polyphemus moth

(Antheraea polyphemus)

polyphemus moth
Photo by Molly and Robert Power
  Hodges #

7757

 
 
Conservation Status
  IUCN Red List

not listed

     
  NatureServe

N5 - Secure

     
  Minnesota

not listed

     
           
 
Description
 
 

Polyphemus moth is a common, extra large, giant silkworm moth. With a wingspan of 4 to 6 it is one of the two largest moths native to North America. Females are larger than males.

Wing coloration is highly variable. The upperside of the wings is various shades of reddish-brown to yellowish-brown. The median area is dusted with black. The submarginal area is pale. Each wing has a pink, white and black subterminal line and a transparent eyespot in the median area.

The leading edge of the forewing (costal margin) is whitish and dusted with black. The line separating the basal and median areas on the forewing (antemedial line) is pink, white, dark reddish-brown, and black. The eyespot is small and oval. It is ringed with a broad yellow line and a thin black line. There is a blue crescent on the inner edge.

The eyespot on the hindwing is similar but larger and more conspicuous. It is in the middle of a large, round to irregular, black patch. A thin pink line separates the black patch from the basal area.

There are no mouth parts and no hearing organs. Males have feather-like antennae with branches on both sides of the central axis. Females have smaller, less bushy antennae.

The caterpillar is bright green, plump, and up to 3 long. There is usually a steeply oblique yellow line that passes through the breathing holes (spiracles) of abdominal segments 2 through 7 (A2–A7). On A1–A7 there six warts, on thoracic segments 2 and 3 (T2 and T3) there eight warts. There is one wart on each side of the dorsal midline (addorsal), one above the spiracle (supraspiracular), and one below the spiracle (subspiracular). T1 to T3 also have a wart just above each leg-like structure (proleg). The addorsal and supraspiracular warts on the abdomen are flashy silver and red. The subspiracular warts on the abdomen and all of the warts on the thorax are mostly orange and lack silver. Each wart has 2 to 5 minute, white, bristle-like hairs (setae). The prolegs are green. The anal plate is dark and continues as a line across A9. T1 is short and collar-like with a flat, yellow front edge. The head is orangish-brown and is partially withdrawn into T1.

Mature caterpillars can be found from late May through November.

 
     
 

Size

 
 

Wingspan: 4 to 6

 
     
 

Similar Species

 
  Luna moth (Actius luna) caterpillar is similar. A1–A7 have a yellow transverse line near the trailing edge of each segment, not passing through the spiracle.  
     
 
Habitat
 
 

Deciduous hardwood forests, urban areas, suburbs, agricultural fields, orchards, wetlands

 
     
 
Biology
 
 

Season

 
 

One brood: Late May to July

 
     
 

Behavior

 
 

Adults are attracted to lights.

 
     
 

Life Cycle

 
 

This moth is short-lived, lasting only 4 days, since it has no mouth parts and does not feed. In Minnesota there is one generation per year. The adults emerges in the spring and finds a mate on the night of the same day it emerged from the cocoon. The male uses its specialized antennae to detect pheromones released by the female. After breeding, the female lays up to 5 eggs either singly or in groups of 2 or 3 on either side of a leaf of a host shrub or tree. The eggs are flattened and light brown.

The eggs hatch in about 10 days. The larvae are solitary feeders. They molt 5 times in 5 to 6 weeks before pupating. In late summer or early fall the caterpillar spins a cocoon in which it will spend the winter. Many caterpillars descend to the ground and spin their cocoon in leaf litter. Most others spin their cocoon in a leaf attached to the host plant, which falls to the ground at the end of the season. In the south some cocoons remain attached to the host plant.

 
     
 

Larva Hosts

 
 

Leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs; especially members of the birch, rose, and willow families; but also apple, ash, dogwood, elm, hazel, hickory, maple and oak.

 
     
 

Adult Food

 
 

Adults do not feed.

 
     
 
Distribution
 
 

Distribution Map

 

Sources

21, 24, 29, 30, 75, 82.

