Emperor Moth Saturniidae

Saturnia pavonia (Linnaeus, 1758)

Description: Wingspan 55-85mm. Adults are distinctive and unlikely to be confused with any other species. Males are reddish grey with two white patches on the forewings which contain prominent eye spots. There is a suffused white band at the termen of each forewing and a red apical streak. The dark eye spots on the tawny-coloured hindwings are concealed when the moth is at rest but shown when the moth is alarmed or threatened. There is a diffused blackish band towards the outer margins of the hindwings. The female is larger than the male and predominantly grey on both wings and has similar markings.

Sets:  male upperside female upperside

Flight Period: Mid-April to late June.

Status: Common and widely distributed throughout all counties including Rathlin Island.

Ecology: An attractive species that is normally associated with heaths, bogs and moorland. The males are active in sunshine and are often seen flying swiftly and erratically over heather in search of newly emerged females. These stay concealed low down in the vegetation where they can occasionally be seen during the day. Females, which are nocturnal, are also attracted to light in small numbers. The bright green larvae have been recorded in N. Ireland on meadowsweet and heather. The full-grown larvae spin a tough silken cocoon attached to the stems of heather and other low-growing herbage. The pupa overwinters. Like many cocoon spinning species, they are often predated on by small mammals during the winter months.

Bradley & Fletcher number: 1643 Agassiz number: 68.001

Additional information:

UK Moths account


 Thompson, R. S. & Nelson, B., 2003 (Oct 2). [In] The Butterflies and Moths of Northern Ireland