IO Moth

Automeris io

Last updated: October 20, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit Cathy Keifer/Shutterstock.com

The larvae of the Io Moth has a poisonous and painful sting.

IO Moth Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Arthropoda
Class
Insecta
Order
Lepidoptera
Family
Saturniidae
Genus
Automeris
Scientific Name
Automeris io

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

IO Moth Conservation Status

IO Moth Locations

IO Moth Locations

IO Moth Facts

Name Of Young
Caterpillar
Group Behavior
  • Solitary
Fun Fact
The larvae of the Io Moth has a poisonous and painful sting.
Most Distinctive Feature
eyespots on hind wings
Other Name(s)
Peacock moth
Wingspan
2–3¼ inches.
Diet
Herbivore
Common Name
Io Moth

IO Moth Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Brown
  • Yellow
  • Red
  • Dark Brown
Lifespan
7-14 days
Length
63mm to 88mm
Venomous
No
Aggression
Low

This post may contain affiliate links to our partners like Chewy, Amazon, and others. Purchasing through these helps us further the A-Z Animals mission to educate about the world's species..

View all of the IO Moth images!



The larvae of the Io moth have a poisonous and painful sting.

Summary

Also known as the peacock moth, the Io moth is a beautiful moth native to the North American continent. Arguably one of the most recognizable moth species in the world, Io moths have prominent eyespots on their hind wings. The caterpillar of the Io moth has a unique defense adaptation, a painful venom that protects it against predators. The Io moth used to be widespread across various locations in North America. However, in recent years, the moth has become less common in most of its range. 

IO Moth Species, Types, and Scientific Name

Io Moth (Automeris io) is a colorful moth of the family Saturniidae, a family which includes giant silkworms and royal moths. It belongs to the order Lepidoptera along with other butterflies and moths. The genus Automeris where this moth belongs, is a large genus with 145 species of moths. All species in this genus have prominent eyespots on the hind wings. Most species occur in the Americas, but the Io Moth is native to North America. 

The name Io is derived from the name of a Greek goddess who was the mortal lover of the god Zeus. Lesser-known common names for this moth include the corn emperor moth and peacock moth.

Like many moths, adult peacock moths have a short lifespan, and they do not feed during their short lifespan, which typically lasts between 1-2 weeks. The moth is known to have interesting defenses. The caterpillars of Io moths have stinging spines that release painful venom. Adults also use their hindwing eyespots as a form of defense to deter predators. 

Appearance: How To Identify IO Moth

Moths - Io Moth
A male io moth, with the giant set of eyes that it develops as a sophisticated defense mechanism.

Kevin Collison/Shutterstock.com

Adult Io Moths have an average wingspan of 2.5–3.5 inches (63–88 mm). The species is sexually dimorphic, which means male and female peacock moths have different appearances. Females are typically larger than males. Their antennas are also slightly different. The color of the forewings is also somewhat different for males and females. Male Io moths are yellowish, while females are mostly brown, purplish, or rusty red. 

Io moths rest with their wings flattened to the sides and spread over their backs. When disturbed, they usually part their forewings and hindwings to reveal large eye spots. 

The color of the larvae varies depending on the stage of development. They’re reddish-brown at first, but this gradually turns yellowish-brown as the caterpillar develops. At full maturity, the larvae are typically yellowish-green or bluish-green. Their body is covered in thick bristles with stinging spines that release an irritating venom. 

Mature larvae are yellowish-green to bluish-green with a red-and-white stripe on the sides. They have a lot of thick bristly, stinging spines on their body that cause severe irritation in some people. The pupa of the io moth is typically dark brown. The appearance of the pupa varies depending on whether it’s a male moth or female. Young larvae of this moth stay in groups. However, they become more solitary as they mature and develop into adult moths.

Habitat: Where To Find IO Moths

The Io moth is native to North America. It is most commonly found in the Southern Canada area as well as in the eastern United States. They have also been found in some parts of eastern Mexico. In places where they occur, they live in a variety of habitats. However, you’re more likely to encounter these moths in forests and parklike areas. The caterpillar of this moth is polyphagous, which means it can take various plants as hosts. However, experts think they demonstrate regional preferences for the plants they choose as hosts. 

Diet: What Do IO Moths Eat?

Adult peacock moths, like other members of the silk moth family, do not feed during their short lifespan. They only live for 1 to 2 weeks and do not feed throughout this period because their mouthparts are reduced. The Larvae are known to feed activity on various plants. This includes herbaceous plants, grasses, some deciduous trees, shrubs, and conifers. 

Their choice of host plant varies from one location to the other. In the Ozarks, for instance, Io Moth larvae choose sassafras trees as their host. But in places like Missouri, the moth has been found in more than 30 tree species. 

View all 36 animals that start with I

About the Author

Abdulmumin is a pharmacist and a top-rated freelance writer on Upwork. He can pretty much write on anything that can be researched on the internet. However, he particularly enjoys writing on health, technology and animals. He is inquisitive and currently aspires to become a software engineer. He loves animals, especially horses and would love to have one someday.

IO Moth FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are Io Moths dangerous?

Adult Io Moths are practically harmless to humans. However, the larvae of this insect have spines covering their entire body. The spines are connected to poison glands which it uses as a form of self-defense against humans. Although the poison isn’t strong enough to kill humans, the sting causes a painful sensation similar to a bee sting. Pain typically lasts for a few hours.

 

Is Io moth rare?

Io moths used to be very popular across several locations in North America. However, like many other moths in the family Saturniidae, Io moths are becoming less common in parts of its typical range.

 

How do you identify Io Moths?

Adult Io moths have a wingspan of about 2–3¼ inches. Female members of this species are typically larger than males. Their most notable feature is the presence of a single blue or black colored moth on each hind wing. The males typically have a yellowish color while females can be brown, rusty red, or purplish in color. The caterpillars are green to yellow in color. They have sharp bristles that can deliver a painful sting all over their body.

 

What does a lo moth eat?

Like many species of moths, Adult Io Moths do not feed during their short-lived life. Larvae feed on various trees, grasses and shrubs.

 

How long does an Io moth live? 

Io moths have a short lifespan. Once they emerge from their cocoons, the moth only lives for 7-14 days before dying off.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automeris_io
  2. University of Florida, Available here: https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/misc/io_moth.htm
  3. Butterflies and Moths of North America, Available here: https://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species/automeris-io
  4. Bugwood Wiki, Available here: https://wiki.bugwood.org/HPIPM:IO_Moth

Newly Added Animals

A King Salmon
King Salmon

Largest of the Pacific salmon

A Elephant Fish
Elephant Fish

Elephant fish are known as the Australian ghost shark, but they are not actually a shark species!

Most Recently Updated Animals

A Elephant Fish
Elephant Fish

Elephant fish are known as the Australian ghost shark, but they are not actually a shark species!

A King Salmon
King Salmon

Largest of the Pacific salmon