Male Small Emperor Moth, Saturnia pavonia (Saturniinae)
Scientific classification Kingdom: Phylum: Class: Order: (unranked): Superfamily: Family: Animalia Arthropoda Insecta Lepidoptera Macrolepidoptera Bombycoidea Saturniidae Subfamilies Oxyteninae Cercophaninae Arsenurinae Ceratocampinae Hemileucinae Agliinae Ludiinae Salassinae Saturniinae

The Saturniidae, commonly known as saturniids, are among the largest and most spectacular of the moths. They form a family of Lepidoptera, with an estimated 1,300 to 1,500 described species worldwide[1] . The Saturniidae include such Lepidoptera as the giant silkmoths, royal moths and emperor moths. Adults are characterized by large size, heavy bodies covered in hair-like scales, lobed wings, reduced mouthparts, and small heads. They lack a frenulum but the hind wings overlap the forewings, producing the same effect of an unbroken wing surface[2] . These moths are sometimes brightly colored and often have translucent eyespots or "windows" on their wings. Sexual dimorphism varies by species, but males can generally be distinguished by their larger, broader antennae. Most adults possess wingspans between 1 to 6 inches (2.5 to 15 cm), but some tropical species, such as the Atlas Moth (Attacus atlas), may boast quite incredible wingspans of up to 12 inches (30 cm). Together with certain Noctuidae (chiefly Calpinae and Catocalinae, such as the genera Ascalapha, Erebus or Thysania), the Saturniidae thus contain the largest Lepidoptera, and indeed some of the very largest insects alive today.



The majority of saturniid species occur in wooded tropical or subtropical regions, with the greatest diversity in the New World Tropics and Mexico[2] , though they are found all over the world. There are approximately one dozen described species living in Europe, one of which, the Emperor Moth, occurs in the British Isles, and 68 described species living in North America, 42 of which reside north of Mexico and Southern California.

Life cycle
Some saturniids produce more than one brood a year. Spring and summer broods hatch in a matter of weeks; autumn broods enter a state known as diapause and emerge the following spring. How the pupae know when to hatch early or hibernate is not yet fully understood, though research suggests that day length during the larvae's 5th instar plays a major role. Longer days may prompt pupae to develop early, while shorter days result in pupal diapause. The number of broods is flexible, and a single female may produce both fast-developing and slow-developing individuals, or they may produce different numbers of broods in different years or parts of the range[2] . In some species – e.g. the Luna Moth (Actias luna) or Callosamia securifera (both Saturniinae) –, spring and summer broods look different, with different genes activated by environmental conditions[2] .
Life stages of Giant Emperor Moth (Saturnia pyri)


Depending on the moth, a single female may lay up to 200 eggs on a chosen host plant. Others lay singly or in small groups[3] . They are round, slightly flattened, smooth and translucent or whitish. Larvae

Clutch of Emperor Gum Moth (Opodiphthera eucalypti) eggs



Saturniid caterpillars are large (50 to 100 mm in the final instar), stout and cylindrical. Most have tubercules that are often also spiny or hairy. Many are cryptic in coloration, with countershading or disruptive coloration to reduce detection, but some are more colourful. Some have stinging hairs[3] . A few species have been noted to produce clicking sounds with the larval mandibles when disturbed (e.g. Saturniini like Actias luna and Polyphemus Moth, Antheraea polyphemus). It has been hypothesized that the clicks serve as aposematic warning signals to a regurgitation defense[4] . Most are solitary feeders, but some are gregarious. The Hemileucinae are gregarious when young and have stinging hairs[2] , those of Lonomia containing a poison which may kill a human.

Unidentified saturniid larva in Brazil

The other caterpillars in this size range are almost universally Sphingidae, which are seldom hairy and tend to have diagonal stripes on their sides. Many Sphingidae caterpillars bear a single curved horn on their hind end. These are actually not dangerous, while large haired caterpillars should generally not be touched except by experts. Most saturniid larvae feed on the foliage of trees and shrubs. A few, particularly Hemileucinae such as Automeris louisiana, A. patagonensis and Hemileuca oliviae, feed on grasses. They moult at regular intervals, usually four to six times before entering the pupal stage. Prior to pupation there is a wandering stage, and the caterpillar may change colour, becoming more cryptic just before this stage[2] . Pupae Most larvae spin a silken cocoon in the leaves of a preferred host plant or in leaf litter on the ground, or crevices in rocks and logs. While only moderately close relatives to the silkworm (Bombyx mori) among the Lepidoptera, the cocoons of most larger saturniids can be gathered and used to make silk fabric. However, larvae of some species – typically Ceratocampinae, like the Regal Moth (Citheronia regalis) and the Imperial Moth (Eacles imperialis) – burrow and pupate in a small chamber beneath the soil. This is common in the Ceratocampinae and Hemileucinae. Unlike most silk moths, those that pupate underground do not use much silk in the construction[2] . Once enclosed in the cocoon, pupae undergo metamorphosis.

