This family contains the largest moths in North America. They have a large wingspan, small head and hairy body. Larvae usually have clumps of bristles. Caterpillars feed on the leaves of trees and shrubs.
Moths and butterflies are not shown in equal proportion to actual size. Photographs © photographer listed and may not be used in any other format without the written permission of the photographer.
io moth (Automeris io) Photo © Michael Jeffords
The wingspan of this species is two to three and one-fourth inches. The male and female have different coloration. For males, the upperside of the wings is yellow with brown spots, and a faint line can be seen in the middle of the forewing. The line parallels the edge of the forewing. The upperside of the female’s wings is raspberry colored with markings similar to those of the male. The hindwing of both sexes contains a large black spot with a blue and white center surrounded by a yellow band, then a black line followed by another yellow band. The underside of the male’s wings is yellow, while the underside of the female’s wings is red-brown. The large spot is visible on the hindwing of both sexes.
The io moth is found statewide. The adults are active starting in late May and can be found in wooded areas and savannas. The adult does not feed, while the larvae feed on many species of plants. One generation is produced in northern Illinois while two generations are produced annually in the southern part of the state.
polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus) Photo © Illinois Department of Natural Resources
The polyphemus moth is yellow-brown to red-brown and has an eyespot on each wing. Its wingspan is four and one-fourth to six inches. The feathery antennae are larger in the male than in the female. The large larva is green with a few spiny projections and dark markings.
The polyphemus moth may be found statewide in Illinois in forests and urban areas. The adult does not feed. The larva eats the leaves of more than 50 species of trees and shrubs. The pupa is formed in a leaf on the ground, where it overwinters. Two generations per year are produced.
luna moth (Actias luna) Photo © Illinois Department of Natural Resources
The luna moth has large, light green wings with brown and white markings. One long tail is present on each hind wing. The wingspan is four to five inches. Each wing also shows one eyespot. The body is white, and the antennae are feathery. The larva is a spiny caterpillar that pupates in a silk cocoon.
The luna moth may be found throughout Illinois in wooded areas. The adult does not feed. The larva eats the leaves of trees and shrubs, especially walnut and hickory trees. The cocoon is spun on the ground in leaf litter. This stage overwinters. Two generations are produced each year.
cecropia moth (Hyalophora cecropia) Photo © Michael Jeffords
The cecropia moth has a wingspread of four and one-fourth to six inches. Its antennae are feathery and are larger in the male than in the female. The body is rust-colored with some white on the abdomen. Wings are dark brown with one light eyespot surrounded by red and black borders per wing. The larva, or caterpillar, is blue-green with two rows of blue projections on the sides, two rows of yellow ones on the back and two rows of red ones on the thorax. The caterpillar grows to about four inches in length.
The cecropia moth is a nocturnal insect that may be found statewide in wooded areas. As an adult, it does not feed. The larva is a spiny caterpillar that eats the leaves of a number of tree and shrub species. It pupates in a cocoon of silk, and this stage overwinters. The cocoon is attached to a twig.