillar is another Giant Silkworm, the Polyphemus MOth.
Letter 100 – Polyphemus Caterpillar
PLEASE HELP! Polyphemus Moth caterpillar
Location: Santa Clara California
September 14, 2011 7:38 pm
found a huge (3-4”) caterpillar on my driveway, also, and am thrilled to have such great I.D. info here — but now what do I do now? B4 I knew what it was I put on grass (didn’t seem happy) so put on dry ground under agapanthus (still doesn’t seem happy). From your info looks like it’s ready to pupate BUT NO INFO ON WHERE THEY NEED TO DO THIS — we have many birds, raccoons, leaf-blowing gardeners etc. Also have many types of trees, (deciduous/not) I’m a wild bird and animal friend/feeder and would like very much to help this creepy guy learn to fly. Can you tell me where to put him? Found yesterday,9/13 and he’s still in the dry ground under aga. Santa Clara Ca, temperate clime THANK YOU!!
Signature: ??? What to DO????
The Polyphemus Caterpillar will spin a loose cocoon incorporating a leaf. Sometimes the dried leaf camouflage cocoon of the Polyphemus Moth stays attached to the branch, but it more readily drops to the ground to pass the winter in the leaf litter.
Letter 101 – Polyphemus Caterpillar
Subject: caterpillar identification
August 22, 2012 7:40 am
I found this caterpillar walking through a parking lot and am not sure what it is. At first I thought it was a tomato hornworm, but it doesn’t have a horn. Then thought luna moth caterpillar, but am not sure if the banding pattern is right. A friend told me this was the best place to go for insect IDs, so I’d certainly appreciate the help 🙂
Signature: HJ Hamlin
Dear HJ Hamlin,
Now is the time of year that many caterpillars have reached their maximum size and they are ready to pupate. Many species leave the food plant and hunt for an appropriate site for metamorphosis, and in the case of large caterpillars like the Giant Silk Moths and Hornworms, this means crawling on the ground to find leaf litter or soft soil so they can burrow. They are much easier to spot on the ground than in the trees, so we expect identification requests of caterpillars to peak through September. This is actually a Polyphemus Moth Caterpillar and they do look similar to the caterpillar of the Luna Moth and we have confused the two in the past. BugGuide describes the Polyphemus Caterpillar as being: “body large, bright green, with red and silvery spots below setae, and oblique yellow lines running through spiracles on abdomen; diagonal streak of black and silver on ninth abdominal segment; head and true legs brown; base of primary setae red, subdorsal and lateral setae have silver shading below; end of prolegs with yellow ring, and tipped in black.”
Letter 102 – Polyphemus Caterpillar
Subject: Green caterpillar
Location: Brentwood Bay, south Vancouver Island
August 24, 2016 7:28 pm
This green beauty is about 3 inches long.
Just happened to see it on japanese maple.
We dont know how long it been there….August 24, 2016
Signature: R Laird
Dear R Laird,
This magnificent caterpillar is a Polyphemus Moth Caterpillar, one of the Giant Silkmoths. It is the most wide ranging North American species, and it is reported from all 48 continental United States as well as much of Canada. The adult Polyphemus Moth is one of the species with eyespots on the underwings that have evolved to fool predators into perceiving a much larger, and potentially threatening creature.
Letter 103 – Polyphemus Caterpillar
Subject: Polyphemus moth
Geographic location of the bug: Seattle
Time: 11:14 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugma: Hi – I Found a polyphemus caterpillar in the mail box(!?) and transferred it to an observation tank placed in a classroom. I provided pin oak leaves and the caterpillar has spun a cocoon. One website said the cocoon needs to over-winter in a cool place and will emerge in June. Another website said it will emerge in a couple of weeks. I would love for this marvelous creature to be able to survive and emerge – any suggestions?
How you want your letter signed: Candace Robbins
This is indeed a Polyphemus Moth Caterpillar. Overwintering in a cool place is excellent advice, but the June emergence is probably information for a location with a cold winter. According to BugGuide: “In southern United States, adults fly April–May and July–August (2 broods); in northern part of range, adults fly from May to July (1 brood).” BugGuide lists Washington sightings from April to October, which leads us to believe you may have two generations, so emergence might happen well before June, possibly even in several weeks. We just located information that disputes that supposition, because according to Pacific Northwest Moths: “Our populations are most likely single-brooded with capture dates from mid-April until August. Second-brooded populations exist in areas with warmer climates.” You might be able to witness eclosion in April.