Luna Moth (Actias luna, Saturniinae) pupa (right) removed from cocoon (left, note last larval skin)

Adults Adult females emerge with a complete set of mature ova and "call" males by emitting pheromones (specific "calling" times vary by species). Males can detect these chemical signals up to a mile away with help from sensitive receptors located on the tips of their featherlike antennae. The males will fly several miles in one night to locate a female and mate with her; females generally will not fly until after they have mated. Since the mouthparts of adult saturniids are vestigial and digestive tracts are absent, adults subsist on stored lipids acquired during the larval stage. As such, adult behavior is devoted almost entirely to reproduction, but the end result (due to lack of feeding) is a lifespan of a week or less once emerged from the pupa.



Importance to humans
A few species are important defoliator pests, including the Orange-striped Oakworm Moth (Anisota senatoria) on oaks, the Pandora Pinemoth (Coloradia pandora) on pines and Hemileuca oliviae on range grasses. Other species are of major commercial importance in tussah and wild silk production. These notably include the Chinese Tussah Moth (Antheraea pernyi), its hybridogenic descendant Antheraea × proylei, and the Ailanthus Silkmoth (Samia cynthia). Caterpillars of the genus Lonomia produce possibly the most deadly toxin of any known animal.[5] Most Saturniidae are harmless animals at least as adults, and in many cases at all stages of their life. Thus, some of the more spectacular species – in particular Antheraea – can be raised by children or school classes as educational pets. The soft, silken cocoons make an interesting keepsake for pupils.

Systematics and evolution
Not only are the Saturniidae most diverse in the Neotropics in terms of absolute numbers of species. Also, their most ancient subfamilies occur only in the Americas. Only the very "modern" Saturniidae are widely distributed across most parts of the world. Thus, it is quite safe to assume – even in the absence of a comprehensive fossil record – that the first Saturniidae flew around in the neotropical region. The following list arranges the subfamilies in the presumed phylogenetic sequence, from the most ancient to the most advanced one. Some notable genera and species are also included. • Subfamily Oxyteninae • Oxytenis • Subfamily Cercophaninae • Subfamily Arsenurinae (10 genera, Neotropics) • Paradaemonia Bouvier, 1925 • Subfamily Ceratocampinae (27 genera, Americas) • Adeloneivaia • Anisota • Anisota senatoria – Orange-striped Oakworm Moth • Citheronia • Citheronia azteca • Citheronia lobesis • Citheronia regalis – Regal Moth • Citheronia sepulcralis – Pine-devil Moth • Dryocampa • Dryocampa rubicunda – Rosy Maple Moth • Eacles • Eacles imperialis – Imperial Moth • Sphingicampa • Syssphinx • Subfamily Hemileucinae (51 genera, Americas) • Automeris • Automeris io – Io Moth • Coloradia • Hemileuca
Male Citheronia splendens (Ceratocampinae)

Anisota stigma (Ceratocampinae)



• Hemileuca nevadensis – Nevada Buck Moth • Hemileuca maia – Buck Moth • Lonomia • Ormiscodes • Subfamily Agliinae (monotypic) • Aglia • Aglia tau – Tau Emperor • Subfamily Ludiinae (8 genera, Africa) • Subfamily Salassinae (monotypic, Tropics) • Salassa • Subfamily Saturniinae (over 70 genera, tropical and temperate regions worldwide)
Automeris metzli (Hemileucinae)

• Brown, S.G.; Boettner, G.H. & Yack, J.E. (2007): Clicking caterpillars: acoustic aposematism in Antheraea polyphemus and other Bombycoidea. J. Exp. Biol. 210(6): 993-1005. PDF fulltext [6] • Scoble, M.J. (1995): The Lepidoptera: Form, Function and Diversity (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. • Tuskes, P.M.; Tuttle, J.P. & Collins, M.M. (1996): The wild silk moths of North America. Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-3130-1

Female Tau Emperor (Aglia tau, Agliinae)

