polyphemus moth

(Antheraea polyphemus)

Hodges #


polyphemus moth
Conservation Status

IUCN Red List

not yet assessed


N5 - Secure


not listed




One brood: Late May to July


Deciduous hardwood forests, urban areas, suburbs, agricultural fields, orchards, wetlands


Wingspan: 4 to 6

Photo by JoSu


This is a common, extra large, giant silkworm moth. With a wingspan of 4 to 6 it is one of the two largest moths native to North America. Females are larger than males.

Wing coloration is highly variable. The upperside of the wings is various shades of reddish-brown to yellowish-brown. The median area is dusted with black. The submarginal area is pale. Each wing has a pink, white and black subterminal line and a transparent eyespot in the median area.

The leading edge of the forewing (costal margin) is whitish and dusted with black. The line separating the basal and median areas on the forewing (antemedial line) is pink, white, dark reddish-brown, and black. The eyespot is small and oval. It is ringed with a broad yellow line and a thin black line. There is a blue crescent on the inner edge.

The eyespot on the hindwing is similar but larger and more conspicuous. It is in the middle of a large, round to irregular, black patch. A thin pink line separates the black patch from the basal area.

There are no mouth parts and no hearing organs. Males have feather-like antennae with branches on both sides of the central axis. Females have smaller, less bushy antennae.

The caterpillar is bright green, plump, and up to 3 long. There is usually a steeply oblique yellow line that passes through the breathing holes (spiracles) of abdominal segments 2 through 7 (A2–A7). On A1–A7 there six warts, on thoracic segments 2 and 3 (T2 and T3) there eight warts. There is one wart on each side of the dorsal midline (addorsal), one above the spiracle (supraspiracular), and one below the spiracle (subspiracular). T1 to T3 also have a wart just above each leg-like structure (proleg). The addorsal and supraspiracular warts on the abdomen are flashy silver and red. The subspiracular warts on the abdomen and all of the warts on the thorax are mostly orange and lack silver. Each wart has 2 to 5 minute, white, bristle-like hairs (setae). The prolegs are green. The anal plate is dark and continues as a line across A9. T1 is short and collar-like with a flat, yellow front edge. The head is orangish-brown and is partially withdrawn into T1.

Mature caterpillars can be found from late May through November.


Luna moth (Actius luna) caterpillar is similar. A1–A7 have a yellow transverse line near the trailing edge of each segment, not passing through the spiracle.

Larval Food

Leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs; especially members of the birch, rose, and willow families; but also apple, ash, dogwood, elm, hazel, hickory, maple and oak.

Adult Food

Adults do not feed.

Life Cycle

This moth is short-lived, lasting only 4 days, since it has no mouth parts and does not feed. In Minnesota there is one generation per year. The adults emerges in the spring and finds a mate on the night of the same day it emerged from the cocoon. The male uses its specialized antennae to detect pheromones released by the female. After breeding, the female lays up to 5 eggs either singly or in groups of 2 or 3 on either side of a leaf of a host shrub or tree. The eggs are flattened and light brown.

The eggs hatch in about 10 days. The larvae are solitary feeders. They molt 5 times in 5 to 6 weeks before pupating. In late summer or early fall the caterpillar spins a cocoon in which it will spend the winter. Many caterpillars descend to the ground and spin their cocoon in leaf litter. Most others spin their cocoon in a leaf attached to the host plant, which falls to the ground at the end of the season. In the south some cocoons remain attached to the host plant.


Adults are attracted to lights.

Distribution Distribution Map  

Sources: 21, 24, 29, 75.





Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths)











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Bombycoidea (hawk-moths)


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Saturniidae (giant silkworm and royal moths)










polyphemus moth







Anal plate

In snakes: the large scale in front of and covering the anus. In turtles: one of the posterior plates of the lower shell (plastron). In Lepidoptera: the often hardened shield on the dorsal surface of the last (10th) segment of the abdomen.


Antemedial line

A thin line separating the basal area and the median area of the forewing of Lepidoptera.


Costal margin

The leading edge of the forewing of insects.



A fleshy structure on the abdomen of some insect larvae that functions as a leg, but lacks the five segments of a true insect leg.



A usually rigid bristle- or hair-like outgrowth on butterflies and moths used to sense touch. Plural: setae.



Minute spines.



A small opening on the surface of an insect through which the insect breathes.
























Visitor Photos

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  polyphemus moth    

S Shroyer

  polyphemus moth   polyphemus moth

Bill Reynolds

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Andree Reno Sanborn
  Polyphemus Moth - Hodges#7757 (Antheraea polyphemus)  
  Antheraea polyphemus (Polyphemus Moth)
Allen Chartier
  Antheraea polyphemus (Polyphemus Moth)  




Visitor Videos

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Other Videos

  Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus) Close-up
Carl Barrentine

Published on Jul 1, 2013

This lovely Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus), one of the largest moths found in North Dakota, was photographed at the Turtle River State Park, North Dakota (01 July 2013).

  Giant Green Caterpillar (Antheraea polyphemus) crawling HD
joe pompili

Published on Jul 26, 2012

This video was uploaded from an Android phone.

  Polyphemus Moth Lifecycle

Uploaded on Apr 29, 2011

Polyphemus Moth Lifecycle

  Polyphemus Moth (female)
Carol Snow Milne

Published on Jun 14, 2013

A silly tour of my meadow with Polly the Polyphemus Silk Moth. Eastern Pennsylvania. 6-14-13. Sorry I sound a little "whiny". I am super tired from staying up late and trying to catch her mating. HA!





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Location: Eagan, Minnesota

polyphemus moth

S Shroyer

Location: Saint Paul, MN

polyphemus moth

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Location: St. Louis Co MN

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