Polyphemus Moth

At our Memorial Day weekend Butterfly Count Day at Audubon House, ORCA and Audubon volunteer, Cindy Hersh (Stewardship Class of 2015) brought in a picture of a beautiful Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus) which she recently found locally here in Sebastian, Florida.

Butterflies and moths together make up the order Lepidoptera and Giant Silkworm Moths such as the Polyphemus are of the family Saturniidae. Probably the most famous example of a moth in this family are the beautiful green Luna Moths which are very rarely seen here.

The moth is named after Polyphemus, the mythical one-eyed cyclops in Homer’s The Odyssey. The adult moths are strikingly large over boasting a wingspan of 4.5 to 5 inches.
The pictured moth is a male which is discerned by the particularly bushy and feather antennae. The male’s antennae are used to detect pheromones which are released by the females.

Polyphemus Moths boast a very large range from Canada down to Mexico are the most common Saturnids found in Florida and even at that are not commonly seen. All Lepidoptera have suffered a decline in numbers due to the usual environmental impacts humans have had on nature, primarily destruction of habitat and chemical poisoning (herbicides, lawn pesticides, and insecticide sprayings).

The adult Polyphemus Moth lays its eggs on a wide variety of tree host plants including Oaks and Maples. There are two or more generations per year of this species in the south and only one in the north. The fifth instar larva (after 4 molts) pupates inside a self-spun silk cocoon and after a variable period of time emerges as the adult moth. Like all Saturnids, the beautiful adult moth has a very short life span of less than one week due to its having vestigial mouth parts and thus unable to eat. It only has time to procreate to begin the life cycle one more time.

1 reply »

  1. Fascinating info!! Great to share it on the ORCA website.
    We saw one Luna moth once here in Sebastian. You have peaked my interest in recording via photographing moth creatures. We left the porch light on all night to scare the raccoon away which worked for a while but no longer by the way he was getting on our porch and getting our birdfeeder. We in the morning saw that all of these malls had collected around tonight and were plastered against the wall . Then it was interesting and there was one that looked exactly like I’ll leave which I couldn’t take a picture of it I wanted to but capital doing something else but then I noticed the Cardinals had started going after all these malls around the mall so excited and started eating them alll. cycle of life

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