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Emperor (Saturnia pavonia)

Emperor Moth

Emperor moth of the Saturniidae family was described first in 1758 by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in his book 10th edition of Systema Naturae. It occupies the British Isles and is the only member of its family to inhabit that region.

Scientific Classification

  • Family: Saturniidae
  • Genus: Saturnia
  • Scientific Name: Saturnia pavonia

Description and Identification


Emperor Moth Caterpillar
Emperor Moth Larvae

They appear black and orange at the onset, transforming to green upon maturation, with red and yellow spots and black rings.


Emperor Moth Cocoon

The larva pupates in a pear-shaped, light brown cocoon.

Adult Moth

Sexual Dimorphism: Present

Color and Appearance: Males – When opened,the forewings are brown and white with orange and red bands, whereas the hind wings appear orange. The chief attraction that makes it look beautiful is the black and orange eyespots on all four wings. When closed, the overall coloration does not change, though only one or two of the four eyespots may be visible.  

Females – When opened, the fore and hind wings are grey, with white bands to the sides. The eyespots remain similar to that of the males. When closed, the wing pattern remains the same.

On the whole, the females are larger than the males with a neater appearance.

Saturnia pavonia
Small Emperor Moth

Wingspan: Females: 8 cm; Males: 6 cm

Flight pattern: Fast and consistent  

Season: Mid-April – late June


Emperor Moth Eggs

The eggs are small and brown, and the females lay about 75 of them on average at a time.

Quick Facts

Other NamesSmall emperor moth
DistributionEngland, Ireland, Scotland, Wales
HabitatHeathland, moorland,  fen, bog, woodland ridges, field margins, and other scrubby lands
Lifespan of adults8 – 10 days
Host plantsAlnus, Alchemilla,  Betula, Cornus, Erica, Fragaria, Callanus, Rumex, Sorbus, Ulmus, Malus, Pistacia, Myrica gale, Quercus, Salix, Schinus, Sambucus
Adult dietThey do not feed

Did You Know

  • Three subspecies of this moth include Saturnia pavonia pavonia, Saturnia pavonia josephinae, and  Saturnia pavonia colombiana 
  • Though these moths belong to the Saturnia genus, they are sometimes considered a part of the Pavonia genus, which stands incorrect.
Male Emperor Moth
Female Emperor Moth
Emperor Moth Pictures

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