Comet Moth (Argema mittrei)
The Comet moth indigenous to Madagascar’s rainforests was described in 1847 by French entomologist Félix Édouard Guérin-Méneville. Though reared in captivity, their numbers remain endangered in the wild because of habitat loss.
Description and Identification
They hatch in 10-20 days once the egg is laid. The baby caterpillars are voracious eaters, mainly thriving upon eucalyptus leaves. Upon maturation, they turn bright green.
The pupa remains enclosed in a large grayish-white cocoon closely resembling a sac. Because of its rainforest habitat, the pupa could be at the risk of drowning but is saved as the cocoon has many holes in it through which the rainwater seeps out and does not accumulate within.
Sexual Dimorphism: Present
Color and Appearance: When the wings are opened, they are bright yellow with about four reddish-brown eyespots, two on top and two below. The borders are also outlined in brown, while the topmost part of both sides has two brownish lines running parallel. When the wings are closed, the pattern is the same, with two of the four eyespots visible.
The wings are more rounded in females than males. There is a difference in their antennae too, as the males have long, feathery ones, while in females, it is as thin as a thread.
Both the sexes also have long red, twisted tails, with patches of yellow at the end, used as a defense mechanism against bats.
Average wingspan: 20 cm (in males, and is slightly shorter in females); Tail span: 15 cm
Flight pattern: Erratic
Season: May to June
The eggs are small and round, and the female moth lays about 120 to 170 of them.
|Other Names||Madagascan moon moth|
|Lifespan of Adults||4 -5 days|
|Host Plants||Eugenia cuneifolia, Sclerocarya birrea, Weinmania eriocampa, Rhus cotinus, Schinus terebinthifolia, Schinus molle|
|Adult diet||Mostly nectar of their host plants|
Did You Know
- Their name is a result of their long colorful tail that looks like a comet.
- Because of its long wingspan, it stands out as one of the world’s largest silk moth species.
- Argema, their genus name in Greek means “speckled eye”, all because of their eyespots, which are big enough to scare predators.
- This moth previously appeared in the 1000 Malagasy ariary banknote.