The Io Moth (Automeris io) is a very colorful North American moth in the Saturniidae family. It ranges from the southeast corner of Manitoba and in the southern extremes of Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick in Canada, and in the US it is found from North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, east of those states and down to the southern end of Florida. These particular specimens that we have were bred in Florida, USA.
The caterpillars are gregarious in all their instars, many times traveling in single file processions all over the food plant. As the larvae develop, they will lose their orange color and will turn bright green and urticating, having many spines that cause a lot of pain if touched. The spines have a poison that is released with the slightest touch. The green caterpillars have two lateral stripes, the upper one being bright red and the lower one being white. When the caterpillars are ready, they spin a flimsy, valveless cocoon made from a dark, coarse silk. Some larvae will crawl to the base of the tree and make their cocoons amongst leaf litter on the ground, while others will use living leaves to wrap their cocoons with. The leaves will turn brown and fall to the ground during autumn, taking the cocoons with them. There they pupate, the pupa being dark brown/black. The pupae of the females are considerably larger than those of the males.
Adult moths emerge from their cocoons in late morning or early afternoon. Eclosion (emergence from the cocoon) only takes a few minutes. After eclosing, the moths climb and hang on plants so that their furled wings can be inflated with fluid (hemolymph) pumped from the body. This inflation process takes about twenty minutes.
Adult moths are strictly nocturnal, flying generally only during the first few hours of the night (Fullard & Napoleone 2001). The females generally wait until nightfall and then extend a scent gland from the posterior region of the abdomen, in order attract males via wind-borne pheromones. The males use their much bigger antennae to track down the females. After mating, the females go and lay eggs, then wait to die. These moths, like all moths in the Saturniidae family, have vestigial mouthparts and do not eat in the adult form.
(Larvae image and text Courtesy of Wikipedia.org)