Return to genus (click here)
Binomial name: Automeris patagoniensis (Lemaire, Smith, & Wolfe, 1992)
Common name: Patagonia eyed silkmoth
Geographical range: United States – Arizona only. Endemic to the Patagonia Mountains (Southern Arizona); thus a very localised and generally rare species, although it can be locally common.
Host plants: Only feeds on grasses in the Poaceae family. In the wild it prefers Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) and bluegrass (Poa species). However, they also accept reeds (Phragmites sp.), bamboo (Bumbus sp., Fargesia sp.) and other common grasses from the Poaceae family, even those not usually found in their natural habitat. In captivity hobbyists have raised it on a variety of decorative/ornamental grasses.
Habitat: Grassy patches in the Patagonia mountains associated with oak and pine forest, around 1300-1600m.
Flight time: Only has one brood, cocoons overwinter. Adults are found from July to August.
Ecology: This single brooded Automeris species flies from July to August in the Patagonia mountains in Arizona that it is endemic to. Here they are found in oak and pine forest around 1300m-1600m; the caterpillars feed on the thick carpets of grasses that often cover the surface between and below the trees. The adults are noctural and only live for 5 to 14 days because they have no functional mouthparts. At night, mainly the males start flying – females act passively and don’t move much, instead they can remain in the same spot for days, waiting for a male to arrive. After pairing the female becomes slightly more active, and she will look for a suitable place to deposit 50 to 250 pale white, oval eggs. Fertile eggs develop a clear black dot (micropyle). Moths do not feed and are short lived (7 to 14 days). The eggs hatch in 2 to 3 weeks time and the social larvae will stay together after hatching, feeding from various grasses in the Poaceae family. As the caterpillars grow and mature they become more social – the final instars are solitary. After spinning cocoons, the pupae overwinter until next year.
Description adult: A medium/small Automeris with rusty, orange(ish) looking adults. Hindwings yellow with a black/greyish ocellus. Females are rather uniformy dark brown/reddish while males are lighter and are more orange/yellowish.
Description larvae: Light green larvae covered in yellowish, branched out, toxic setae – a white stripe runs along their side.
Diapausal state: Overwinters as cocoon. Only one generation a year in nature.
Similar species: By appearance, a few other Automeris species can look similar to patagoniensis – but patagoniensis has a small range and is endemic to the Patagonia mountains. From this geographical location, the moths can not be confused with other species. However a handful of Automeris such as Automeris colenon may look superficially similar.
Dimorphism: Males smaller than females; females are also generally darker than males (males are orange/brownish while females are red/brownish).
Health information: Caterpillars may potentially have urticating spines
Other media: Video available (click here)
Photography: All specimens photographed here were part of a captive breeding experiment in the Netherlands (Europe) and are live specimens. Although captive livestock does not look very different from wild animals, they are not wholly representative of wild animals since captive livestock is prone to exhibiting unnatural variations and sizes. I am a moth breeder from the Netherlands that has bred hundreds of species. This website only features the imagoes of Lepidoptera I photographed and not the early life stages.
Contribute: This database is supported by the public. There are several ways you can help; consider joining our crowdfunding platform, Patreon, and earn rewards in the process, donate, or submit information. Your contribution does not have to cost money however. I am also looking for information and people that can point out any mistakes or grammatical errors; my native language is not English. This helps improve the quality and readability. Please notify me if you find errors or incorrect information.
Legal information: All the pictures and information on this website are the property of Bart Coppens, the sole and only creator of this website, including all the text, pictures and videos. I am a believer in free and accessible information for everyone; it is one of the main reasons I made this public website. Commercial usage and reposting them is however prohibited without my permission – this website contains some of my ‘life’s work’ and I would hate to see it reposted for the personal gain of third parties. For commercial licensing, please contact me personally. I do however support individual fair usage for the purpose of education, identification and other non commercial purposes. Please note that importing exotic, non-native Lepidoptera should be done in accordance with the law depending on where you live and is often completely outlawed (as in most countries). Especially in tropical climates, where the biodiversity is high and insects propagate quickly, it should be discouraged completely. If you live in a place such as (examples) Brazil, India, the Phillipines or even Florida; try breeding native species instead. Foreign insects in these areas can quickly threaten biodiversity by outcompeting native species or may introducing non-native parasites or diseases or by enabling native predators and parasitoids by becoming an additional prey.