Paul Smiths Native Species Butterfly House

Moths of the Adirondack Mountains:
Promethea Silkmoth (Callosamia promethea)

Moths of the Adirondack Mountains: Promethea Silkmoth (Callosamia promethea) at the Paul Smiths VIC (16 June 2012) Moths of the Adirondack Mountains: Female Promethea Silkmoth in the Paul Smiths VIC Butterfly House (16 June 2012)
This page is no longer being updated.  For an updated version of this material, see: Promethea Silkmoth (Callosamia promethea).

The Promethea Silkmoth (Callosamia promethea) is a large moth which may be seen in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York in late May and early June. [1] It is also called the Spicebush Silkmoth -- a reference to one of its host plants. This insect is a member of the Saturniidae family, which also includes the Luna Moth, the Cecropia Silkmoth, the Rosy Maple Moth, and the Columbia Silkmoth. Silkmoths derive their name from the fact that the caterpillars of some species spin large silken cocoons in which to pupate. [2] The Promethea Silkmoth is diurnal; it is mainly active between 3:00 to 6:00 PM, although females may fly at night. [3]

Female Promethea Silkmoths are very different from males in appearance. [4] [5] The female Promethea (seen above) has dark brown to reddish wings with tan borders and small white-cream polygons in the middle of each wing. The female Promethea Silkmoth is similar to the Cecropea Moth. [6] The male Promethea, by contrast, is very dark. Males have a bluish-black body; [16] their wings are nearly black with white/cream patterns along the wing margins. [7] [8] The wing span of this moth is 2 15/16 to 3 3/4 inches. [9] The Promethea has rounded wings and feathery antennae. [10]

Most mating occurs in the afternoon, from 4:00 PM to sunset. During the night, female Promethea Silkmoths lay rows of 4-10 eggs on the top of host plant leaves. [11] Host plants include a broad range of plants such as spicebush, sassafras, and lilac. [12] The caterpillar spins a compact cocoon which hangs by a silken stalk from a twig throughout the winter. [13] [14] Adult Prometheas, which emerge in the spring, do not feed. [15]

Promethea Silkmoths favor deciduous woodlands. [16] The Promethea may be found throughout the eastern US and adjacent areas of southern Canada south to the Florida panhandle and west to Minnesota and eastern Texas. [17] [18] [19]

The potential flight period of the Promethea Silkmoth in the Adirondack Mountains is late May to mid-July. In 2012, Project Silkmoth recorded Promethea sightings in late May and early June. [20] These records suggest that the Promethea is somewhat less common in our area than the Luna Moth or Rosy Maple Moth. [21] A female Promethea was present in the Paul Smiths VIC Native Species Butterfly House in mid-June of 2012; the Butterfly House also hosted Promethea caterpillars in late June. [22]


Explore the VIC

The Paul Smiths VIC offers a wide variety of programs throughout the year to educate and inform Adirondack Park residents and visitors about the natural wonders of the Adirondack Mountains. You can help support these programs by joining the Friends of the VIC. More information on Friends of the VIC memberships

Explore the Trails

The VIC trails are free and open to the public, from dawn to dusk, spring through fall. In winter, the trails are open to cross-country skiers and snowshoers for a fee. Day or season passes may be purchased.