Further reading
• Burnie, David (2001). Smithsonian: Animal (1st American ed.). DK Publishing Inc., 375 Hudson St. New York, NY 10014. • Mitchell, Robert T. (2002). Butterflies and Moths: A Golden Guide From St. Martin's Press. St. Martin's Press, New York. • Racheli, L. & Racheli, T. (2006): The Saturniidae Fauna of Napo Province, Ecuador: An Overview (Lepidoptera: Saturniidae). SHILAP Revista de Lepidopterología 34(134): 125-139. PDF fulltext [7] (inventory of about 200 Saturniidae taxa) • Lampe, Rudolf E. J. (2010) Saturniidae of the World – Pfauenspinner der WeltTheir Life Stages from the Eggs to the Adults -Ihre Entwicklungsstadien vom Ei zum Falter [English and German] ISBN 978-3-89937-084-3

External links
• • • • • • • • Moth Mystery Solved by Entomologist Laurie Jo Jensen of The Termite Guy in San Clemente, CA [8] Moths of North America: Saturniidae [9] Bombycoidea of Canada [10] Family Classification of Lepidoptera [11] University of Kentucky Entomology: Saturniid Moths [12] Moths (Saturniidae) of the United States [13] Flickr: Photos tagged with "saturniidae" [14] Saturniidae pictures [15]

• How to rear saturniid moths [16] • Saturniidae of Europe [17]

Saturniidae • Saturnia-Homepage [18] • [19] • Kirby Wolfe images [15]


[1] Grimaldi & Engel (2005) [2] Tuskes et al. (1996) [3] Scoble (1995) [4] Brown et al. (2007) [5] http:/ / www. cmaj. ca/ cgi/ content/ full/ 179/ 2/ 158 [6] http:/ / jeb. biologists. org/ cgi/ reprint/ 210/ 6/ 993. pdf [7] http:/ / redalyc. uaemex. mx/ redalyc/ pdf/ 455/ 45513402. pdf [8] http:/ / www. 877termite. com/ resources. php?s=resources& p=general [9] http:/ / www. npwrc. usgs. gov/ resource/ distr/ lepid/ moths/ usa/ saturnii. htm [10] http:/ / www. scib. gc. ca/ spp_pages/ misc_moths/ phps/ bom_e. php [11] http:/ / www. troplep. org/ famlist. htm [12] http:/ / www. uky. edu/ Agriculture/ Entomology/ entfacts/ misc/ ef008. htm [13] http:/ / www. geocities. com/ mothman15/ [14] http:/ / www. flickr. com/ photos/ tags/ saturniidae/ [15] http:/ / www. silkmoths. bizland. com/ kirbywolfe. htm [16] [17] [18] [19] http:/ / www. kiva. net/ ~daylight/ moth. html http:/ / tpittaway. tripod. com/ silk/ satlist. htm http:/ / www. saturnia. de/ http:/ / www. saturniidae-web. de/ index. html

Article Sources and Contributors


Article Sources and Contributors
Saturniidae  Source:  Contributors: Aubrey Osiris, Brian8710, Bunchofgrapes, Camazine, Chinasaur, Demonslave, Deranged bulbasaur, Dyanega, Dysmorodrepanis, Editor at Large, Gdr, HKmoths, HenkvD, Howcheng, Jordan 1972, Kugamazog, MGlosenger, Martarius, Mattz1010, Mdesalas, Meganmccarty, Mohammed al-Khawal, Notafly, Phegda, PuzzletChung, Richard Barlow, Rikoshi, Sarefo, Satyrium, Severo, Shyamal, Sindhu ramchandran, Stemonitis, Taxidermistjake, Termiteguy, TheAlphaWolf, Totakeke423, TwoOneTwo, VooDooChild, Wsiegmund, 27 anonymous edits

Image Sources, Licenses and Contributors
file:Saturnia pavonia 01.jpg  Source:  License: Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0  Contributors: User:Entomolo Image:Great Peacock Moth.jpg  Source:  License: Public Domain  Contributors: Image:Emperor Gum Moth eggs2.jpg  Source:  License: unknown  Contributors: Hoenny, Ies Image:Lagarta2.jpg  Source:  License: GNU Free Documentation License  Contributors: Conrado, Dyanega, Ies, Man vyi, Olei, Quadell, Satyrium Image:Actias luna pupa 2 sjh.JPG  Source:  License: Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 2.5  Contributors: Kugamazog, Rocket000 Image:Anisota stigma.jpg  Source:  License: Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 2.5  Contributors: User:J.D. Roberts Image:Citheronia splendens male sjh.jpg  Source:  License: Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 2.5  Contributors: Dysmorodrepanis, Kilom691, Kugamazog, Rocket000 Image:Automeris metzli.jpg  Source:  License: Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 2.5  Contributors: Pablo Alberto Salguero Quiles Image:Aglia tau female 29 06 2000.JPG  Source:  License: GNU Free Documentation License  Contributors: Jan-Herm Janßen

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