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.


Aurivillius aratus_RST098391

An attractive species which occurs in western Africa, in particular, the Ivory Coast.
Bunea aslauga_RST092778

A large, attractive species that occurs in the southern region of Madagascar.
Aurivillius triramis_RST094427

A beautifully-marked saturniid that is commonly encountered along the west coast of Africa. It has also been reported from Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.
Antheraea jana_RST098842

A rare and seldom photographed species that occurs in lowland rainforest in Sundaland and Indonesia.
Antheraea godmani_RST041233

A beautiful, scarce species that is seldom photographed. It is found from Mexico as far south as Panama and the borders of Northern Colombia.
Gonimbrasia (Nudaurelia) krucki

A large brightly-coloured moth found mainly in Tanzania and Kenya.
Ecales imperialis pini_RST055734

A brightly-coloured species found in the pine forests of Quebec and Ontario.
Rhodinia verecunda_RST098463

A medium-sized saturniid found in Taiwan and Guangdong Province in China.
Rothschildia erycina_RST097783

A large attractive saturniid moth that is found in Mexico, Central America as south as Argentina.
Pseudautomeris luteata_RST093387

A South American species with different colour forms. It has been recorded in Paraguay, Peru, and further south in Brazil and Argentina.
Perisomena caecigena_RST092231

A small European saturniid that occurs in Abruzzi Mountains in central Italy and southeast Austria, Slovenia and as far east as Azerbaijan.
Gonimbrasia (Nudaurelia) anthinoides_RST087732

A large, colourful moth with conspicuous eyespots on the hindwings which it displays if alarmed. It flies in Southern Cameroon and Gabon in Central Africa.
Loepa oberthuri _RST093887

A colourful saturniid that flies in Sichuan, Shaanxi, Hunan and probably other provinces in southern China.
Leucanella viridescens viridescens_RST084416

A medium-sized saturniid with conspicuous eyespots on the hindwings. It flies in South America in Brazil and Northeastern Argentina.
Hyalophora euryalus_RST072231

A large species that occurs in British Columbia, Montana and as far south as Mexico. It occurs in a wide variety of habitats including conifer woodland and coastal locations.
Gynanisa maja_RST064492

A highly colourful species with prominent eyespots on the hindwings. It is commonly recorded in many regions in South Africa including Botswana and Zimbabwe.
Epiphora bauhiniae (male)
Eacles imperalis oslari (male)
Eacles imperialis anchicayensis
Citheronia regalis (female)
Circula andrei (male)
Caligula jonasii (male)
Caligula japonica (male)
Automeris excreta (male)
Automeris zephyria (female)
Automeris excreta (male)
Attacus caezar (female)
Argema mittrei (female)
Argema mimosa (male)
Antherina suraka male
Antheraea yamamai (female)
Antheraea polyphemus (male)
Anisota virginiensis pellucidea (male)
Actias sinensis (male)
Actias maenas (male)
Actis isis (female)
Actias isabellae (male)
Actias isabellae (male)
Actias artemis (male)
Actias isis