Letter 104 – Polyphemus Caterpillar
Subject: Luna Moth Caterpillar
Geographic location of the bug: Eagle River, Wisconsin
Time: 10:19 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: We found this caterpillar on a nearby wooded pathway yesterday, and didn’t know what it was or where it was going–end of September can usher in very cold temperatures here. So, at home we identified it as a Luna Moth Caterpillar. We want to properly release it back into the wild. It would be lovely to have seen it develop into the moth, but we don’t feel confident that we can keep it healthy. Will it over-winter here in the North? or Will it still be able to mate yet this autumn? It was found under a soft Maple tree quite close to a lake and alder bushes near the lake and surrounding wetland. I was even wondering if it could drown? Thank you for information so that we can release it soon and get it on its way to the right environment.
How you want your letter signed: The Rasmussens
Luna Moth Caterpillars and Polyphemus Moth Caterpillars can be difficult to distinguish from one another. We believe your caterpillar is a Polyphemus Caterpillar. The identifying feature is a pale yellow band that runs through the spiracles or breathing holes on the Polyphemus Caterpillar. It is described on BugGuide as: “Larva: body large, bright green, with red and silvery spots below setae, and oblique yellow lines running through spiracles on abdomen; diagonal streak of black and silver on ninth abdominal segment; head and true legs brown; base of primary setae red, subdorsal and lateral setae have silver shading below; end of prolegs with yellow ring, and tipped in black.” At this time of year in your location, we speculate this individual is preparing to pupate and it will overwinter in the cocoon. Caterpillars are not aquatic. They can drown.
Dear Daniel:?? Thank you for the information.?? It is nice to know what it is– Polyphemus, not Luna, and that it will overwinter.?? It started spinning yesterday between two leaves in the leaf litter at the bottom of the container, currently in our garage.?? So now, we will have to decide the next step:?? possibly to get info on overwintering it in our refrigerator with a constant temperature or it will be subjected to?? subzero temperatures for much of our Northern Wisconsin winter.?? If you had thoughts and time on this, don’t hesitate to drop a line.?? We appreciate and feel fortunate to have had your communication.?? Much of the information we were finding is not specific in details or confusing.???? –Patty & Eric Rasmussen
Dear Patty and Eric,
We do not raise caterpillars, but in captivity, one needs to be cognizant of temperature and humidity. Too warm and the moth will emerge prematurely. Too damp or too dry it might not survive. We would recommend keeping it outdoors in a protected location where it will benefit from precipitation, but not get too wet.
Letter 105 – Polyphemus Caterpillars raised in captivity
Young Polyphemus Caterpillars
Location: Denton, Texas
April 4, 2012 12:35 am
My sister spotted a large moth, and captured it for my dad and I. She sent us a rather crude picture of the moth, which we immediately identified as a female Polyphemus moth. She began to lay eggs soon after capture, and my dad and I crossed our fingers, hoping she was fertile. Sure enough, after a couple of weeks, we had about 50 caterpillars on our hands. My father and I love all insects, but especially enjoy silkworm moths from the family Saturniidae. We stole about half of the larvae from my sister to raise on our own, leaving half for her and her kids to enjoy. Here is a pic of a few of the ’pillars munching on some oak leaves.
Thanks for sending us your wonderful story and a beautiful photograph to accompany it. We hope you successfully raise a new generation of Polyphemus Moths to release in your area. If you can write back with any details of the habitat you have provided, it may assist our readers who wish to raise caterpillars.
Just for the record, your site is a winner. I could easily spend hours perusing through the pages of pictures.
While the larvae are still so small, we keep them in ziploc/tupperware bowls and loosely place the lid on the top (so as not to suffocate the little guys, though they do not require much oxygen). We will likely put them in a much larger container fashioned with window screen and 1X2s (both found at and home depot or lowes). We have found the Poly ‘pillars enjoy Red Oak and Scrub Oak most. Make sure to stuff whatever container you possess full of leaves (being careful of course to not squish your caterpillars), and watch them devour the leaves. After molting, the larvae sometimes eat their old skin, which I assume can only be good for them. You can handle them occasionaly, but try not to too much, since their only goal in the larva stage is to eat as much as possible. You want gargantuan Polys, not pygmies 🙂
Here is a pic of my son Michael holding one of them. BTW kids LOVE this stuff!!
