Tag Archives: Polyphemus Moth


Polyphemus Moths Mating copyright Kim SmithPolyphmeus Moth update ~ The evening of the day that Jane’s female Polyphemus Moth emerged, she found two males outside the net enclosure eager to get in and meet the female. Amazingly, the wild males had found the captive female by the pheromones that she began to release soon after emerging from her cocoon. The purpose of the male’s large and feathery antennae is to detect the females pheromones. This is the natural biological world functioning as it should, but I still find it so interesting and extraordinary!

Jane opened the door for the males and in the morning, discovered the female and one of the males mating. They stay coupled together for about a day. The female will begin to oviposit eggs almost immediately.

Polyphemus Moth cocoon. The hole at the end is from where the moth emerged. The cocoon is constructed of leaves wrapped around a cushion of spun silk. In the photo you can see the leaf structure and silk.

Polyphemus Moth cocoon copyright Kim Smith


Male Female Luna Moth dorsal Copyright Kim SmithConsidered by many to be North America’s most beautiful insect, a newly emerged Luna Moth will melt the heart of even the most vehement of insectophobes. These male and female pristine beauties were photographed at new friend Jane’s lush garden in Gloucester. Jane, along with her friend Christine (who we met last week), intend to repopulate Cape Ann with members of our native Giant Silkmoth Family. See story here.Male Female Luna Moth underside ventral Copyright Kim Smith copy

In the photo above, the female is in the lower right. You can easily tell the difference because the male has much fuller antennae–all the better to detect the female’s pheromones.

Female Luna Moth Copyright Kim SmithHer abdomen is swollen with eggs. A female Luna Moth will oviposit between 400 to 600 eggs, more during warm weather.

Not quite as large as the Cecropia Moth, nonetheless its wings span nearly four and a half inches. You are most likely to see Luna Moths flying during evening hours and the caterpillars munching on birch leaves, one of their favorite food plants in our region. The adult moths only live for a week and during that time are unable to eat (they emerge without mouthparts). The mature Luna Moth’s sole purpose is to mate and deposit eggs of the next generation.

Many thanks to Christine and Jane for sharing their passion for the gorgeous Giant Silkmoths!

This short film of a Luna Moth in flight was made after finding a Luna Moth at Willowdale Estate. I returned home with the moth and as evening approached it began to quiver and vibrate in preparation for flight. I had been listening to Ave Maria and it was playing in the background so I left it in the video and think the music perfect for this most stunning of creatures.

Jane’s Garden

Blue poppies Meconopsis coyright Kim SmithRare-for-these-parts Blue Poppy (Meconopsis rudis)

Jane's Garden copyright Kim SmithPink Poppies copyright Kim Smith



Cecropia Moth Male copyright Kim Smith

Christine holding male Cecropia Moth

This newly emerged Cercropia Moth, the largest species of Lepidoptera found in North America, was photographed at the home of my new friend Christine. She lives on the backshore of Gloucester and, with her friend Jane, who lives on the opposite side of Gloucester in the Lanesville area, are trying to repopulate Cape Ann with several species of the stunning and charismatic moths of the Saturn Family. These include the Cecropia Moth (commonly called Robin Moth), Luna Moth, and Polyphemus Moth.

Where formerly abundant, these most beautiful members of the native Giant Silkworm Moth group of Lepidoptera are at extreme risk of becoming extirpated (extinct from a region). Christine recalls a time when she could easily find the cocoons in her neighborhood. Now she finds none. The reasons for their decline are severalfold; loss of habitat, the poison in the pesticides sprayed on trees is highly toxic to all insects, and because they are suffering from a parasitism by a tachinid fly (Compsilura concinnata) that was introduced to control the Gypsy Moth. Each and every person on Cape Ann can help these moths make a comeback by making a commitment to not use pesticides and herbicides, for any reason, ever.

Cecropia moth cocoon copyright Kim Smith

Cecropia Moth cocoon

Christine and Jane purchase the cocoons at Magic Wings in Deerfield, MA. They place the cocoons in the screened butterfly house where they have also placed branches of the caterpillar’s food plant (in this case, birch branches). Cecropia Moth caterpillar food plants include the foliage of maple, birch, ash, apple, cherry, and lilac.

