Common Name: Polyphemus Moth.
Scientific Name: Antheraea Polyphemus.
What to look for? Polyphemus Moths are large and butterfly-like. Their color varies with some brown or tan and others reddish brown. They are most identifiable because they have “eyespots” on their wings. A small round eyespot is located near the middle of each forewing. And an exceptionally large eyespot can be seen in the middle of each hindwing. Each eyespot is edged with yellowish white ring. Near the margin of each wing there is a black line with a light border outside. As caterpillars, Polythemus Moths are bright green with a reddish-brown head.
Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? The Polyphemus Moth will be found here from May to July. They are nocturnal; so, you may see one on an evening walk along our paths.
How big are they? The Polyphemus Moth averages one to two inches in length. And their wingspan is approximately four to six inches. The Polyphemus Moth as a caterpillar can grow to nearly 3 inches in length.
What are their flight patterns? Given a lifespan as an adult of only days, Polyphemus Moths fly with a singular purpose – to mate!
How else do they behave? Polyphemus Moths are nocturnal. They are attracted to lights. When ready to mate, female polyphemus moths emit pheromones that attract males.
What’s for dinner? Butterflies and moths have a different diet during their larval caterpillar phase than they do as winged adults. Adult Polyphemus Moths are unusual in that they do not feed – with a lifespan of only four (4) days, mating trumps feeding! In its larval form, newly-hatched caterpillars eat their eggshells; while older caterpillars eat leaves of a variety of host trees and shrubs including oak, willow, maple, and birch.
Where do they take up residence? The Polyphemus Moth is found across the United States, except Nevada and Arizona. These moths are also found across much of Canada and Mexico. Polyphemus Moths can be abundant in and near forests, in parks and suburban areas, orchards, and wetlands.
When and where do they breed and nest? Remember the lifecycle of a butterfly: (1) eggs, (2) larval state as caterpillar, (3) pupa state in chrysalis or cocoon, and (4) butterfly. The lifespan of an adult Polyphemus Moth is measured in days. Adult Polyphemus Moths mate the day they emerge, and females lay eggs the evening after mating and continue for several nights. Eggs are laid individually or in groups of two or three. The eggs are cemented to the leaf with a dark brown adhesive. The caterpillar will molt five times during its larval stage before finally pupating and emerging as an adult Polyphemus Moth. The full lifecycle of the Polyphemus Moth is only a few months. In southern United States, adults fly April into May and July into August (2 broods); in northern part of range, adults fly from May to July (1 brood).
Where do they migrate? They do not migrate. Rather it overwinters as a pupa in a large, thick, tough, silken cocoon.
Do they make any interesting sounds? No.
Interesting Facts About the Polyphemus Moth:
The Polyphemus Moth is named after the giant one-eyed monster (cyclops) of Homer’s Odyssey, for the big eyespot on each hindwing.
Polyphemus caterpillars are solitary and never sufficiently common to cause significant damage to their host trees.
When threatened, adult polyphemus flip or flap the front wings forward exposing the eyespots on the large hind wing – startling potential predators.
For more information on the Polyphemus Moth and sources of information used in this blog (these are the several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit Butterflies and Moths of North America, Iowa State University’s Bug Guide, University of Michigan’s Animal Diversity Web, and University of Florida’s Featured Creatures.
The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.
Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!