British Wildlife Wiki

The Emperor Moth (Pavonia pavonia) is a moth of the family Saturniidae. It is sometimes placed in the genus Saturnia.


The male has a wingspan of about 60 mm with brown and white forewings marked with red and orange fascia and a bold black and orange eye-spot. The hindwings are orange with a similar eye-spot. The female is larger (wingspan about 80 mm) but less brightly coloured than the male, being generally grey and white but has all wings marked with eye-spots similar to the male.

The male flies rapidly during the day from mid-April to late June looking for the rather sluggish females, which usually only fly at night.

Habitat & Range[]

The species inhabits a range of habitats but is most often associated with heathland and moorland.  It occurs throughout the Palearctic region and is the only member of its family to be found in the British Isles. In Britain, in is fairly widespread.


The caterpillar is black and orange at first, later becoming green with black rings and yellow and red spots. The commonest food plant is heather but the species has also been recorded feeding on a huge range of other plants (see list below). The species overwinters as a pupa within a fibrous cocoon.

Emperor Moth caterpillar

Emperor Moth Caterpillar - Erik Paterson


Recorded food plants[]

Alchemilla Alnus – Alder

Arbutus – Strawberry Tree

Betula – Birch

Calluna – Heather

Cornus – Dogwood

Crataegus – Hawthorn

Erica Fagus – Beech

Filipendula – Meadowsweet

Fragaria – Strawberry

Fraxinus – Ash

Hippophae – Sea-buckthorn

Humulus – Hop

Juglans – Walnut

Lythrum – Purple loosestrife

Malus – Apple

Myrica galePistacia – Terebinth

Populus – Aspen

Potentilla Prunus Pyrus – Pear

Quercus – Oak

Rhamnus – Buckthorn

Rosa – Rose

Sambucus – Elder

Schinus – Brazilian pepper