Another beautiful moth, the emperor moth ‘saturnia pavonia’ is our only silk moth from the family saturniidae.
This was named after the ringed planet Saturn, as many species have large ringed spots on their wings.
All have larvae which spin cocoons, some being used to produce commercial silk, although they should not to be confused with the well-known silkworm moth from a different family, the bombycidae.
Fairly common on Forest heathlands, adults are seldom seen. However, if you are lucky enough to see a newly-hatched female, you might see a procession of the day-flying males attracted by pheromones released by the female or spot males flying on sunny spring days.
Females, however, only fly at night. More likely, the attractive larva will be seen on heather or bramble in summer.
Green when full grown (black early on), they wander on tracks before finding a suitable spot to spin their pear-shaped cocoons, usually on a plant stem.
Look out for these moths from late April to mid-May. The larvae are likely to be seen when full grown about late August.
Photos: Chris Piper