Saturniidae or silkmoths are one of the oldest families of Lepidoptera. There are approximately 2,300 species worldwide that have been described, however, only a small number produce silk. Saturniids are essentially of tropical origin, with the majority of species occurring mainly in the Americas and Africa, while Europe has only ten native species.
The families of Bombycidae and Saturniidae have been reared and farmed for their silk in China for over 4,000 years. The silk they produce is used in the clothing industry around the world. During the reign of Henry VIth, various attempts were made to establish a British Silk industry, but they all failed.
Many saturniids are highly colourful and vary in size with the largest species, (Attacus atlas) having a wingspan up to 30cm in some individuals. However, the majority of species have wingspans from 2.5 to 15cm. Many possess large, colourful ocular eyespots, mainly on the hindwings, but sometimes on both. The hindwing eyespots are usually concealed when at rest. These are primarily used as a defence mechanism and are normally displayed when the moth is disturbed by a potential predator, for example, reptiles or birds. Others have similar forms of mimicry and take on the shape and colour of withered leaves, which help them blend seamlessly with foliage and ground vegetation.
Most saturniids are nocturnal, with the majority flying only after midnight. However, in many northern regions, males of some species, for example, the Emperor Moth (Saturnia pavonia, the only British saturniid) are diurnal and can be seen on sunny days flying fast over heaths and bogs in search of newly emerged females.
Saturniids have vestigial mouthparts and therefore do not feed in their adult phase. Their lifespan is relatively short with the males usually dying after mating. Females tend to be larger and live a bit longer to facilitate egg-laying.
I have been interested in saturniids for over twenty years and have been lucky enough to have collaborated with other like-minded people, both in a professional capacity in Universities and various societies and organisations from around the world. The enclosed collection contains many images of different species, which I have had the opportunity to see and photograph over the years.
Thompson FRPS FIPF award winning natural history photographer, author, freelance writer, conservationist and entomologist. Specialising in macro, travel, aerial and conventional landscapes nature & wildlife photography. Frequent contributor to the photographic press and other natural history publications. Photography seminars, lectures workshops. Specialist interest in insects especially butterflies, moths, saturniidae, dragonflies, seashore, plants, orchids., fungi and lichens.