Thanks for the habitat tips Matt. Your compliment is also greatly appreciated.
Letter 106 – Polyphemus Eggs
Third Grade Students Request Assistance
Hello wonderful bug people,
My third grade students rescued a moth that was dying. It laid eggs just before it died, and those eggs have now hatched! It’s been very exciting here in our classroom at Clayton Elementary in Austin, Texas. We’ve done some internet research and believe our moth is a Polyphemus moth… we would like verification of that, and also request assistance in knowing what type of leaves to feed the little larvae that are now crawling around. Thanks for the help.
Third Grade Teacher
Polyphemus Caterpillars will eat leaves from a wide variety of deciduous trees, including alder, basswood, birch, chestnut, elm, hickory, maple, poplar and sycamore. We would recommend keeping about ten young caterpillars for classroom observation and placing the rest on host trees in vaarious locations.
Letter 107 – Polyphemus Moth
I found a polyphemus moth
I found a polyphemus moth at a garden center in central Florida. It looked like it was dying and flopped around near where people were walking in and out. A guy that worked there put it in a cup for me to take home. he said it was dying. He said I should take it. I brought it home, but it was still alive. At first I put a mesh colander over it so it wouldn’t fly around the house…then I put it outside with a stem of a flowering tarragon herb. It like the flower, but I read on the internet the adults do not eat. I wonder if they die after they lay eggs? Is it going to die? should I let it go? what does it want to do? why am I so compelled to keep it? how can I tell if it’s a male or female? what should I do to preserve it, if it dies? It is not acting like it’s going to live much longer. Is it lunch for a bird or dinner for a bat? thanks for the info.
My, so many questions. They die after laying eggs. It will soon die. rarely live more than a few days. Letting it go is your call. It wants to mate and lay eggs, period. It will not live much longer. Birds love them. So do many other predators Looks like a female. Males have bushier antennae.
Thank you so much. Nature is so wonderful, but creatures should come with name tags.
Letter 108 – Polyphemus Moth
Moth ID question
I found this beautifully camouflaged moth blending into the brick of my parent’s home in Kilmarnock , Virginia . I have been through a few of my insect guides, and am guessing it is in the Saturnidae family, but can’t find an exact match. Could you please tell me which variety he is? Thanks!
Bellefonte , Pennsylvania
Most guides would picture the distinctive open winged pose of the Polyphemus Moth. That view displays the prominent eyespots.
Letter 109 – Polyphemus Moth
What is it?
This morning we found this under the car. He is the most beautiful thing I have seen. He looked like velvet and his "eyes" were so beautiful. We are in Haines City, FL which is dead center of the state. Do you have any idea what he is? I stumbled across your site while I was trying to identify this guy.
The Polyphemus Moth is one of the Giant Silkworm Moths also known as Saturnid Moths.
Letter 110 – Polyphemus Moth
Moth found in parking lot in Northern NJ
Can you tell us about this moth we found in a parking lot in Northern NJ?
It was huge.
Open & Jim Banks
Hi again Open and Jim,
This is a Polyphemus Moth, one of the Giant Silkworm or Saturnid Moths. It was named after Polyphemus, the Cyclops from Greek mythology because of the eyespots. Funny the moth has two eyespots and the Cyclops only had one eye. Go figure.
Letter 111 – Polyphemus Moth
moth in my kitchen
Hi, I opened my back door to go on to my deck and this flying object flew into my hair. At first I thought it was a bat………and then I saw it land on my kitchen table. It just so happened that I had my digital camera sitting on the table. What kind of moth is this? I scooped it up in a large cup and let it fly away……………
Thanks in advance,
Marlboro, New Jersey
This is a Polyphemus Moth, one of the Giant Silkworm or Saturnid Moths.
Letter 112 – Polyphemus Moth
What bug is this?
I have attached a picture of a bug I recently "captured" outside my house. Could you tell what it is?
You have a photo of a Polyphemus Moth, one of the giant silkworm moths. As adults, they do not feed, living only a few days to mate. The caterpillars are ravenous feeders.
