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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

Astonish-wing Io Moth Facts Kids Will Love

Read these Io moth facts about this vivid North American moth in the Saturniidae family.

The Io moth (also known as Automeris io) is a vivid North American moth in the Saturniidae family.

They are light green with a pink and creamy white lateral line down either side and clusters of branching urticating spines. An Io moth sting, with these spines, can cause extreme pain and is used as its primary defense mechanism.

The name 'Io' is taken from the mythological Greek Goddess Io, the first priestess of Hera, the beloved wife of Zeus, the god of thunder and lightning, and the king of all gods and men. Gene Stratton-Porter (1921) was a well-known early 20th-century naturalist. He dubbed the Io moth to be the 'Hera of the corn' (literally meaning 'goddess or queen of the corn'). This was a reference to the Greek Goddess Hera and corn is an occasional host plant for Io moth larvae in central Indiana, where the Goddess traditionally lived. When playing hide-and-seek in the cornfields of the Midwest, children were sometimes stung by these North American moths.

If you enjoy these Io moth and Io moth caterpillar facts, do go through our articles on the gypsy moth and the Jerusalem cricket too.

Io Moth Interesting Facts

What type of animal is an Io moth?

The Io moth (Automeris io) is an insect and comes under the general classification of the kingdom Animalia.

What class of animal do Io moths belong to?

The class of animals that Io moths belong to is Insecta.

How many Io moths are there in the world?

No specific information regarding their population is available, but they are not a species that requires conservation.

Where does an Io moth live?

Io moths (Automeris io) are present only in the Nearctic. The reason for this is that there are plenty of host plants in this region. These moths of North America can be found in the eastern side of the United States and towards the west near Texas, Colorado, and Utah. They can be discovered as far north as the south of Manitoba in Canada, Ontario, Quebec, and more. In Costa Rica and the easternmost part of Mexico, they can also be found in the Neotropical region's far north.

What is an Io moth's habitat?

The Io moth (Automeris io) is usually found in temperate regions such as grasslands or deciduous forests. Io moths are a typically temperate genus discovered in various environments such as deciduous woodlands, woods, meadows, orchards, backyards, and gardens. Io moth caterpillars eat leaves or stems and spin cocoons in leaf litter on the earth or in cracks in wood or rocks.

Who do Io moths live with?

Adult Io moths usually live alone in search of a mate. The Io moth caterpillar is gregarious (caterpillars live in groups) and often form lines, 'marching' in a single file, mainly when they are young.

How long does an Io moth live?

The lifespan of this moth is between just one to two weeks once they have emerged from their respective cocoons.

How do they reproduce?

The life cycle of these moths and caterpillars is fascinating. In the humid summer months, adults emerge from their respective cocoons in the latter part of the morning or noon. They stay put until the evening when their wings spread. Females find mates and deposit their eggs on plant leaves, then the eggs hatch after about ten days. Many of the eggs start to hatch within one to three days, and they don't leave until they've all emerged. The larvae, also referred to as caterpillars, undergo five stages over four weeks. Until they experience the stage of being pupae and then onto the stage of spinning cocoons, caterpillars feed constantly. Cocoons become hard and form in around seven to ten days, and they are fragile and easily damaged. Pupae emerge from their cocoon as adult moths after a couple of weeks spent in the cocoon. The exact time depends on the weather and the amount of daylight available. They undergo a form of hibernation in the cold winters known as 'diapause' and they emerge during spring as temperatures start to increase. Northern populations have one generation per year, while populations further south will have several generations per season.

Adults have one to two weeks after emerging from their respective cocoons to discover a mate and lay eggs. Males display a few pre-flight postures, including flexing and flapping their wings before flying away. The females are idle the first night after emerging, and they also display pre-flight postures the second night, but they don't fly. Female Saturniidae moths have unique 'calling' periods when they discharge pheromones to invite their mates. To do this, females shake the ends of their abdomen every five to six seconds to release the pheromone for a brief period. Females seldom mate the night they emerge from their cocoon, although they can call or invite their mates the next night. Calling generally happens in the evening, between 9:45 and 10:30 p.m, when males use their antennae to sense female pheromones, and mating takes about one hour and 30 minutes. In case the temperature drops below 46.4 F (8 C), couples will plan to stay together until the next day's dusk but sometimes males resort to flight after mating if the weather stays mild.

