Emperor moth

Emperor Moth

©Malcolm Storey

Emperor moth

Scientific name: Saturnia pavonia
An unmistakeable insect of heaths, sand dunes and grasslands, the Emperor moth is fluffy, grey-brown, with big peacock-like eyespots on all four wings. Males can be seen during the day, but females lie low.

Species information


Wingspan: 5.5-8.0cm

Conservation status


When to see

March to May


The Emperor moth is a widespread, but never very common, moth of heathland, moorland, woodland rides, sand dunes and grassland scrub. A very large moth, the female can have a wingspan of up to 10cm, but the male is smaller, with large, feathery antennae. During the day, males can be seen flying swiftly about and can be mistaken for butterflies. The females rest in low vegetation during the day, releasing a special scent to attract males. The caterpillars feed on woody plants, such as heather, bramble and blackthorn, and overwinter as chrysalides, sometimes for two winters.

How to identify

The Emperor moth is a fluffy moth that is grey-brown with big peacock-like eyespots on all four wings and pinky-red markings at the wingtips. It is the only large moth with eyespots on all four wings. The smaller, eyed hawk-moth, has two large eyespots on the hindwings only.



Did you know?

One of the UK's largest insects, the Emperor moth lives up to its name. It is the UK's only member of the silk-moth family and the caterpillars spin a silk cocoon in which they spend the winter.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts work closely with farmers and landowners to ensure that our wildlife is protected and to promote wildlife-friendly practices. By working together, we can create Living Landscapes: networks of habitats stretching across town and country that allow wildlife to move about freely and people to enjoy the benefits of nature. Support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.