AUTOMERIS IO MOTH (FABRICIUS, 1775)
Male io moth courtesy of Paul Duncan.
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Superfamily: Bombycoidea, Latreille, 1802
Family: Saturniidae, Boisduval,  1834
Subfamily: Hemileucinae,  1834
Genus: Automeris, Hubner, 1819
"Someone to Watch Over Me"
copyright C. Odenkirk
In Canada, the Automeris io moth (wingspan 2.5-3.5 inches) is found in the southeast corner of Manitoba
and in the southern extremes of Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick.
In the United States, this moth ranges in and to the east of the
following states: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, New
Mexico, and Texas. There are populations in the extreme southeast
corner of Utah.
FLIGHT TIMES AND PREFERRED FOOD PLANTS:
In Canada and northern states, Automeris io
is univoltine (single brooded). Most single brood adults fly in late May to early July.
From New Jersey westward, this species is sometimes double-brooded
depending on springtime weather. Caterpillars are frequently found on various species of cherry. Adults fly in late April to May and
then again July and August.
In the Florida Keys and southern Texas
there are three to four broods.
Both sexes are attracted to
lights and fly when air temperatures exceed 45 F or 7 C,
but males appear much more often than females.
Adult moths emerge from their flimsy,
valveless cocoons in late morning or early afternoon and then
climb and hang so that furled wings can be inflated with fluid pumped from the
Eclosion (escape or emergence from the cocoon)
takes only a few minutes and "inflation"
takes about twenty minutes.
Females seldom fly until after mating. Males
begin flying shortly after dusk.
Photo by Dan MacKinnon for Bill Oehlke
SCENTING AND MATING:
Photo courtesy of John Campbell
Female moths extend a scent gland from the posterior region of the abdomen
in an effort to attract males via the wind carried scent (pheromone).
Some breeders have indicated that this species is difficult to mate in
captivity and have best results by putting the unmated female in a cage
or sleeve over the host plant and then introducing a male. Other breeders have
indicated the moths mate readily in captivity even in small cages. Females generally
do not fly until after mating.
OVA, LARVAE, COCOONS, AND PUPAE:
Ova are small and white with a large micropyle rosette that turns
black as the fertile eggs develop. The eggs are usually laid in
clusters of twenty plus and early instar caterpillars are gregarious and
travel regularly in single file processions all over the food plant.
Emerged larvae usually eat a portion of the egg shell and remain close
to the cluster until all eggs have emerged.
The newly emerged larvae
are small and a dull orange color and remain that way for first two instars.
Photo courtesy of John H. Campbell.
Some larvae progress very rapidly
while others from the same egg batch progress much more slowly. Caterpillars
are urticating (have poisonous spines) and remain gregarious (travel and
feed in groups) through all instars, making them
relatively easy to find in the wild by collectors and predatory wasps.
The pain from the venomous spines is quite annoying and sometimes
produces a rash on tender skin.
Bright green or yellow colouration of body and spines is taken on during third instar.The cocoon is made from a dark, coarse
silk and is a very flimsy affair. The dark brown, almost black pupa
can easily be seen through the silk when the cocoon is held up to a
light, and female moths and pupae tend to be considerably larger than
Most larvae will leave the food plant to spin cocoons amongst
litter on the ground. Some caterpillars will use a leaf wrap and the cocoons
will fall to the ground with the autumn leaves.
I usually rear ios outdoors in sleeves and then bring mature larvae indoors
to finish rearing in large plastic tubs. When I see larvae leaving the foliage to crawl around bottom of container, I gently remove caterpillars
to another container filled with several inches of dried leaves. Caterpillars will spin up among
leaves for an easy harvest a week or so later.
Larval Food Plants
Photo courtesy of Mark Lasko
Listed below are 1) the primary food plant(s) used by myself on Prince Edward Island
(listed first), and 2) preferred and alternate food plants listed in Stephen E. Stone's
"Foodplants of World Saturniidae". It is hoped that this alphabetical listing
followed by the common name of the foodplant will prove useful. The list is
not exhaustive. Experimenting with closely related foodplants is worthwhile.
Starred items are successfully used by my father, Don Oehlke, in New Jersey.
Liquidambar styraciflua .....
White sweet clover
Yellow sweet clover
American hop hornbeam
American plane tree/Sycamore
Wild black cherry
Black locust\False acacia
Google is one of my favourite Search Engines and seems to offer the most
extensive listing of Saturniidae, Sphingidae and butterfly sites. Use your back arrow to return to this site after using the
Google search box to the left. Clicking on radio button to left of pei.sympatico.ca will limit your search to this site.
Google lists at least one site for each of the
following Saturniidae genera:
Actias, Adelocephala, Adeloneivaia, Adelowalkeria, Adetomeris, Agapema, Aglia, Anisota, Antheraea,
Antherina, Antistathmoptera, Archaeoattacus, Argema, Arsenura, Athletes (need species), Attacus, Aurivillius,
Automerella, Automerina, Automeris, Bunaea, Bunaeopsis, Caio (need species: richardsoni), Caligula (need species), Callosamia,
Catocephala, Cinabra, Cirina (need species), Citheronia, Citioica, Coloradia, Copaxa, Copiopteryx,
Coscinocera, Cricula, Decachorda, Dirphia, Dirphiopsis, Dryocampa, Dysdaemonia, Eacles,
Eochroa, Epiphora, Eriogyna, Eubergia, Eudyaria, Eupackardia, Eustera, Gamelia, Gonimbrasia,
Goodia, Graellsia, Gynanisa, Heliconisa, Hemileuca, Heniocha, Holocerina, Homoeopteryx,
Hyalophora, Hylesia, Hyperchiria, Imbrasia, Ithomisa, Lemaireia, Leucanella, Lobobunaea,
Loepa, Lonomia, ludia, Melanocera, Micragone, Molippa, Neoris, Nudaurelia, Oiticella,
Opodiphthera, Ormiscodes, Orthogonioptilium, Othorene, Paradirphia, Perisomena,
Periphoba, Polythysana, Procitheronia, Pselaphelia, Pseudaphelia, Pseudantheraea,
Pseudautomeris, Pseudimbrasia, Pseudobunaea, Pseudodirphia, Psilopygida, Ptiloscola,
Rhescynthis, Rhodinia, Rohaniella, Rothschildia, Salassa (need species: lola), Samia, Saturnia, Schausiella,
Titaea, Urota, Usta (need species:terpsichore), Vegetia.
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