Io Moth

The io moth, Automeris io, is notable for large eyespots in the middle of the hind wings. There are seven species in the US; Automeris io is the only one found in Florida. Its range extends through most of the eastern US. These moths are sometimes also called the corn emperor moth and peacock moth. They feed on a wide variety of trees and bushes.

Io moths are nocturnal. During the day they remain motionless, camouflaged as leaves or leaf litter. When threatened, they flip their forewings forward and expose their eyespots, startling predators.

This little lady is actually a reddish color variant called lilith, which is more common in the southeast U.S., especially Georgia and Florida. (Io moths are usually bright yellow to light brown, with females being somewhat redder in general.) Lilith moths were thought to be their own species for a while, but because the red color was so inconsistent the red morphs were eventually incorporated into io.

Eggs are laid in clusters on leaves and hatch within 8-11 days. Newly hatched larvae eat the egg shells before starting to feed on the host plant. Early instar larvae are gregarious and march together in long lines, following silk thread trails, as they move between feeding areas. The adults are harmless; the spectacular, spiky yellow and green caterpillars are venomous and should not be touched.

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