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Sphinx moths


These moths, with a wingspan of 3 to 20 cm, have stocky bodies and long, colourful aerodynamic wings. They have powerful muscles for flying and beat their wings very rapidly.

Several species have a long proboscis that they use to suck up nectar from flowers with deep corollas.

Some sphinx moths have no scales on part of their wings, and resemble large bumble bees.

Tiger moths


This family includes small to medium-sized moths, often quite colourful. The most colourful species are called “tiger moths.” Other species resemble wasps and are known as “wasp moths.” Their caterpillars are usually very hairy and some, like the “woollybear,” are quite well known.

Polyphemus moth

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

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

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.



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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