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Imperial (Eacles imperialis)

Imperial Moth
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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 

Caterpillar

Imperial Moth Caterpillar
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Imperial Moth Larva
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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.

Scientific Classification


  • Family: Saturniidae
  • Genus: Eacles
  • Scientific Name: Eacles imperialis

Pupa

Imperial moth caterpillar
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Imperial Moth Chrysalis
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They have a dark reddish-brown cylindrical body with pointed spines on the posterior region to help them come out from their burrows.

Adult Moth

Sexual Dimorphism: Present

Color and Appearance: When opened, the wings appear yellow with brown, purple, and red blotches. When closed, the color remains the same, and only a part of the spots remain visible. The male and female imperial moths are a little different from one another regarding color patterns. While the males are more heavily marked with the 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.

The females are also larger than males with a more prominent abdomen and a simple antenna. 

Imperial Moth Images
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Eacles imperialis
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Average wingspan: 8 – 17.5 cm

Flight pattern: Erratic

Season: North: June – August; South: April – October

Eggs

Imperial Moth Eggs
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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.

Quick Facts

Quick Facts

Other namesGiant silkworm moths, yellow emperor, great-plane tree moth
DistributionArgentina, southern Canada, New England, Florida Keys, eastern Nebraska, central Texas
HabitatEvergreen and deciduous forests
PredatorsBirds, insects, lizards, bats
Lifespan of adultsAbout 7 days
Host plantsPine (Pinus), oak (Quercus), maple (Acer), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), sassafras (Sassafras albidum), box elder (Acer negundo), Norway spruce (Picea abies)
Adult dietThey 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.
Imperial Moth Photos
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Female Imperial Moth
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Male Imperial Moth
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