Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What, another Wild Silk Moth?

What started out as a fascination with wildflowers and birds has mushroomed into a curiosity for just about any living thing out there in the natural world. Isn't it funny how that works? It only makes sense, though, since it is all intertwined and dependent one on the other.

So, continuing with my quest to know all that there is around me, I looked up the ID of this moth that I encountered on our deck a while back:

This is an Io Moth (Automeris io), a member of the Wild Silk Moth family
(Saturniidae), subfamily Buck and Io Moths (Hemileucinae) (the first of 3 subfamilies).

It looks like there are about 34 species of moths within the Buck/Io subfamily (in North America) according to Butterflies and Moths of North America.

Remember that Polyphemus Moth that I posted about last week? He also belongs to the Wild Silk Moth family, but to a different subfamily: Giant Silk Moths. Probably the most widely recognized of the Giant Silk Moths is the Luna Moth (sorry, no photo - I actually haven't seen one yet this year!). I would say that this Io Moth is about 1/4 or 1/3 the size the Polyphemus Moth.

The 3rd and final subfamily within the Wild Silk Moth family is that of the Royal Moths. There is one from this subfamily that I would love to see/photograph in particular: the Royal Walnut Moth. Why? Because we encountered that species' freakish caterpillar stage last fall (read my post about the Hickory Horned Devil and you'll see where my bravery ends when it comes to picking up wild creatures).

Once again, another astonishing display of nature's beauty!

When I went to crop this down, I noticed several things. There's a strand of one of our dog's fur on the right wing, just above the eyespot; that right eyespot looks a little smudged; and the left wing looks a little wet. Hmmmm... now that I think about it, this moth did quite a bit of fluttering around before I got him where I wanted him for photographing, and one of the places he landed was right in front of Emmett, who gave him a big lick, so that would explain his roughed-up appearance. Mystery solved!

He landed on my pants leg

On my finger. He tickled me!

He also left behind some fuzz on my fingers. I put my lens cap back on my camera, then I noticed moth gunk on the cap, so I had to take a picture of said gunk on said lens cap.


Kelly said...

...really cool post. I'm enjoying learning about moths and butterflies too. You've done a lot of research!! This guy is beautiful!!

Jim McCormac said...

Beautiful Io, Heather - thanks for sharing that. Moths are an endless source of fascination for me, too, and the more I learn of them the more I get hooked.

Studies have been done that demonstrated that those false eyes on the Io effectively spook predators. A titmouse or whatever spots the moth, bounds up to investigate the potential meal, and the moth rapidly flashes its wings open. Its as if a giant set of eyes popped right into the bird's face and off it goes, likely to never mess with anything that looks like that again!


Kim said...

How cool!! The moth is awesome looking.

Heather said...

Kelly - They really are interesting creatures, and beautiful to boot. The Moth and Butterfly site is really very helpful w/the info.

Jim - Do you know if it's the false eyes on just the Io's that have been proven to be such effective deterrents, or is that the case for other moths with eye spots, too (like Polyphemus or Luna)? I guess in proportion to the moth itself, these eye spots might seem particularly frightening (i.e. the eye spots on the Poly or Luna are relatively small compared to the wings, and maybe not as startling).

Kim - Thanks! I like this one a lot because it's coloring is so bright and beautiful.

Monika said...

Heather - it's fun to follow along your investigations as we both branch out from birds and wildflowers to other flora and fauna as well! Spectacular moth. I've never seen anything like it in person!

Creative Cards said...

Ohhh great post Heather..I really enjoyed this one!! The colors of this moth are truely breathtaking. He came to the right house...lovely

Unknown said...

Hi Heather,
I've finally had an opportunity to look at your blog. Really amazing!

RuthieJ said...

What great pictures of this gorgeous moth Heather! I've seen them before here in Minnesota, but they aren't common. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Jim McCormac said...


I think that the development of eye spots as a predator deterrent is a ploy used in many moths species, although the Io is certainly one of the more dramatic.

Check out the underwing moths sometime. They don't have the eyespots but rather bright salmon or yellow coloration that is normally concealed, and it's thought that when they suddenly display these colors it also startles predators.


Heather said...

Monika - I'm glad you're enjoying my "non-bird" posts. It is fun to share all that you learn about these different things. It's like we all belong to a virtual Nature Explorer's Club!

Crista - This is certainly the most colorful moth I've ever seen. I'm glad he stopped by our house.

Eleanor - Thank you so much for stopping by!

Ruthie - I looked at the range map for the state of Ohio, and seem to remember them having been reported in maybe half of the counties in the state.

Jim - Thanks for the follow-up. I was able to check out the underwings on that Polyphemus, and yes, they were kind of salmon-colored.

Gabrielle said...

Lucky! How fantastic to see this up close and in person.

Heather said...

Gabrielle - I count my blessings every day for all the cool and beautiful things I see around here