Rothschild’s Giant Silkmoths are among the largest and most beautiful of all moths. With a wide wingspan of 10-12 cm, they are approximately the size of a salad plate! Adult moths in the genus are distinguished by their large size, with transparent, triangular windows in each wing. Even as flashy, beautiful moths, they have various characteristics to assist with camouflage. The windows in the wings allow light to pass through, breaking up the wing profile and helping the moth avoid predation. Their wings also somewhat resemble a dry, decaying leaf with their cryptic patterns. Females have more rounded wings than males. Adults do not feed—after mating and laying eggs, their life’s function is fulfilled.
Rothschildia triloba is a rainforest canopy species, found in the lowlands and foothills from sea level up to 1400 m.a.s.l.. Luckily for us, this species visits our yard every year- at 1100 m.a.s.l..
They are difficult to find since they feed on a wide range of low-density species as host plants, including members of the families Anacardiaceae, Bursuraceae, Euphorbiaceae, Moraceae, Rosaceae, Rubiaceae, Saliaceae and many others. Larvae spin a dense pendant cocoon firmly bound to a twig with a long silk extension. Cocoons are sloppy in appearance, resembling a messy cluster of dead leaves, and are placed low in the understory of the forest, often just 1-2 meters above the ground to avoid predation by monkeys and birds. When the adults emerge from the cocoons, they seek out and mate that same night. Adults are found at very low density as well, likely less than one individual per square kilometer, and therefore rely very heavily on strong pheromones to locate their mates.