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Tulip-tree Silkmoth (Callosamia angulifera)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Tulip-tree Silkmoth

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Image Credit: Alex -icycatelf- Bowen
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Image Credit: Darrel L., taken in Williamsburg, VA
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Image Credit: Bob A, taken in the Catoctin Mountains in Sabillasville, MD
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Image Credit: Kenneth O., taken in Helen, GA
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Image Credit: Dennis E. from Bloomington, IN
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Richly brown and decorative, the Tulip-tree Silkmoth impresses with its generous size, comfortably filling up the palm of a hand.

Updated: 01/17/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Tulip-tree Silkmoths are members of a family known for its striking good looks as well as mammoth size. The green Luna Moth, Cecropia Moth, and Promethea Moth are all relatives. The similarity between the Promethea Moth and the Tulip-tree is remarkable. They look so alike, it is possible that the ones pictured are actually the other. They are both in the same genus, and both show a slight color difference between the sexes (dimorphism).

The Tulip-tree Silkmoth male is dark brown and the female is more orange. Both have a black eyespot in the outer corner of each forewing. All four wings have an ivory or white "T"-shaped mark. The wings are rounded or curved and have a dark brown scalloped line on their ivory-bottomed edges. The inner parts of the wings are all darker in color than the outer parts. The boundary between these sections is clearly outlined in ivory for males and in black for females with a golden gradient. The abdomen is short, hairy, and plump. The antennae are comb-like and wide in the middle, tapering at the tips.

Larvae feed on the leaves of black cherry, sassafras, and tulip trees. The chubby green caterpillar has four red spurs by the head and one yellow spur by the rear. A pale yellow line near the feet runs the length of each side of the body. Adult moths do not eat and focus their time and energy on reproducing. They are attracted to lights at night. Brown and ivory coloring on this moth makes it almost impossible to see when it is resting on tree bark. Its wings remain completely flat so it has a low profile. The zigzag patterns and scalloped edges blend in with the variations on a trunk. Though fond of tulip trees, this species' caterpillar also feeds on the leaves of yellow poplar, paw-paw, red bay, and sassafras trees. Adults are active from mid-spring through the summer and into early autumn in some regions. They are attracted to lights.

The caterpillar is pale brown on top and whitish on bottom. Dark lines and spots decorate its dorsal side (back). Thin yellow rings around segments are sometimes visible. The head color ranges from bright yellow to muted brown with speckles. In the mid 1930's, the Tulip-Tree Beauty caterpillar ate the leaves off a majority of the sassafras trees growing in Connecticut. Damage on that scale has not been seen in these days.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Patterned insect icon
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Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Saturniidae
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          Genus: Callosamia
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            Species: angulifera

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Callosamia angulifera
Other Name(s): Giant Silkmoth
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 80mm to 110mm (3.14" to 4.33")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown; ivory; black; orange; gold
Descriptors: V-shaped dash; black eyespot; curved wings; rounded wings; huge; large; flying; tree pest

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 80mm (3.1in) and 110mm (4.3in)
Lo: 80mm
Md: 95mm
Hi: 110mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Tulip-tree Silkmoth 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 Tulip-tree Silkmoth. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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