 
  8/17/2021      
         
 

Occurrence

 
 

Common

 
         
 
Taxonomy
 
 

Order

Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths)  
 

Suborder

Glossata  
 

Infraorder

Neolepidoptera  
  Parvorder Heteroneura  
  No Rank Ditrysia  
  No Rank Obtectomera  
 

Superfamily

Bombycoidea (hawk-moths)  
  No Rank Saturniiformes  
 

Family

Saturniidae (giant silkworm and royal moths)  
 

Subfamily

Saturniinae  
 

Tribe

Saturniini  
 

Genus

Antheraea  
       
 

Synonyms

 
 

 

 
       
 

Common Names

 
 

polyphemus moth

 
       

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

Anal plate

In snakes: the large scale in front of and covering the anus. In turtles: one of the posterior plates of the lower shell (plastron). In Lepidoptera: the often hardened shield on the dorsal surface of the last (10th) segment of the abdomen.

 

Antemedial line

A thin line separating the basal area and the median area of the forewing of Lepidoptera.

 

Costal margin

The leading edge of the forewing of insects.

 

Proleg

A fleshy structure on the abdomen of some insect larvae that functions as a leg, but lacks the five segments of a true insect leg.

 

Seta

A usually rigid bristle- or hair-like outgrowth on butterflies and moths used to sense touch. Plural: setae.

 

Spinule

Minute spines.

 

Spiracle

A small opening on the surface of an insect through which the insect breathes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
Visitor Photos
 
           
 

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Kari Miller

 
 

Polyphemus cocoon?

I thought I'd send this your way and see what you thought. I found it among a pile of pinecone scales (squirrels are messy eaters lol) my mom had raked up from under our pine trees. There is a large oak tree just feet away from the pine trees so that's why I'm thinking it's a polyphemus moth cocoon. I'm in Austin, MN - Mower county. It seems early but I'd guess it's ready to overwinter? Let me know what you think. I'm thinking of keeping it in a container in the garage to see what emerges.

  polyphemus moth  
       
    polyphemus moth  
 

Kevin Steuck

 
 

laying on the shop floor for hours till it flew away. Crazy how large they are.

 
    polyphemus moth      
 

Anoria Zuehlke

 
 

I believe they are mating...

 
    polyphemus moth      
 

Molly and Robert Power

 
 

being careful on our bug zapper!

 
    polyphemus moth      
 

Shay Elam

 
 

This thing is giant and incredible!

 
    polyphemus moth   polyphemus moth  
           
    polyphemus moth      
 

Colin Warren

 
    polyphemus moth      
 

Mike G

 
 

This giant moth was hanging on screen of screen door this morning!

 
    polyphemus moth      
 

Keith Miller

 
 

They are mating.

 
    polyphemus moth      
 

Jodi Magnuson

 
    polyphemus moth      
 

Jeff Johnson

 
 

This is huge!

 
    polyphemus moth      
 

Jim

 
    polyphemus moth      
 

Christine Gerjets

 
    polyphemus moth      
 

Jesse Owens

 
  I found your website when I was trying to identify this moth on our porch...it’s definitely a Polyphemus moth. Very cool! Just wanted to let you know because we live in Isanti County and I see that you haven’t identified them as being seen here yet. Now you can!   polyphemus moth  
           
        polyphemus moth  
 

JoSu

 
    polyphemus moth      
 

S Shroyer

 
    polyphemus moth   polyphemus moth  
 

Bill Reynolds

 
    polyphemus moth      
           
 
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos
 
 

 

 
           
           

 

Camera

     
 
Slideshows
 
Polyphemus Moth - Hodges#7757 (Antheraea polyphemus)
Andree Reno Sanborn
  Polyphemus Moth - Hodges#7757 (Antheraea polyphemus)  
Antheraea polyphemus (Polyphemus Moth)
Allen Chartier
  Antheraea polyphemus (Polyphemus Moth)  
     

 

slideshow

       
 
Visitor Videos
 
       
 

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Leah Starks

 
  Antheraea polyphemus (Polyphemus Moth)
Leah Starks
 
   
 
About

Published on Jun 28, 2019

this male was hanging out on the fence all day! Hennepin County, MN

   
       
 
Other Videos
 
  Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus) Close-up
Carl Barrentine
 
   
 
About

Published on Jul 1, 2013

This lovely Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus), one of the largest moths found in North Dakota, was photographed at the Turtle River State Park, North Dakota (01 July 2013).

