National Moth Week: Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus)

Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus) © Laura Bennett-Kimble
Fun fact: Unlike butterflies, moths have fancy, feathery antennae — what the Xerces Society described as “the most flamboyant in the pollinator world.” A species that exemplifies that characteristic is the burly Polyphemus moth.

Along with the Luna moth, the Polyphemus is one of the larger North American moths, with wingspans varying from 3.5 inches to more than 5.5 inches. Named after the one-eyed giant of Greek mythology, the Polyphemus displays a distinct eyespot on the top of each hind wing.

Also like the Luna, the Polyphemus does not eat as an adult and prefers hanging out in deciduous forests, although it can be seen in suburbia if the right trees are present. Polyphemus caterpillars enjoy munching the leaves of numerous tree species, including Florida’s oaks (Quercus sp.). Adults emerge from cocoons such as the one shown here, and, according to Butterflies and Moths of North America, mate soon after, with females beginning to lay eggs the same day.
Polyphemus moth cocoon © Laura Bennett-Kimble

This member of the North American silk moths (Saturnidae) has not been identified as a pest in Florida, according to University of Florida’s IFAS, since the species just isn’t that common here. In California, however, it can be a pest of some crops.

Celebrate the 8th annual National Moth Week, July 20–28, by sharing your photos through iNaturalist’s National Moth Week citizen science project. For more information, check out National Moth Week.

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