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Saturniidae

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Rosy maple moth

English
Dryocampa rubicunda

These pretty pink and yellow moths are easily recognizable by their very hairy bodies. The colours vary, however, and there are also pale, almost white, forms. The males are smaller than the females, which have a wingspan of about 5.5 cm. The sexes can also be differentiated by their antennae: feathery on the males, and thinner on the females.

The caterpillars are green with lengthwise stripes. They have two black horns that look like antennae near their cherry red heads. They are up to 5.5 cm long.

Promethea moth

English
Callosamia promethea

These are large moths with a wingspan of 7.5 to 10 cm. There are marked differences between the males and females. The males have black wings with a tan border, while the females’ wings are brown or reddish-brown, also with a tan border. Both sexes have an eyespot on each forewing.

In the last instar, the large, hairless caterpillars are whitish green. They have four red knobs near the head and a yellow one near the tip of the abdomen. Their bodies are marked with black dots ringed with very light blue. The caterpillars change appearance with each instar.

Polyphemus moth

English
Antheraea polyphemus

The polyphemus moth can be distinguished from other Saturniidae by its colouring that varies from pale to dark brown and is sometimes reddish or greyish. Each of its wings has a small, scale-less “window” called an eyespot. The eyespots on its front wings are oval and encircled in yellow. The eyspots on its back wings, with yellow, dark blue and black borders, look like large eyes. Its abdomen is covered with reddish-brown hairs.

When it first hatches, the caterpillar is yellow. After four moults, it reaches a length of 8 cm or more. At this stage, the caterpillar’s body is fluorescent green and silky, with a series of small orange spots and creamy white transversal lines. The caterpillar’s head is brown.

Once it reaches maturity, the caterpillar stops eating and spends several hours weaving a cocoon. The cocoon is attached to the host plant. In southern regions, it may fall to the ground. The rigid silk cocoon, often surrounded by dead leaves, is oval-shaped and pale grey. The chrysalis spends the winter in a dormant state, protected inside the cocoon. The adult emerges the following spring.

Cecropia moth

English
Hyalophora cecropia

The cecropia moth is the largest moth in Quebec. It can be recognized easily by its size, its body and legs that are covered with red hairs and its black and white striped abdomen. It has a white collar around the upper part of its thorax. Its reddish brown wings are marked with a white line. A white or red and white crescent appears on each wing. Moths of both sexes have feathery antennae.

When it first hatches (2), the caterpillar is black and measures just 5 mm. It begins eating immediately and moults four times before reaching its maximum size (3) after about eight weeks. At this stage, the caterpillar is 8 cm long and sometimes as long as 10 cm. It is green with two rows of yellow bristles on its back and two pairs of large reddish-orange bristles near its head. There are small blue bristles on the sides of its body.

Once it reaches maturity, the caterpillar stops eating and leaves its host plant. It looks for a branch to spin a silk cocoon around itself, (4) inside which it metamorphoses into a chrysalis. The cocoon is around 8 cm long, brown and streamlined. In Quebec, the chrysalis overwinters inside this cocoon. In May or June the following year, the moth (1) emerges, ready to mate.

Luna moth

English
Actias luna

The luna moth is one of the most beautiful moths. This magnificent insect, with its feathery antennae, is characterized by its emerald green colour and the extension of its back wings. The brown border of its back wings looks like a branch when the moth is resting. All four of its wings feature white circles with a yellow-orange (sometimes reddish) pattern, surrounded by a thin black border. Its abdomen is creamy white.

When it hatches, the caterpillar is green and brown spotted with long white hairs. Once mature, it measures 8 cm and sometimes more. The sides of its body are patterned with small black dots, a row of orange spots and a pale yellow line.

In our latitudes, the caterpillar leaves its host plant at the end of the summer and begins weaving its cocoon on the ground among dead leaves. The brownish, sometimes spherical cocoon is about 6 cm long. The caterpillar transforms into a chrysalis inside its cocoon and hibernates until the next spring. The adult emerges from the cocoon in mid-May.

Saturniidae

English

With a wingspan that can reach 15 cm, some species in this family are among North America’s largest. In Quebec, there are around 10 species.

The wings of Saturniidae often present spots that look like eyes, called eyespots, which can scare away predators. Males are generally smaller than females, with larger antennae that are usually feathery or comb-like. The insect’s small proboscis does not allow it to eat. The insect lives for four to 10 days on the reserve of energy accumulated during the caterpillar stage.

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