When most people think of moths they tend to imagine tiny flighty pests that want to make holes in all their favourite jumpers. But moth come in all shapes and sizes, and they can be some of the most beautiful insects on the planet. There’s one group of moths that I find utterly enchanting, and this is the Saturniidae, or giant silk moths. There are about 2300 species across the globe. They are large, colourful, furry-bodied, and most definitely do not eat cashmere.
In fact, they don’t eat anything at all as adults- they have only rudimentary mouthparts and guts. They have a pretty rockstar lifestyle the they do all of their eating as caterpillars, getting as large as possible, then pupate into large silken cocoons. When they hatch out, the males search out females with their feathery antennae, detecting the females’ pheromones. They mate for hours, and the males drop dead afterwards, the females laying their abdomen-full of fertilised eggs. They only live about a week as adults.
For many years I have hatched out and sometimes bred these moths, both because they are relatively easy to keep (feeding flower-feeding species in your living room is tricky) and because they are so amazingly striking. For the end of National Insect Week, here is a gallery of pictures of some of my favourite moths:
All images copyright N.Lawrence