Emperor moth (Saturnia pavonia)

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Female emperor moth
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Emperor moth fact file

Emperor moth description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumArthropoda
ClassInsecta
OrderLepidoptera
FamilySaturniidae
GenusSaturnia

The adult emperor moth (Saturnia pavonia) is a spectacular insect. Males have a complex pattern of grey, dark brown and orange markings on their upper forewings, with prominent eye spots, coloured black and yellow resembling the eyes of an owl. There are similar eye spots on the upper hindwing, these set against an orange background. Females also have the eye spots but set against a background that is a combination of buff-grey and white patterns. Both sexes have long fur on the thorax. When fully-grown, the caterpillars are handsome creatures, green with black bands around each segment of their body. They are also covered with pinkish or orange lumps, from which grow tufts of black hairs.

Size
Female wingspan: 35 – 41 mm
Male wingspan: 27 – 32 mm
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Emperor moth biology

The adult emperor moths are only on the wing for a couple of months at the most, and during this time they do not feed. They appear in April and are day-flying, the males flying about rapidly in their search for females. Females rest during daytime and an un-mated female can attract a large number of males if she is found resting.

Having mated, the females fly off in the early part of the night to lay their eggs in batches on a number of different species of plants. These include meadow sweet, heather, hawthorn, bramble and birch. The caterpillars hatch in late May and initially feed in groups. They overwinter as pupae.

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Emperor moth range

The species is well distributed throughout the British Isles including the Channel Islands, the Scottish Western Isles and Ireland.

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Emperor moth habitat

Emperor moths prefer open scrub habitat on heathland, moorland, fens, along field margins and hedgerows, woodland rides and sand dunes.

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Emperor moth status

The emperor moth is common in the UK

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Emperor moth threats

The emperor moth is a common species and not considered threatened in the UK.

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Emperor moth conservation

There are currently no conservation programmes for the emperor moth.

There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Pupae
Stage in an insect’s development when huge changes occur, which reorganise the larval form into the adult form. In butterflies the pupa is also called a chrysalis.
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References

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Image credit

Female emperor moth  
Female emperor moth

© Irvine Cushing / gettyimages.com

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