Imperial (Eacles imperialis)
Imperial moth of the Saturniidae family was first described in 1773 by British collector and entomologist Dru Drury. They have a wide range spanning throughout the United States, from Maine to Nebraska, Florida, to Texas.
Description and Identification
In their first instar, the larvae are orange, with black bands running across their body. As they mature, their color gets deeper. By the time these moths reach the fifth instar, they become 7.5 – 10 cm long, turning dark brown, green, or burgundy. There are several morphs of this species. The region surrounding the spiracles is white and yellow for dark brown and green morphs, respectively. The dark brown morphs also have orange patches on their dorsal region, to the side of the spiracles.
They have a dark reddish-brown cylindrical body with pointed spines on the posterior region to help them come out from their burrows.
Sexual Dimorphism: Present
The females are also larger than males with a more prominent abdomen and a simple antenna.
Color and Appearance: When the wings are opened, they appear yellow with brown, purple, and red blotches. When the wings are closed, the color remains the same, the spots partially visible. The male and female imperial moths are a little different from one another regarding color patterns. While the males are heavily marked with patches and spots, the female moths appear more yellow.
Individuals dwelling in the northern parts of their native regions have fewer dark spots than those from the southern regions.
Average wingspan: 8 – 17.5 cm
Flight pattern: Erratic
Season: North: June – August; South: April – October
They are singly laid or even occur in clusters on the sides of the leaves of their host plants. They are flat and spherical, about 3 mm long.
|Other names||Giant silkworm moths, yellow emperor, great-plane tree moth|
|Distribution||Argentina, southern Canada, New England, Florida Keys, eastern Nebraska, central Texas|
|Habitat||Evergreen and deciduous forests|
|Predators||Birds, insects, lizards, bats|
|Lifespan of adults||About 7 days|
|Host plants||Pine (Pinus), oak (Quercus), maple (Acer), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), sassafras (Sassafras albidum), box elder (Acer negundo), Norway spruce (Picea abies)|
|Adult diet||They don’t feed|
Did You Know
- They have twelve subspecies, some of them being E. i. quintanensis, E. i. decoris, and E. i. opaca.
- The imperial moth species are not poisonous, but the larvae have barbs and stinging hairs that can lead to rashes if touched.
- Though not endangered, their numbers are on a decline, particularly in the northeastern parts of the United States and certain regions of New England.