Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Imperial Moth

by Donna L. Watkins

The Imperial Moth (Eacles imperialis) has a wingspan of 4-6 inches with yellow wings with purple-gray marks and dark speckles.

© 2006 - Ken Bushell - Imperial Moth
Adults often fly near lights basking in the glow until dawn when not feeding. Unfortunately, many of these moths remain on walls by the lights and are eaten by birds, so they are becoming more rare in areas where a lot of artificial lighting is used.

Females lay large yellow eggs singly or in small groups on upper or lower surface of host leaves. It will hatch in two weeks. The tiny caterpillars begin life with huge heads, spikes and long fine hairs. Some common hosts in our Virginia area are oak, sycamore, elm, hickory, walnut, maple, basswood, honeylocust, and pines.

The larval (caterpillar) stage of this moth is a solitary feeder and is usually found in late Summer and in Fall. Large, colorful, and armed with horns and spines, the caterpillar may look fierce and dangerous; however, it is harmless and does not "sting" or stab man.

Full-grown, it is 3-4 inches long and may be green or brown. They consume a large amount of foilage, but are seldom present in sufficient numbers to cause any serious damage. When they are fully grown, about 42 days, they leave the foliage and pupate in the soil. The large, hard, brown pupa has a flattened forked tail. In the Spring they emerge as adults to begin the process all over again.

Life seems so simple in being a moth.

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