Letter 113 – Polyphemus Moth
A BIG Moth
I recently found a large moth hanging on our garage door. My wife trapped him for closer examination. This guy has a wing span of 4-5" and a body as large and meaty as the end segment of my thumb. He is brown with a black spot on each wing . each black spot is 1/2" in diameter and has a translucent center. He also has a translucent spot on each wing up toward his head about 1/4" in diameter. His wings are paper like in appearance and look a little fuzzy. He also has an outline of darker brown on the top/front of the wings and a lighter brown outline on the top/rear of the wings with a black and a white line separating colors. The under side of the wings is all light brown with very little color variation, except for the translucent spots. What is it?
pic of the BIG Moth
Hopefully this pic will help, I could only get the underside on my scanner, I don’t want to kill him and the photo didn’t turn out very good.
You have a female Polyphemus Moth, Antheraea polyphemus, which was named for the one-eyed cyclops of Greek mythology because of the “eyespots” on the hind wings. It is a member of the giant silkworm family, Saturniidae. Adults do not eat, but live solelyh to mate and reproduce, living just a few days. By the looks of things, your female should be laying eggs soon, and if she is fertile, they will hatch into hungry caterpillars that eat oak, hickory, elm, maple, birch and other trees and shrubs. They are green and will grow to about 3 inches before spinning a plump cocoon either on the ground or attached to a twig. They are common in the South where there are two broods a year.
We did a little research and you confirmed our suspicions. We live in Hershey, Pennsylvania, hardly the South. Thanks so much for your quick response, have a great day!
Don & Cindy Hess
P.S. She is free now, but last we checked just hanging around
Letter 114 – Polyphemus Moth
I took these pictures a while ago while my boyfriend and I were exploring a nearby forest preserve in Garland, TX. It was the first saturniid I’d ever seen, and my encounter with it had me hooked on bugwatching ever since.
Thank you so much for sending in your photos of a Polyphemus Moth.
Letter 115 – Polyphemus Moth
Moth ID help?
I first want to say that I love your site! I’ve ID’ed many of my backyard insects with your photos and descriptions. However, I was unable to find this particular moth on your site. I caught several of these beautiful moths hanging out on my front porch in the early morning, when I left for school. This is the first time I’ve seen them, and was curious as to what they are, and if possible, what their caterpillar form looks like, so I can be on the look out for them. I have attached a photo, but it doesn’t show how big they are. I’d say roughly 6in across. Also, if it helps, I live in north Texas, around the DFW area. Thanks for any help you can give me!
This is a Polyphemus Moth and you would need to search our Saturnid or Giant Silkmoth pages to find photos of it. We also have caterpillar images on our numerous caterpillar pages.
Letter 116 – Polyphemus Moth
What Kind is This Moth?
I have attached a picture of a moth my dogs found this morning in the yard. They never touched it, just barked at it. It is the first time I have seen this kind of moth – can you tell me what it is? I measured it’s wingspan and it was 5 1/4 inches. I live in Dayton, Ohio (30 miles north of Cincinnati).
You must have entered our site through some portal other that the homepage or you would have seen our prominently featured Bug of the Month for July 2006, the Polyphemus Moth.
Letter 117 – Polyphemus Moth
What type of moth?
My husband found this moth attached to the tire of his car which he parks outside our home in St. Francis, WI. It had laid eggs all around the edge of the tire. When I tried to remove it (it was very sluggish) it opened it wings. Gorgeous!!!! Is this a hawk eye moth?
This is our Bug of the Month for July 2006, a Polyphemus Moth.
Letter 118 – Polyphemus Moth
Nice site! I live in Novi, MI and saw this moth out on our deck the other morning. I didn’t see a picture like it on your site so I thought I would send it in for you to add (and hopefully give a name!) Thanks,
This is a Polyphemus Moth, our featured Bug of the Month for July. We are beginning to realize that many people do not enter our site through the homepage and need to figure out how to direct them there.
Letter 119 – Polyphemus Moth
Found this guy hanging on the door handle this morning. We live on a houseboat in the middle of the Columbia river in Portland Or, funny place for a moth.
It is our bug of the month, a Polyphemus Moth.
Letter 120 – Polyphemus Moth
I am an amateur photographer in Baltimore, though I have begun selling my photography in my store. This was taken with Canon 10 D and a 100MM Macro lens. I spotted the moth on my driveway and was amazed at the incredible markings. These are just 2 of the shots. Your site is excellent!
Thank you for the compliment Marc,
Your photo is also most excellent. Thank you for sending it to us.
