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Io Moth (Automeris io)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Io Moth



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Image Credit: Debby K., taken in Union, ME
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The large and conspicuous Io Moth comes in two shades, one for each gender, and has an equally striking caterpillar that can leave a painful impression.



Updated: 11/02/2020; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
The origin of the name 'io' comes from Greek mythology. Io was one of Zeus' mortal lovers and was also his wife's priestess. Zeus turned her into a cow to hide her from his wife. Male Io Moths are yellow and females are more brown. Both have large and clear eyespots. During the day, they lay still, camouflaged by their surroundings. If startled, they tuck their heads down and expose their eyespots. This defensive maneuver can scare away birds or perhaps confuse spiders into thinking there is more to the creature than they can see. They are nocturnal and adults do not eat, which enables them to focus on reproducing. Females release pheromones that attract males. Lifespans are short once females lay their eggs. Eggs are yellow and white. A fertilized egg develops a black spot and becomes more orange/brown as it matures.

Young caterpillars are reddish orange and covered in spikes. The mature caterpillar is bright green and covered with tufts of green spines like those seen on a prickly pear cactus. These are stinging spines that inject small amounts of venom, which causes skin irritation and pain. A red and a white stripe run along the bottom of the caterpillar's body. It may form its cocoon under a wrapped leaf or near leaf litter by a tree when it is ready to pupate. They feed on elm, maple, aspen, alder, hickory and willow trees as well as others.




General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Hairy insect icon
Patterned insect icon




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Saturniidae
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          Genus: Automeris
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            Species: io
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Automeris io
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 63mm to 88mm (2.48" to 3.46")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown, yellow, blue, black, red, pink, white
Descriptors: furry, hairy, eyespots, large, flying
Relative Size Comparison
Typical Range Between 63mm and 88mm
Lo: 63mm
Md: 75.5mm
Hi: 88mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Canadian territory of Alberta graphic
Canadian territory of British Columbia graphic
Canadian territory of Manitoba graphic
Canadian territory of New Brunswick graphic
Canadian territory of Newfoundland and Labrador graphic
Canadian territory of Ontario graphic
Canadian territory of Quebec graphic
Canadian territory of Saskatchewan graphic
Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Io Moth may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Io Moth. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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