Wednesday, September 2, 2009

New Moth in Town

If you like pretty, you will love Argema mimosae, the African Luna, or Moon Moth.

Pacific Science Center’s Tropical Butterfly House recently received a shipment of them and the first have started emerging. Yellow/green in color, with spectacular long tails and eyespots, these nocturnal moths often rest with their wings open and tails crossed.

Members of the Saturniidae family, Argema mimosae are also known as the giant silk moths. True to their name, silkmoths spin firm, dense silken cocoons. They are not the same as the cultivated silk moth. The largest Lepidoptera belong to this family, which includes the Lunas, Atlas moths, Royal moths and Washington State’s own Polyphemus moth.

Argema mimosae is native to South-Central Africa and eats the foliage of Sclerocarya caffra, an edible fruit related to mangos. They have been successfully reared in captivity on several plants from the same family (Anacardiaceae), including poison ivy! So while pretty, they are pretty tough, too.

Adult Saturniid moths have reduced or no mouthparts and live very short lives. This means that you should come see them these beautiful moths soon!


  1. So if Argema mimosae is native to South/Central America, how come it's called the African Luna?

  2. I forgot to add: Our neighbors found a polyphemus caterpillar in their yard the other day. He was a brilliant green, with tiny red dots. And he was a giant!

  3. Sonja - Thanks for the link to the polyphemus caterpillar story! I've never seen those guys as caterpillars but every once in a while we will get a call from someone that has found an adult somewhere in the Seattle area. They are so vibrant and unusual looking that many people assume they aren't native.

    A clarification on the Argema mimosae - they are native to South/Central Africa, not anywhere in the Americas.

  4. Cool moth! It brings up a question. So you know how some closets are just chock full of moth balls to stop those little hole in your clothing? Some moths have no mouths at all, and even the ones that do have a mouth only have a proboscis, which limits their eating ability to liquid things, so how the heck do they make holes in your clothing?

  5. We call the damage "moth" because it is the adult instar that we see. But the larvae DO have chewing mouthparts, and they are the ones making the holes. Adults just lay the eggs for the next batch.

    When humans complain that different generations don't understand each other, they got nothing on moths.

  6. I just had a visitor at the zoo bring in a polyphemus caterpillar to inquire what it was! Thanks to your blog, and thanks to Sonja and Chris, I had an answer for them right away! It was a pretty cool caterpillar!

  7. Next time you visit the Tropical Butterfly House check the emerging window. We now have Polyphemus moth cocoons!They should be emerging soon.