Letter 121 – Polyphemus Moth
Antheraea polyphemus – a beautiful female with her father
Dear Daniel and Lisa Anne,
While the promised Asterocampa celtis and A. clyton- picture series for you is still growing, I had a surprize hatching from a cocoon, which I found in the middle of Madison on a small Linden tree in the beginning of May. It is a Polyphemus moth female. I am trying to find a male for her with the help of her pheromones, because I want to breed this species this summer. Let’s hope that it works. Best wishes and have a nice weekend, Thomas
What a beautiful photograph of a beautiful moth. We cannot imagine her not attracting numerous suitors, and we expect to be graced with some honeymoon images. We also eagerly await your promised images. Perhaps we can trouble you to look at our Caterpillar 5 page so you can weigh in on a possible Red Spotted Purple versus Viceroy Caterpillar that was sent in 12 May. We would like your input on the species.
Letter 122 – Polyphemus Moth
We love your site! Last year we discovered you when looking for a bug that bit my daughter down in Florida – it was a giant water bug. This time (in April) my daughter found a moth – I think it’s Polyphemus Moth. It is huge, at least 5″ or 5.5″ wingspan. The “eyes” on the wings are not holes, but clear circles (they reflect light). I think I have some better pictures, and I’d love to share them with you. You can use them. In one of them it sits on my daughter’s wrist, in the other, in a big coffee tin. I forgot to say: we are in Maryland, withing the Washington, D.C.Beltway.
Marina and daughter Lena (8)
Thank you for the photo and wonderful letter.
Letter 123 – Polyphemus Moth
My grandmother found this in her backyard near Chardon, Ohio. Looking through your site I found that it is a Polyphemus Moth. From the ruler I put next to it it is 5-6 inches across. It’s wings were not perfectly flat when I took this. My kids (5 & 3 years old) went wild at the "huge bug"… they enjoy your site immensely!
Thank you for sending in you Polyphemus Moth image. We have begun receiving identification requests again for the second brood, and your photo is a welcome addition to our homepage right now.
Letter 124 – Polyphemus Moth
polyphemus in Northern California
My 19 month old son found a chrysalis about 4 weeks ago, so we put it in a jar and hoped for the best. His little fingers had poked a hole through the leafy chrysalis so we could see the pupa squirming around inside, so I was worried that he may have injured it. Today when I went into the kitchen, I noticed that the moth had emerged. I did some research on your site and others and I’m fairly certain that this is a polyphemus moth. We released it tonight – hopefully he’ll successfully sniff out a mate!
San Jose, CA
Thank you for your touching Polyphemus Moth story.
Letter 125 – Polyphemus Moth
A Beautiful Moth
s This beauty was I my yard yesterday. Any idea what it is? Thanks and much appreciated. Be Well,
This is a Polyphemus Moth. You can find more photos and information on our Giant Silk Moth or Saturnid Moth pages.
Letter 126 – Polyphemus Moth
What type of Moth
We found this alive in our
backyard near Austin Texas on March 18th. Can you identify it for us? >Regards,
This beauty is a Polyphemus Moth.
Letter 127 – Polyphemus Moth
Hello! I found this little guy on my back porch. I’ve never seen anything like it! It looks like a spider and a moth mated! Please help me I’ve been racking my brain! Thanks
In the past few weeks, we have received countless images of Polyphemus Moths. We have so many images in our archives, that we have opted to take our limited time to post other species instead. Thanks for sending such an interesting angle of view and we love your observations on imagined possible inter-species hybridization.
Letter 128 – Polyphemus Moth
Polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus)
One of a pair of Polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus ) found in Lillian, Alabama 3/17/08. Pair found on the grass at the Lillian Recreational Park. Lillian is just across the Perdido Bay from Pensacola, Florida.
Thanks so much for sending your beautiful Polyphemus Moth image to our site.
Letter 129 – Polyphemus Moth
What type of moth is this?
Fri, May 1, 2009 at 5:23 PM
We found this moth on the wall on our porch. It is approximately 6 inches wide. I thought it was in the Polyphemus family.
This is most certainly a Polyphemus Moth.
Letter 130 – Polyphemus Moth
butterfly or moth?
Sat, Jun 13, 2009 at 8:24 AM
Found these two interesting specimens on our porch June12 2009. Don”t know anything about them just curious.
Vancouver B.C. Canada
This is a Polyphemus Moth, one of the Giant Silk Moths.
