io moth

The Io moth is one of the most recognizable from the family Saturniidae, which contains many of our large and charismatic species.

It has been a month since I have written about any moths. I have been seeing new species each week, but I have been waiting for that special species to come into view. It happened this past Friday morning at the Kankakee River State Park.

I was getting ready for work, when I got a message from park superintendent Stacy Johnson about a unique moth she spotted doing her rounds that morning. I knew immediately it was an Io moth — a moth I have seen posted many places and one I even have printed on my National Moth Week T-shirt. This was a moth I had yet to see in person, however.

So, like a birder chasing a vagrant painted bunting, I rushed out the door to where it had last been seen. When I arrived at the park, I was relieved to find it still sitting just where Johnson had left it.

Io moths are found east of the Rocky Mountains from the gulf to southern Canada. This moth is part of the family Saturniidae, which contains many of our large and charismatic species. The Io moth is one of the most recognizable from this group.

The larva for this moth feeds on many different trees, including hackberry, birches, elms, maples, oaks and willows, as well as many shrubs. What I encountered was a male Io moth. You can tell by the antennae, as they are quadripectinate or comblike on four sides.

The female antenna will be more threadlike. Males also tend to have the yellow coloring where females can be browner … but always check the antennae to be sure.

We will be doing another public moth adventure from sunset to 10:30 p.m. July 20 at the Chippewa campground at the Kankakee River State Park. This date falls under peak moth abundance and National Moth Week. I also will have my moth light at the Bourbonnais Firefly festival on July 19.

Hope to see you at one of the upcoming events.

Reach Trevor Edmonson at trevoredmonson@gmail.com.

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