The Columbia Moth
Hyalophora columbia (S. I. Smith, 1865)


Photo Hyalophora columbia moth courtesy of Leroy Simon.

This site has been created by Bill Oehlke at oehlkew@pei.sympatico.ca
Comments, suggestions and/or additional information are welcomed by Bill.

TAXONOMY:

Superfamily: Bombycoidea, Latreille, 1802
Family: Saturniidae, Boisduval, [1837] 1834
Subfamily: Saturniinae, Boisduval, [1837] 1834
Tribe: Attacini
Genus: Hyalophora, Duncan, 1841

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DISTRIBUTION:

The Columbia moth (Hyalophora columbia) is found in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, and in southern parts of Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia. In the U.S., these moths are found in the border states of Maine, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

To my knowledge, Hyalophora columbia has not been previously reported on P.E.I., but I did take four females at lights in Montague, P.E.I., on June 13 and 14, 1998, and also in early June of 1999.

I have also watched wild males come in to calling females here on P.E.I. between 5:00 and 6:00 am.

In the wild caterpillars of this species feed almost exclusively on larch (Larix laricina)

Although quite similar to cecropia in appearance, this species is smaller and lacks the red banding in both the fore and hind wings typical of cecropia.

FLIGHT TIMES:

Like all Hyalophora species, columbia is univoltine and usually flies from May to early June depending on spring time warmth.

I have seen female moths at lights in coastal New Brunswick as late as mid July.

Female moths are taken at lights after 10:30 pm, but males, which also come in to lights, are rarely seen because they usually don't fly until just before dawn and will fly away or be eaten by birds as the sun rises.

ECLOSION:

Photo by Dan MacKinnon for Bill Oehlke

Adults usually emerge through a valved-cocoon in mid-morning and must hang to inflate wings properly. However, I have had moths eclose at 3:30 pm and mate the following morning.

I am fascinated by the silver and gold striations (resembling larch bark and dry needles) that caterpillars are able to weave into the cocoons.

SCENTING AND MATING:

Females "call" males from 3:30 am until dawn by emitting an airbourne pheromone. The mated pair usually remain coupled until the following evening. A recent expedition to Nova Scotia (1997) near the end of June resulted in nine males being captured at four different light sources over two nights. None of the males were around at 1:30 am when I retired, and a tenth flew away when the lights (mercury vapour and black) were checked just prior to dawn.

On June 23, 2000 I actually watched wild males fly in to a caged female in Valleyfield, P.E.I. where there is an abundance of larch. The female started calling shortly after 5:00 am and males arrived within ten minutes.

Photo by Dan MacKinnon for Bill Oehlke

Sometimes columbia males will fly in to a female cecropia that is still calling just prior to dawn, not having mated through the night.
Subsequent caterpillars, fed on larch, spin the hybrid-type cocoon between the normal cecropia cocoon (left) and the columbia cocoon (right). Male adults from this cross will be sexually viable, but females will be sterile.

Both males and females of the cecropia x columbia hybrids emerged in June of 1998, looking very much like large columbia. One male mated with a female cecropia and ova hatched, June 26, and were be fed on larch. All larvae from this back cross subsequently succombed to disease. A female hybrid scented and mated but did not deposit any eggs. A subsequent dissection revealed no ova inside the body cavity.

For those who wish to rear this species, the smaller, lighter cocoons tend to be males and they typically emerge two to three days before the females in the larger, heavier cocoons. I overwinter columbia cocoons in loosely lidded waxed cardboard boxes in my refigerator crisper. No misting or freezing is required.

OVA, LARVAE, COCOONS, AND PUPAE:

Female moths lay single eggs (sometimes a pair) near the base of the larch needles. Incubation can take anywhere from 8-19 days, depending on temperature.

Columbia larvae are solitary from time of emergence.

Columbia larvae are very similar to cecropia and other Hyalophora species but may be distinguished by three pairs of enlarged red thoracic tubercles. Cecropia have but two pairs of red-orange enlarged dorsal, thoracic scoli.

Scan of fifth instar larva on larch by Bill Oehlke.

Cocoons are compact and usually woven longitudinally against a branch or trunk from 6-15 feet above the ground. The cocoons have gold and silvery striations resembling the larch bark. Pupae tend to have little room within a smooth, denser inner cocoon.

Click on caterpillar to view a large image and access a list of caterpillar food plants.

Click on notes to view seasonal summaries on columbia.
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Google is one of my favourite Search Engines and seems to offer the most extensive listing of silkmoth sites. Use your back arrow to return to this site after using the Google search box to the left.

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), 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, Syssphinx, Tagoropsis, Titaea, Urota, Usta (need species:terpsichore), Vegetia.

Visit other websites maintained by Bill Oehlke:

AFRICAN SATURNIIDAE
ASIAN SATURNIIDAE
AUSTRALIAN SATURNIIDAE
CERATOCAMPINAE
EUROPEAN SATURNIIDAE
MEXICAN SATURNIIDAE
NORTH AMERICAN SATURNIIDAE
SOUTH/CENTRAL AMERICAN SATURNIIDAE
SATURNIIDAE OF PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND:rearing info.
SPHINGIDAE OF PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
BUTTERFLIES OF PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

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