Fun Comet Moth Facts For Kids

Moumita Dutta
May 06, 2023 By Moumita Dutta
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Jacob Fitzbright
Fact-checked by Tehil David
Comet moth facts include facts about their interesting adult lifespan.

Discovered in 1847, the beautiful and elusive Madagascan moon moth is among the largest silk moths in the world. They are also known as comet moths because of the unique length of their tail feather that extends beyond like a comet.

The genus name Arkema comes from the four circular spots on their yellow wings which help in camouflage. In Greek, 'Argema' means 'speckled eye'.

The moth Argema mittrei is only found in the rainforests of Madagascar.

They go through a four-step life cycle: hatching from eggs as larvae, feeding as caterpillars, forming a cocoon over their body, and then emerging as an adult moth. This beautiful species only survive for up to six days as an adult, though the young larvae live for around two months before forming a cocoon.

The young moth is born as a caterpillar that feeds extensively on the eucalyptus plants found in the Madagascan rainforests. Being one of the largest silk moths in the world, they are known for their special cocoon and silk structure, but their silk is not of any commercial value.

Since rainforests are subject to heavy rain, the cocoons feature tiny holes that allow the water to drain and prevent the pupa from drowning.

If this is of interest, check out insects like the Luna moth and the Gypsy moth.

Comet Moth Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a comet moth?

The comet moth, or Madagascan moon moth, is a type of moth that is an insect.

What class of animal does a comet moth belong to?

The Madagascan moon moth belongs to the class of Insecta.

How many comet moths are there in the world?

The moth species was only discovered in 1847 and is known to be rare. However, an exact estimate of their numbers is not available.

Where does a comet moth live?

The Madagascan moon moth is found exclusively on the island of Madagascar and is native to it.

What is a comet moth's habitat?

The moth Argema mittrei lives in the rainforests of Madagascar.

Who do comet moths live with?

The caterpillars of the Madagascar moon moth live in groups as this gives them some protection against predators. As adults, they mainly go forth in search of mates.

How long does a comet moth live?

As an adult, the moth Argema mittrei lives for only four to six days. Female moths live longer than males because of more fat content in their bodies. The adults do not have mouths and their sole purpose is to mate. As caterpillars, the young survive for around two months before enclosing themselves in a cocoon.

How do they reproduce?

An adult female Madagascan moon moth often simply sits beside the cocoon, waiting for a male. Without the need for food, there is not much for these insects to do.

The males in the wild are larger and must venture forth to find females to mate with. After mating, the female lays a batch of 120-170 eggs which hatch into caterpillar larvae. Only a few eggs reach adulthood.

The caterpillars grow by feeding extensively on eucalyptus, smoke tree, and other tree leaves. They are extremely soft and can burst if they fall from a distance.

Handlers are encouraged to not touch them once they cross 1.18 in (3cm) in length. After two months, they cocoon themselves into a porous pupa that allows both light and water to pass through. In pupa form, these insects are extremely vulnerable.

Many animals, like lemurs, prey on hanging pupae. After 10-20 days, a yellow comet moth emerges from it, in search of a mate.

What is their conservation status?

Comet moths are native and exclusive to Madagascar which means they are highly affected by deforestation and other threats to their habitat. A significant percentage of the species live in Madagascar and are not found anywhere else in the world.

This makes it crucial to conserve them. The practice of slash-and-burn agriculture in some parts of these rainforests has caused the moths to lose their habitat.

Comet Moth Fun Facts

What do comet moths look like?

Comets are among the largest being, on average, 7.9 in (20 cm) across. Their wings are divided into two parts with a base color of yellow.

The wings have brown dots on them along with brownish specks along the edge. The back end of the moth's wing is extended which serves to throw off vibrations, similar to a bat's echolocation.

They have two feathered antennae on the top of their head. The young caterpillar is green in color with a segmented body. The comet moth pupa looks similar to a tear-shaped mass of silk.

In many ways, they might look the same as butterflies. However, butterflies rest with their wings touching each other on top, whereas for moths the wings remain open horizontally as they rest.

How cute are they?

The Madagascan moon moth is an attractive insect. The feathered antenna along with a bright yellow body and wings does impart a cute look to them.

They are harmless to humans (unless someone is allergic to moth dust) and can be seen resting on plants with their long wings crossed at the bottom. While the caterpillars are also very cute, they should not be touched or disturbed.

How do they communicate?

In caterpillar form, they communicate via vibrations created through anal drumming and scraping. Adult moths have very sensitive hearing and can detect a wide range of vibrations including sounds from humans and bats.

How big is a comet moth?

A comet moth is around 7.9 in (20 cm ) long having a tail span of 5.9 in (15 cm). They are twice the size of an adult monarch butterfly.

How fast can a comet moth move?

No specific data is showing how fast comet moths can move. However, as they are moths, it's safe to say that they aren't the fastest creatures.

How much does a comet moth weigh?

The exact weight of the Madagascan moon moth has not been recorded yet.

What are the male and female names of the species?

Both males and females of the species are known as moths.

What would you call a baby comet moth?

A baby moth is known as a larva which grows into a caterpillar.

What do they eat?

Comet moth larvae feed on leaves from plants like eucalyptus, smoke tree, rhododendron, winged sumac, and other plants from the cashew family. Adult moths do not feed.

Are they poisonous?

The yellow comet moth is not poisonous. However, some people might be allergic to the dust that coats their wings or the feathers present on their antennas.

Would they make a good pet?

Comet moths have been kept in captivity and bred. They make good pets, though one will only see the moth for a few days and spend most of the time with the caterpillar.

As caterpillars, they are quite large and rounded. If one keeps them as pets, be prepared to feed them with copious amounts of leaves as they are voracious feeders.

Did you know...

The comet moth as an adult does not have a mouth or digestive system.

As caterpillars, they get stunned easily and may curl into a ball or latch onto the surface they are on. Their latching mechanism is so tight that if one tries to pry them off, they will burst before coming off!

What does it mean when you see moths?

Since moths are born after transformation in their pupa, seeing a moth is a sign of impending change. For instance, moths are symbolic of rebirth, transformation, and resurrection in Native American mythology. Moths, as per their spiritual definition, indicate that freedom is soon to come.

In some places, moths are seen as a sign of death. The appearance of a moth in one's home means someone might die soon. It's fair to say that moths are interpreted differently in different cultures.

Comparisons with other moths

Aesthetically, the comet moth has some similarities with the luna, or Indian moon, moth. Both have long, extended tail wings, with four circular dots on their wings. However, the Luna moth is white as opposed to yellow.

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 morpho butterfly and the puss moth.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable comet moth coloring pages.

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Written by Moumita Dutta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

Moumita Dutta picture

Moumita DuttaBachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

A content writer and editor with a passion for sports, Moumita has honed her skills in producing compelling match reports and stories about sporting heroes. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Calcutta University, alongside a postgraduate diploma in Sports Management.

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Fact-checked by Tehil David

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature, Master of Arts specializing in Philosophy and Religious Studies

Tehil David picture

Tehil DavidBachelor of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature, Master of Arts specializing in Philosophy and Religious Studies

Tehil David Singh is a fact checker with a Bachelor's degree in English literature from St.Xavier's College, Palayamkottai, and a Master's degree in Philosophy, and Religion from Madurai Kamaraj University. He has a passion for writing and hopes to become a story writer in the future. Tehil has previously interned in content writing and has been a content creator for the last three years. In his personal life, he enjoys singing, songwriting, performing, and writing stories.

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