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Species Page - Antheraea polyphemus
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scientific name    Antheraea polyphemus    

common name     Polyphemus Moth

habitat
Deciduous boreal forest in central and northern AB, local in the parkland and prairie river valleys.

seasonality
Adults are found primarily from late May to late June.

identification
No other species can be confused with this distinctive moth. The tan colouration with the transparent eyespots on the fore- and hindwings are unique. There is some variation in the ground colour of the wings, with some individuals tending to a darker grey-tan and little or no pink band on the outside of the subterminal line.
D. Macaulay image and Royal Alberta Museum page

life history
Overwinters as a pupa in a large, silken cocoon. Although the oval-shaped cocoons usually fall to the ground with the host plant leaves they are wrapped in, they can occasionally be found in the winter still attached to the host plant by a small amount of silk thread. These moths typically rest suspended from a branch or twig during the day, with their wings folded above their back. The undersides of the wings are surprisingly cryptic for such a large moth. If these moths are disturbed when at rest, they often drop to the ground, and flap their wings once giving the appearance of a sudden 'jump'. With the eyespots exposed, this makes an impressive display which may startle potential predators. Polyphemus was a giant cyclops in greek mythology, and the polyphemus moth presumably received its name to reflect the large eyespots on its wings.

conservation
Although there is some variation in the year-to-year abundance of this species, it is usually common

diet info
McGugan (1958) reports larval collections from 26 different trees and shrubs, but over half of the records were obtained from White Birch (Betula papyrifera). Larvae also feed on Trembling Aspen, Red Osier Dogwood, and occasionally Pin- and Choke Cherry, Hawthorn, and Serviceberry. Other confirmed host plants in AB are willows (Salix bebbiana and Salix discolor).

range
The polyphemus is the most widely distributed silkmoth in North America, occuring coast to coast in southern Canada and the U.S., south to Arizona. Known as far north as Zama City in extreme northwestern Alberta.

quick link
http://entomology.museums.ualberta.ca/searching_species_details.php?s=263



Comments (11)Add New Comment

David DeRosa (2010-05-19)
Not sure if you are interested in BC sightings but took a photo of this moth this morning on my wooden siding, Castlegar BC.

Barbara Wood (2010-09-07)
In case you''re interested, I took a photo of the caterpillar on Sept. 4 at our cabin at Candle Lake, SK.

Stefanie Harris (2011-06-12)
I encountered and photographed a moth today 35 km South East of Dawson Creek, B.C. that appears similar in many ways to the Antheraea polyphemus but yet has enough differences to keep me guessing as what exactly it is. I have spent several hours pouring over material on native species of British Columbia and Alberta and haven''t found a match. I am a long-time resident of this area and have never encountered a moth quite like this and would greatly appreciate any information you could offer.
Thank you very much.

Monica Keown (2011-06-19)
Another siting in NorthEastern BC. I found one on my deck this evening in the area of Farmington (midway between Dawson Creek & Fort St. John). I too, have lived in this area my whole life, and have never seen this moth before. The "eyes" are blue with yellow surround. A most fasinating find after a day of mushroom picking. I''m wondering if Ms. Harris found her''s in the vicinity around Tumbler Ridge / Kiskatinaw River basin?

McElhinney (2011-07-08)
Found a wounded female in Pocatello Idaho. Nursing it to health. Need info on food and it''s laying eggs. What can I do to help? Please help me help this beautiful moth. 7/8/11

Felix Sperling (2011-07-12)
Unfortunately it won''t be possible to nurse the wounded female back to health. Adult moths don''t really heal the way we think of it in humans. Also polyphemus moths don''t eat anything at all as adults - they live entirely on stored nutritional resources from the larval stage.

Stepp (2011-08-25)
HI, I FOUND ONE OF THESE TODAY, I THINK IT IS FAR AWAY FROM HOME. THE MAP SHOWS IT MOSTLY LIVES IN CANADA AROUND ALBERTA, I LIVE IN FLORIDA. I TOOK A FEW SNAP SHOTS.I THOUGHT IT WAS A BUTTERFLY BECAUSE IT WAS SO BIG! ITS A GOOD 6 INCHES OR SO.

Felix Sperling (2011-08-31)
The species page writeup here is focussed on the specimens in the Strickland museum, and the distribution maps are generated automatically from the data on those specimens. The species itself actually has a much broader range than that, and can be found in Florida. If you try the BAMONA site at http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/ you can find more information on the US distribution.

Candace Simonen (2012-08-08)
Found two of these spectacular caterpillars on an unidentified tree in the center of Michigan's Upper Peninsula in late July. On August 6 they made cocoons. Sorry to hear they are likely to overwinter as cocoons. Won't be around in May/June to see them come out.

Diana Doornbosch (2013-07-23)
We just found a live moth in our yard this morning. It may have been grounded due to the excessive rain during the night. The kids and I set it in a dry warm place and later checked and it was gone. Very cool. We are just 3 miles from Camrose, AB

James Worth (2013-08-29)
I'm pretty sure we have one of these in our tree at sherwood park as a caterpillar. It is in our white birch tree. It measures at 7 cm.

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Related Species Info
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References (2)
Specimen Info
There are 87 specimens of this species in the online database
Map Distribution
Adult Seasonal Distributioncreate a collection histogram with specimens
Specimen List (87)
Related Links
Moth Photographers Group

 

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