24 June 2011

Antheraea polyphemus

I was absolutely delighted this week when a fellow member of the Southern Wisconsin Butterfly Association asked if I wanted to raise some early instars of Antheraea polyphemus, one of three giant silk moths that live in North America. 

The top photo shows a pair of first instars on their host plant (red oak).  The second photo gives an indication of the relatively fearsome defense mechanisms that the caterpillars use to protect themselves from predation.  They are nevertheless still susceptible to parasitic wasps, so hand-rearing in a protected environment greatly enhances their survival.

By next week they should be larger second instars and I should be able to get some better images.


  1. Saturday night trivia:
    - "Polyphemus" is the Cyclops in Homers Oddysey http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyphemus
    - Can you think of any reason this bug is named after him (one eyed?)
    - Polyphemus was also the name used by the male hero of a novel (cannot for the life of me remember which) for his penis - as in "the one-eyed giant"

  2. To appreciate why this creature was named Polyphemus, you need to see the prominent eyespots on the moth, not the caterpillar.

  3. One of the first moths I "raised" as a kid. I remember how magnificent it was when the adult finally emerged. Looking forward to more photos.

  4. We're raising Polyphemus, Promethia, and Cecropia moths at our nature camp this summer. The kids LOVE looking at them, and are learning a ton while they're at it.


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