Letter 131 – Polyphemus Moth
August 17, 2009
While on vacation, i found this Polyphemus moth hanging around one of the buildings in the resort i was staying at. every morning i would walk around the buildings looking for moths. and each day i would usually find 5 or 6 large silk moths. this one was on the same building each day, but always in a different place. i saw this one for about a week and it was in good shape, so i took pictures. i picked him up every time and carried him around that building looking for more, and put him back where i found him before moving to the next building. its alway fun getting the ” wow look at that bug” or “dude you have a bug on your shirt.” moths have fascinated me since i was little. especially the larger silk moths.
Thanks for sending us your nice letter and wonderful photograph of a Polyphemus Moth.
Letter 132 – Polyphemus Moth
Giant Moth on Azelea
April 9, 2010
Congratulations on the completion of the book! Here is another picture of Polyphemous moth.
We are on autopilot tonight after a very long day. Letters are picking up with spring, and I am just trying to respond to as many as possible. I just saw the photo and identified the moth, and then I read your nice letter after. It is interesting that the Polyphemus Moth is very closely related to the Luna Moth as they are both in the Tribe Saturniini. Most other Giant Silkmoths in North America are in the tribe Attacini.
Have a great night.
Letter 133 – Polyphemus Moth
May 18, 2010
What kind of butterfly is this?
Giant Silk Moths like this Polyphemus Moth are often mistaken for butterflies because many people are under the misconception that all moths are small and drab.
Letter 134 – Polyphemus Moth
Location: Hamilton, Ohio U.S.A.
May 18, 2011 7:13 am
I found this beautiful moth hanging out on my sidewalk this spring. I live in Southwestern Ohio. A friend suggested that it was a peacock moth, but do these moths live in Ohio? The pictures I see online of peacock moths are not as colorful as this one. What is it?
Signature: L. Mills
Dear L. Mills,
This beautiful creature is a Polyphemus Moth and it appears to be winking. The eyespots on the underwings are an effective form of protective coloration. A predator might mistake this tasty morsel for a larger creature upon being startled by the sudden appearance of a large pair of eyes. The Polyphemus Moth has the greatest range of all of the Giant Silkmoths in North America.
Letter 135 – Polyphemus Moth
Location: Shelton, Washington.
July 7, 2011 1:30 pm
Heyy Bugman(: I live in Shelton Washington. My Mom saw this bug after coming home from the grocery store at around 11:00 am. We all think it looks like a moth, a very BIG moth at that. Hahaha. It tends to stick to everything it steps on. We would love to know what this is.(: My whole family loves your website! Thank you(:
This beauty is a Polyphemus Moth. It has probably the greatest range of any North American Giant Silkmoth as it is found across the continental United States and Canada.
Letter 136 – Polyphemus Moth
Location: Birmingham, AL
April 28, 2012 6:03 am
We came home this evening to find a visitor hanging out on our screen door. It’s about 5” across. It doesn’t have the ”feathery antennae” of male polyphemus moths, so I’m guessing it may be a female? Any help is appreciated! Also, it has stayed on the screen very still for several hours now, despite us going in and out of the door. Is this normal, and is the moth safe? Thanks!
Signature: T. Noland
Dear T. Noland,
Your identification of a female Polyphemus Moth is correct. A female Giant Silkmoth filled with eggs has a heavy cargo to lift, and since she does not feed as an adult, she is judicious about the expenditure of energy. If she does not mate, she will die without reproducing. If she stays in place releasing pheromones for several days, she doesn’t run the risk of falling prey to the many predators that would welcome a good meal provided by her body full of eggs. The male will be able to scent her out with his antennae. If she stays in place, she may eventually attract a mate and then she will fly off to lay eggs.
Letter 137 – Polyphemus Moth
Subject: Oculea silkmoth?
Location: Carbondale, Colorado
May 21, 2012 5:53 pm
My son and his friends found this beautiful moth outside of his school in Carbondale, Colorado today. We’ve never seen anything like it! Beautiful! What can you tell us about it?
Signature: Carbondale Mom
Dear Carbondale Mom,
Though the Oculea Silkmoth looks very similar, this is actually a closely related Polyphemus Moth. The Polyphemus Moth is a common species found in all 48 lower states and Canada. The much rarer Oculea Silkmoth has a range limited to parts of Arizona and New Mexico in mountainous regions.
