Promethea Moth

Adult female Promethea moth

Scientific Name: Callosamia promethea

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Mandibulata

Class: Insecta

Order: Lepidoptera

Family: Saturniidae (Silk moths)

Genus: Callosamia

We have caterpillars again! We started raising various species of silk moths for educational purposes in 2019. Check out below for more information about these incredible insects.

Promethea eggs typically hatch within 4-5 days after being laid.
Newly hatched Promethea caterpillars next to the eggs they chewed their way from. These caterpillars are gregarious, often feeding in large clusters when they are small.
2nd instar caterpillars. Silk moth caterpillars go through 5 instars (growing and shedding their skin between each instar) before they construct a cocoon.
4th instar caterpillar.
5th instar caterpillar with red nubs.
Two Promethea cocoons clinging to a branch. They will remain in cocoon all winter long, emerging in spring to mate. They do not have functional mouth parts, so they do not live long as adult moths (a few days to a couple weeks).

Fun Facts about Promethea moths!

  • Promethea moths are members of the family Saturniidae, containing around 15 species found in Iowa and more than 2,300 species worldwide
  • In Iowa, Promethea moths are considered “partially double-brooded” which means some moths of each brood will emerge mid-July to breed while the rest will remain in their cocoons until the following spring.
  • Promethea moths are dramatically sexually dimorphic (which is just a fancy way of saying it is easy to see differences between male and female moths) Male moths are much darker in coloration. Male Promethea moths also have larger “bushier” antennae than females.
The female (on the left), contrasts with the male (on the right). Look for the larger abdomen on the female and the “bushy” antennae on the male.
  • Most moths are active at night, but male Promethea moths in particular will fly in late afternoon into early evening – searching for a mate!
  • Female moths are only active at night, waiting to take flight until after dark when it is safer.
  • Female Promethea moths release pheromones to attract a male. Male moths can “smell” a female up to 23 miles away!
  • Promethea moths will lay their eggs on several different host trees/shrubs. Once their young begin eating a specific species, they may not feed on anything else. Their favorite host plants are: Wild Cherry, Tuliptree, & Magnolia.
  • Promethea caterpillars have adorable smiley faces on their butts! (see below)
This caterpillar’s butt is all smiles, all the time.
Our Promethea moths enjoy feeding on native Black Cherry Trees but can be found on other host species such as Tulip tree and Magnolia.

Come out the the Conservation Education Center at F.W. Kent Park during the summer to see Promethea moths (and more!). Look for the black mesh bags around the Conservation Education Center trail loop (map below).

Come visit us! F.W. Kent Park, 2048 US-6, Oxford, IA 52322

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