Splendid Royal Moth

Citheronia splendens

a Splendid Royal Moth, Citheronia splendens, photo © by M. Plagens

Observed in Madera Canyon, Sta. Cruz Co., Arizona, USA. 28 July 2013.

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light setup for collection of moths at night

The larva (caterpillar) is every bit as spectacular as the adult moth. They are sometimes called "horned devils" because of the array of armament that serves to deter predators. The egg looks like a droplet of honey affixed to the leaf of Thurber's Cotton.

If you happen to be driving through a dark, quiet canyon after the summer monsoon rains have started, you have a good chance of spotting an eerie purple light reflected from an old bed sheet. Huh? What's that? It's an ultraviolet light used by an entomologist to attract an amazing array of night-active insects.

The larvae of the Splendid Silk Moth feed on the leaves of Thurber's Cotton (Gossypium thurberi) and occasionally on other plants. By late August or September the mature caterpillars must spin a cocoon within which to spend the winter and to pupate. Not until the start of the following year's monsoon will the new moth emerge. They do not feed during a brief life as a beautiful, flying moth instead devoting all efforts towards mating and finding new plants upon which to lay eggs. Lights divert them from their journey, but allow us to marvel at their beauty.

egg Splendid Royal Moth, Citheronia splendens, photo © by M. Plagens
a Splendid Royal Moth larva, Citheronia splendens, photo © by M. Plagens

Saturniidae -- Silk Moth Family

More Information:

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Arizona Naturalist
Sycamore Canyons
Invertebrates in Arizona's Sycamore Canyons


Copyright Michael J. Plagens, page created 18 May 2014
updated 4 July 2014