Identify It > Moth Section > Emperor Moths >
Scientific name: Saturnia pavonia
Size: Wingspan approximately 80mm
Distribution: Found throughout the U.K.
Months seen: April to June
Life span: Adult moth doesn't feed and lives for just 3 or 4 weeks
Habitat: Mainly heathland and moorland
Food: Caterpillars feed on heather, bramble, blackthorn and hawthorn
Special features: The Emperor moth is one of the largest moths found in the UK. It has four very distinctive eye markings - one on each wing.
Male Emperor moths fly by day and the females fly by night. The female Emperor moths have a pheromone gland at the end of the abdomen which emits a scent to attract the male moths. The male Emperors are equipped with feathery antennae, and they use these to detect the pheromones of the female. It's thought the males are able to detect the pheromones from several kilometres away.
The female Emperor moth lays her eggs within a few hours after mating. The eggs take about 10 days to hatch. The Emperor moth caterpillars, seen from May to August, are black and hairy when newly hatched. As they grow they change to green with yellow, pink or orange spots. Each spot is covered with short black hairs.
The caterpillars spend the winter in their brown, pear-shaped cocoon, and emerge as adult moths in April or May. Emperor moths are the only UK members of the silk-moth family.