Screened butterfly cage-house copyright Kim Smith

If both male and female are present, they will mate almost immediately, within the first day or two, and the female will begin depositing eggs soon after. She releases the eggs on nearly every surface within the enclosure, dozens and dozens of eggs, up to 100!

Cecropia moth eggs copyright Kim Smith

Cecropia Moth eggs

If the eggs are viable, within several weeks, the caterpillars will chew their way out of the egg casing and begin to eat the caterpillar food plants provided.

Perhaps like Christine and Jane who, moth by moth, are trying to save our native Giant Silkworm Moths, you’ll be inspired to raise these North American beauties, too!

More photos to come if a batch of caterpillars emerges.

Stunning Cecropia Moth, landed on my sleeve and warming its wings.

A video posted by Kim Smith (@kimsmithdesigns) on

GMG FOB Ben’s Newly Emerged Giant Polyphemus Moth!

20140323_193347Joey forwarded an email from reader Benjamin, who asks the following,

“I found a silky green worm last August. I put it on my house plant and the next day it had turned into a caccoon. It has been in my house for almost 8 months. It came out on my birthday March 22. So how do I attract a male for my moth? It is the biggest one I have seen.”

Hi Benjamin,

Thanks so much for writing. You have a gorgeous Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus), and it does look like a female in the photo provided as they have thinner antennae than the male.

On the evening of the day the female emerges, she releases a pheromone, which attracts the male. Mating occurs that evening to early morning. After mating, she immediately begins to deposit eggs on the leaves of her caterpillar’s host plant.

Polyphemus Moths are members of the Saturn Family of moths and they emerge only to mate and deposit eggs of the next generation. They do not drink nectar because they do not have mouthparts.

You don’t say in what state you are located so I will provide you with two responses.

If you live in our region, it is far too early for the moth to have emerged and therefore, far too cold to place outdoors to attract a male. She will die if placed outdoors at this time of year.

If you live in a warm climate where there may be male Polyphemus moths on the wing, I have had success with placing a female in an enclosed screened porch entryway. When I wake up in the morning, I often find a male waiting outside the porch door. He’s usually easy to capture. Then I place him in the enclosed area with the female. Hopefully–no guarantees–mating will occur.

If in the future you are so lucky as to find a Saturn moth cocoon, or a caterpillar that pupates and turns into a cocoon or chrysalis, I highly recommend leaving it outdoors in a sheltered spot where you can locate it the following spring. Indoor temperatures are usually much too warm and will trick the moth into emerging too soon. I keep all chrysalisides and cocoons in a terrarium on my front porch (not the enclosed area), where they can experience normal winter and spring temperatures and humidity, and will therefore emerge at the appropriate time of year.

Polyphemus moth caterpillars eat a wide variety trees including willow (Salix), maple (Acer), birch (Betula), and oak (Quercus). Saturn Moths are in sharp decline, largely because of all the terrible herbicides and pesticides people spray on trees, which kill not only bad bugs, but all species of adult Lepidoptera, and their cocoons and chrysalides as well.

Polyphemus Moth Antheraea polyphemus cocoon

Polyphemus Moth Cocoon ©Kim Smith 2012

Giant Cocoon

I am so excited to tell you about this wonderful find. I was walking my pooch Rosie on our usual route down to the harbor and, dangling at eye level from a tree that I have passed a hundred times this winter, there was this structure. Thinking it was what it is, I ran home and checked my Lepidoptera books, and it is the cocoon of a member of the Giant Silk Moth Family, Saturniidaee (not to be confused with the oriental silk moth, Bombyx mori, from which silk fabric is spun).

Hanging from the tip of the American White Birch branch you could easily mistake it for a dry withered leaf, and that is exactly what the caterpillar has done, weaving the leaf around itself to pupate within. The cocoon is quite a good size, approximately two inches in length by one inch in width. The caterpillar pupates during the summer, overwinters in the cocoon stage, then emerges sometime in May or June. Giant Silk Moths live only for about a week. They mate soon after eclosing and then perish. Giant Silk Moths do not have mouth parts; all eating is done during the caterpillar stage.

Giant Silk Moth Cocoon

Several members of the Giant Silk Moth family of caterpillars eat birch leaves.  I am hoping (and it looks a great deal like) it is the cocoon of the simply stunning Luna Moth, however it could also be the beautiful Polyphemus Moth.

Luna Moth ~ Images courtesy Google

Polyphemus Moth ~ Image courtesy wiki