A "real" silk moth. Flying mostly at night and spending much of their lives as caterpillars and cocoons, these moths fly under the radar. The largest moths of temperate North America are known as Giant Silk Moths, family Saturniidae. Luna moths, Promethea moths, Polyphemous moths, and Cecropia moths are all native silk moths of the subfamily Saturniinae. Giant silk moths, or saturniids (members of family Saturniidae), are medium to very large moths with stout, hairy bodies and feathery antennae. Giant silkworm moths and royal moths are often brightly colored, which may mislead first-time observers to refer to them as butterflies. This is a guide to the four species of giant silk moths that can be found in Manitoba.

It is a tan-colored moth, with an average wingspan of 15 cm (6 in).

Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus) Click image, use NEXT and PREV to view slide show. The life cycle of a giant silk moth is pretty simple: hatch, eat, grow, pupate, emerge, mate, lay eggs, die; all in the span of one year. Luna Moth ( Actias luna) Wing-span: 8-12 cm. Female antennae are either a thin filament or feathery, depending on species. In late spring and early summer adult silk moths emerge from the cocoons where they have spent winter.

Giant silk moths (Family: Saturniidae, Subfamily: Saturniinae, with 10 species in Canada and the United States) draw their collective name from the fine silk they use to spin their cocoons which serve as protection for the pupal stage in their life cycle. They have only rudimentary mouth parts and eat nothing during their short lives. The silk is white. The most notable feature of the moth is its large, purplish eyespots on its two hindwings. These amazingly large, stunningly beautiful moths are found throughout Massachusetts, but we rarely see them. These moths emerge from their cocoons in June in what are knowns asflights, live only long enough to mate and lay eggs and then die.

Grows to a length of about 7 cm and nearly 2 cm in width. Cocoon: Oval shaped, usually spun with leaves in outer layer, attached to shrub or tree branches.

Polyphemus Moth | Luna Moth | Columbia Silk Moth | Cecropia Moth. Range: Southern and central Manitoba (at least), usually in forested areas.

Like most moths, however, Saturniids hold their wings flat against their bodies when at rest, and usually have stout, hairy bodies.

Cecropia, Promethea, Polyphemus and Luna moths are members of the Giant Silk Moth family, Saturnidae, and some are giants indeed, with wingspreads measuring 4” to 6” (there are classic Greek myths behind those names, and Saturnia, too, so dust off your old Edith Hamilton mythology book from freshman English and look ‘em up).

Giant Silk Moth Family. The commercial "silkworm" moth Bombyx mori) is from a different family (Bombycidae).

Antheraea polyphemus, the Polyphemus moth, is a North American member of the family Saturniidae, the giant silk moths. Adult mouthparts are small or absent, so adults live only a …

Most giant silk moth caterpillars spin and pupate (the process of larvae forming pupae) in silk cocoons, while other species form their pupae in the ground (a pupa, or chrysalis, is a thin outlined shell in which a moth or butterfly forms). Click the images for a series of pictures of each species. Many species have been reared specially for silk from their cocoons to make fabric.

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