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Insects and other arthropods

Saturniidae

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Description

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.

Life cycle

A few hours after leaving the cocoon, the male flies in search of a female. The female generally stays in one spot until the eggs in her abdomen have been fertilized. To attract her mate, the female emits a volatile, scented substance called a pheromone. Using the receptors on his large antennae, the male can detect this “aphrodisiac” substance over a kilometre away.

Mating generally begins at night and can last for several hours. Once fertilization is complete, the male dies shortly afterwards and the female flies off in search of host plants. Depending on the species, she may lay between 100 and 500 eggs. Only a few eggs are laid on each food plant. When conditions are favourable, the eggs generally hatch 10 to 12 days after being laid.

Once it finishes growing, the caterpillar leaves the host plant and begins building a cocoon, inside which it will become a chrysalis. In Quebec, depending on the species, the cocoon is attached to a branch of the host plant or placed on the ground among dead leaves. The insect will overwinter in this form and the adult will emerge the following spring.

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