Letter 138 – Polyphemus Moth
Subject: Huge unknown moth in Santa Cruz, CA
Location: Santa Cruz, California
July 3, 2012 12:19 am
I found this moth perched on the site of my house next to my zapper where it appears to have died (on the wall not in the zapper). It hasn’t moved in about 24 hours, but it’s huge! I didn’t even think the Monarchs of Natural Bridges got this big. I’ve never seen anything like it before in my area and that’s what concerns me (possible invasive species?). It’s wings haven’t opened so I’m not sure as to the wingspan, I’d guess about 5-8 inches (13-20cm) and the body is about 2-3 inches (5-8cm) long.
Signature: Todd G.
The Polyphemus Moth is native to all 48 lower states as well as Canada. We suspect this female will lay eggs before she dies. Hopefully she had the opportunity to mate. Polyphemus Moths do not eat as adults. The live long enough to mate and lay eggs.
Too bad you didn’t have the opportunity to see this Polyphemus Moth with its wings opened. When the wings are spread, the eyespots are revealed, and these “eyes” give the illusion to a predator like a bird that the Polyphemus Moth is a much bigger creature than it really is, and possibly the bird even mistakes the moth for a predator.
Letter 139 – Polyphemus Moth
Subject: Female polyphemus moth?
Location: Frederick, MD
August 22, 2012 10:01 am
warning: this story has a tragic end.
I found this lovely moth while walking with my grandmother after a rain shower 2 evenings ago. She’s very beautiful, with 4 transparent wing spots and some lavender in her wings. Her body was quite plump, she had big eyes, and her wingspan was just about 4 inches. She was very slow and patchy, and had a torn wing. I took her home to mend her wing with a technique I’ve used with butterflies before. However, my grandmother’s cats found her while I was gathering supplies about the house; she survived the attack, but her wings did not. I put her in the garden and hope she laid her eggs before she was found so I am slightly less haunted.
Thank you for your poignant message. Giant Silkmoths are frequently eaten by birds and other insectivores, but the number of eggs laid by the adult females, generally 200-300 eggs, ensures that enough will survive to adulthood to perpetuate the species. We just posted an image of a Polyphemus Moth Caterpillar. According to BugGuide: “In southern United States, adults fly April-May and July-August (2 broods); in northern part of range, adults fly from May to July (1 brood). Larvae present March to November.” Based on that information, we suspect this individual hatched from eggs laid in the spring. If she laid eggs, we would expect the resulting caterpillars to overwinter as cocoons to hatch next spring.
Letter 140 – Polyphemus Moth
Subject: Large Moth
Location: Kansas US
July 27, 2013 3:51 pm
What kind of moth is this? I found it on my porch this morning.
Signature: Ronda R
How fortunate you are to have had this Polyphemus Moth sighting in conjunction with National Moth Week. The name Polyphemus Moth is taken from the cyclops of Greek mythology and refers to the eyespots on the lower wings which are hidden from view in your photograph. Moths with eyespots on their underwings use them to frighten off larger predators by revealing the spots when they are disturbed. We hope our own Elyria Canyon Moth Night event this evening brings us a few showy specimens.
Letter 141 – Polyphemus Moth
Subject: Large moth
Location: South Indianapolis
August 8, 2014 8:54 am
This large (7″ wingspan) moth showed up on our patio and spent a couple days hanging out. I live in an industrial area just outside of downtown Indianapolis. This was the week of August 4, 2014.
He wasn’t afraid of anyone getting close to him, so I was able to get some good photos.
Normally, all you can see are his main wings. Only when he starts to feel threatened does he expose his lower wings (and eyespots).
I’ve looked at hundreds of pictures of moths, but couldn’t find any that matched its unique markings. The closest I could find was a Cecropia.
Signature: Ben Mc
Dear Ben Mc,
Like the Cecropia Moth, this Polyphemus Moth is one of the Giant Silkmoths in the family Saturniidae. Many moths in the family were given names that reference mythology, and Polyphemus was a one-eyed cyclops that figures into the Odyssey, the story of the journey of Ulysses, also known as Odysseus.
WOW! Thanks for getting back so quickly. I never realized how many moths there really were. And they’re not just those grey little things that eat your clothes!
