I am going to start picking up the pace on my list of species that every kid (and adult) in Mid-Michigan should be able to identify by sight. Species #11 on my list is the Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus). The Polyphemus is the second largest moth species in Michigan. It is easy to identify both as a caterpillar and an adult.
Here it is as a caterpillar. It is identifiable by its bright green color, rows of silver and red spots on each side, yellow stripes connecting the spots, and orange tubercles emerging from the upper surface of the thorax. The bristly hairs should not be touched - they can cause a skin irritation.
|Polyphemus caterpillar - note the orange tubercles, three rows of spots, and bristles|
As an adult the moth may be up to 5 1/2 inches from wingtip to wingtip. The adult is generally brown colored. They are identified by the four large eye-spots - one on each wing. These eye-spots are a defensive measure designed to fool predators into thinking a larger animal in staring back at them.
This first adult moth is a female. Males and females can be distinguished by their antennae. Females have skinny antennae; males have large feathery antennae.
|Female Polyphemus Moth - note the narrow antennae|
This one is a male.
|Male Polyphemus Moth - note the large feathery antennae|
For more information about the Polyphemus Moth please see this post from June 2014.