 
  Giant Green Caterpillar (Antheraea polyphemus) crawling HD
joe pompili
 
   
 
About

Published on Jul 26, 2012

This video was uploaded from an Android phone.

 
  Polyphemus Moth Lifecycle
LOBAM!
 
   
 
About

Uploaded on Apr 29, 2011

Polyphemus Moth Lifecycle

 
  Polyphemus Moth (female)
Carol Snow Milne
 
   
 
About

Published on Jun 14, 2013

A silly tour of my meadow with Polly the Polyphemus Silk Moth. Eastern Pennsylvania. 6-14-13. Sorry I sound a little "whiny". I am super tired from staying up late and trying to catch her mating. HA!

 
       

 

Camcorder

 
 
Visitor Sightings
 
           
 

Report a sighting of this insect.

 
  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at info@MinnesotaSeasons.com.
Be sure to include a location.
 
  Kari Miller
8/16/2021

Location: Austin, MN - Mower County

I thought I'd send this your way and see what you thought. I found it among a pile of pinecone scales (squirrels are messy eaters lol) my mom had raked up from under our pine trees. There is a large oak tree just feet away from the pine trees so that's why I'm thinking it's a polyphemus moth cocoon. I'm in Austin, MN - Mower county. It seems early but I'd guess it's ready to overwinter? Let me know what you think. I'm thinking of keeping it in a container in the garage to see what emerges.

polyphemus moth

 
John Valo
8/17/2021

It looks just like the images of a polyphemus moth cocoon retrieved by a Google search.

  Kevin Steuck
6/14/2021

Location: Long Prairie, Mn

laying on the shop floor for hours till it flew away. Crazy how large they are.

polyphemus moth

 
  Anoria Zuehlke
6/12/2021

Location: Edina, MN

I believe they are mating...

polyphemus moth

 
  Mikequan
Garrett

5/23/2020

Location: Minneapolis Minnesota

was sitting on the porch for 2 days

 

 
  Shay Elam
6/7/2020

Location: New Hope, MN

This thing is giant and incredible!

polyphemus moth

 
  Colin Warren
6/6/2020

Location: Hennepin (Sibley Park in South Minneapolis)

polyphemus moth

 
  Mike G
5/24/2020

Location: Woodbury / Afton border

This giant moth was hanging on screen of screen door this morning!

polyphemus moth

 
  Keith Miller
5/20/2020

Location: Bloomington MN near 494 and France.

They are mating.

polyphemus moth

 
  Jodi Magnuson
5/16/2020

Location: 55417 Minneapolis, MINNESOTA

polyphemus moth

 
  Jeff Johnson
7/1/2019

Location: Avon, MN, Stearns County

This is huge!

polyphemus moth

 
  Molly and Robert Power
6/26/2019

Location: Albany MN

being careful on our bug zapper!

polyphemus moth

 
  Jim
6/26/2019

Location: Sakahta State Park- LeSeur County

polyphemus moth

 
  Christine Gerjets
6/26/2019

Location: Glenwood MN, Pope County

polyphemus moth

 
  Jesse Owens
6/21/2019

Location: Isanti County

I found your website when I was trying to identify this moth on our porch...it’s definitely a Polyphemus moth. Very cool! Just wanted to let you know because we live in Isanti County and I see that you haven’t identified them as being seen here yet. Now you can!

polyphemus moth

 
  JoSu
6/1/2019

Location: Eagan, Minnesota

polyphemus moth

 
  S Shroyer
5/30/2014

Location: Saint Paul, MN

polyphemus moth

 
  Bill Reynolds
1/31/2014

Location: St. Louis Co MN

polyphemus moth

 
           
 
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