Females lay eggs in groups of 20-35 on the petals or leaves of host plants three to five days after mating, usually on the underneath side of leaves. Females lay these eggs in the evening and during their brief one to two-week lifetime, females will lay hundreds of eggs. Io moths have one generation each year in the north, with adults appearing and breeding between late May and mid-July. Every year, between two and four generations are born in Florida and Texas, farther south. Due to the mild temperatures in Florida, Io moths breed all year.

What is their conservation status?

Their conservation status is of Least Concern.

Io Moth Fun Facts

What do Io moths look like?

Adult Io moths have a wingspan of 2.5–3.5 in (63–88 mm) and are considered medium to large moths. Males and females of this genus have distinct wing colors. Males have bright yellow forewings, while females have dark yellow or brown forewings. Females' forewings can also be broader and more pointed. On their hindwings, both males and females have big spots that resemble eyes; these eyespots are black or brown, with a grey or bluish iris around a white middle.

The female Io moth has eyespots that are usually bigger and rounder than those of the male Io moth. Adults of this genus are possibly polymorphic, which means that different moths of the same species may have different colors. The forewings of Io moths present in the south are typically reddish-brown, but they may also be orange-brown or purple-brown.

The larvae of the Io moths are yellowish or bluish-green, with a red-and-white line running down the edges. They're coated with bristly, stinging spines that can irritate the skin severely.

(*Please note that this is an image of a peacock butterfly, a relative of the Io moth. If you have an image of an Io moth, please let us know at [email protected])

The Io moth caterpillars are light green with a pink and creamy white lateral line down either side and clusters of branching spines.

How cute are they?

Io moths are attractive insects with different colors, large wings, and colorful spots. They may be considered cute to look at by some.

How do they communicate?

Io moths use pheromones to interact while they are mating. To lure males, females emit pheromones, which males track with their antennae. Adults are drawn to the light and are usually seen near lights at night and these adults rely on touch and reveal their wings to expose the eyespots on their hindwings if they are touched. Caterpillars spend a lot of time close to other caterpillars since they can form a line from the front all the way to the back. Every caterpillar's head touches the end of the caterpillar in front of them when queuing. They then shift their heads from the left to the right as though checking on the position of the caterpillar they're following.

How big is an Io moth?

Io silk moths are 2.5–3.5 in (63–88 mm) which are is the same size as the breadth of an average human male hand.

How fast can Io moths fly?

Io silk moths can fly as fast as 56 mph (90 kmph).

How much does an Io moth weigh?

The weight of these moths is not officially recorded.

What are their male and female names of the species?

They don't have gender-specific names.

What would you call a baby Io moth?

Baby Io moths are called larvae or caterpillars, depending upon their stage in the lifecycle.

What do they eat?

Io moth caterpillars consume a lot of leaves and will entirely strip trees of their leaves. They eat a wide variety of plants and, according to some estimates, they consume at least sixty different varieties of plants. Willow trees and other Salix species, Hackberries (Celtis), Redbuds (Cercis), and Hibiscus, Ribes, Pyrus, Prunus, Rubus, Sassafras, and Wisteria species are among their favorites. After hatching, these caterpillars eat their hollow eggshells and their molten flesh. Adults do not really feed because they lack functional mouthparts.

Are they dangerous?

They are not dangerous, but an Io moth caterpillar sting can cause minor irritation and inflammatory reactions.

Would they make a good pet?

Most probably not, as their lifespan is very short, and caring for these delicate insects can be quite the task.

Did you know...

Adults are nocturnal, only flying at night and sitting on tree trunks or branches throughout the day.

Io moth venom is made by secretory cells that are located at the base of their spines.

Io moth stings

Io moth caterpillar stings are not very common. The entire bodies of these caterpillars are covered in venomous spines, which can break off and unleash venom as they reach our flesh. The tips of the spine can remain in the skin. These moths also have spines that can cause quite a bit of discomfort. Battisti et al. theorized in 2011 that when the chitin in their embedded spine tips breaks down in the skin, it may cause an inflammatory response. To treat an Io moth sting you can wrap the affected areas in cellophane tape and then remove the tape (hopefully taking the tips of the s[ines out of the skin with it). If in doubt you should always consult a doctor.

How to get rid of Io moth caterpillars

The easiest and most convenient way to handle them is to gently knock them off the plant that they are living on. Spraying plants that they are eating with a chemical like Dipel or Thuracide will also put them out in a day or two.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other arthropods, including the firebrat or the hobo spider.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Io moth coloring pages.

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