Thanks for being such a great resource-
Letter 142 – Pandora Pine Moth subspecies from Mexico
Location: San Sebastian, Mexico
January 4, 2016 2:54 pm
Found this moth I assume to be a Hawkmoth on 3/12/15 in San Sebastian in Mexico, West Coast. Have looked verywhere to see what it might be but have not ofund out what it is. Do you have any ideas? It opened its wings wide when startled to reveal the read underneath
This is not a Hawkmoth. We believe it is a Royal Moth in the subfamily Ceratocampinae because it so closely resembles the Hubbard’s Silkmoth, Sphingicampa hubbardi, which is pictured on BugGuide. We did not have any luck finding an identification, so we are going to copy Bill Oehlke to see if he is able to provide an identification. When he assists us with unusual identifications, Bill often requests permission to post images on his own site. We hope you will allow that.
It is one of the Coloradia, probably Coloradia jaliscensis.
Please see if I have permission to post these images. Very nice!
Thank you very much for you response. Its great to finally know what it is that I saw. No wonder I could not find it looing at Hawk-moths.
Please tell Bill that he can use my images. Could I have a link to Bill’s site?
Update from Bill Oehlke
Thanks for getting back to me.
When I placed the images provided by Graeme on my jaliscensis page, I could see that it is not a good match. It is much closer to the
Coloradia pandora subspecies group, based on hindwing markings, shape of am line and distance of pm line from the outer margin.
Three Pandora subspecies are currently recognized: nominate Coloradia pandora pandora, C. pandora lindseyi and C. Pandora davisi with davisi having the furthest southern range into Mexico, but so far known only as far south as Durango. I will post the two images to my Coloradia pandora davisi page. I feel the moth is either subspecies davisi or an undescribed subspecies of Coloradia pandora. So far the only Coloradia species recognized from Jalisco is jaliscensis, but it clearly is not that species. It could be something new or just representative of a range extensive further south in western Mexico.
If you have Graeme’s last name, please forward that to me so I can properly credit the images.
Once I have the two images on the davisi page I will copy and paste that page to you in an email which you can forward to Graeme. If that does not work I will make a copy of the page available to Graeme on line and will send you the link.
PS. Please also forward this response to Graeme. If he is interested in moths, I would like to have more correspondence with him. If he just had a chance encounter with this moth, then he will probably just be happy to know what it is or at least have a best guess at what it is.
Graeme responds to Bill
Thank you very much for the identification of this moth and the information you have pulled for it. Very glad I found it now. I will read up in detail in this particular species.
My Surname as it happens is very apt for the find as it is Davis. What are the chances?
And yes I do have an interest in Moths. I survey Moths in the UK for Butterfly Conservation. However I am pretty much always on survey mode, and have photographed a few moths in Costa Rica and Mexico. Many that I have tentatively identified, and others I do not even know where to start with. My other half is from the States and as such I get to travel there a bit too, but always try to get a trip further South.
Do you have a link for your website? I’d love to see what other finds you have.
Letter 143 – Pine Devil Moth Caterpillar
What did my son find?
June 20, 2009
My five year old LOVES catepillars and he found this one in Southwest Georgia on a Confederate Jasmine vine. It is about 1.25 inches.
Southwest Georgia US
We wonder by chance if your son raised this caterpillar to see what the adult is. We have been unsuccessful in pinpointing the species, but we have a far-fetched theory. We believe this most resembles the Splendid Royal Moth Caterpillar, Citheronia splendens pictured on BugGuide. There are several subspecies in Mexico and BugGuide lists sightings in Arizona and Florida. You are in south Georgia, and if there is an established population in Florida, it is entirely possible that your caterpillar might be a Splendid Royal Moth Caterpillar. The size you indicate would mean this is not the final instar for the caterpillar, and that it will grow, molt and change appearance before becoming a pupa. We expect that as soon as this is posted, someone will write in with an obvious identification that will make us feel foolish.
Update: with correction by Bill Oehlke
Seems we weren’t too far astray. Bill Oehlke believes this to be a Pine Devil Moth Caterpillar, Citheronia sepulcralis, a member of the same genus.
Citheronnia splendens sinaloensis would be far from natural habitat in Florida or Georgia. I believe it is an early instar of Citheronia sepulcralis.
I think that is what it is!! I found a sightings map and there have been some sighted about 45 miles west and southwest of my location which is Thomasville, GA. There is a Pitch pine behind our house…which is very unusual for this area. Must be where he came from. Can’t wait to tell my son what the caterpillar was. By the way, he did not raise it. We found it and released it. Thanks so much for your help!!! I’m sure we will be contacting you again because he is in the yard daily looking for “bugs”