AppearanceThe young larvae exhibit aposematism through their bright yellow and black-ringed bodies and red heads.
The later instars are darker and “duskier” than early instars. They possess a dark brown head, a soma covered with fine short setae, and black tentacle-like protuberances on the dorsum of the thoracic segments. The intersegmental membrane is colored with thin orange-yellow rings.
The adults are large brown moths that like to rest with spread wings. They are predominantly dull-colored, though some may display complex patterns. The adult wingspan is 100–120 mm.
Naming''Arsenura armida'' is also known as the Giant Silk Moth. It belongs to the subfamily Arsenurinae, consisting of approximately 57 species of Neotropical saturniids found from tropical Mexico to northern Argentina.
DistributionThe Giant Silk Moth occurs mainly in Central and Southern America, from tropical Mexico to southeastern Brazil. They can be found on ''Guazuma ulmifolia'', ''Rollinia membranacea'', and ''Bombacopsis quinatum'' plants. They are also found in Costa Rica in all wildland ecosystems from dry forest to very wet rain-forest.
BehaviorGiant Silk Moth caterpillars are noted for their gregariousness in all phases of larval development. A peculiar phenomenon is the shift in different forms of social behavior from early to late instars.
In early instars, the larvae aggregate at all times in different patches and engage in nomadic foraging. As they age, these moths display a shift to a central foraging location so that larvae feed solitarily at night but, when done feeding, ascend to the canopy at roughly the same time to rest diurnally.
Different hypotheses have been made to try and explain this shift in behavior. In general, caterpillar feeding behavior is shaped by the joint effects of phylogenetic history, larval nutritional ecology, size or apparency, and defensive ecology. Such behavior shifts can be found in other species. For instance, the larvae of many swallowtails begin as cryptic mimics of bird droppings but then switch to aposematism or aggressive mimicry in later instars.
Predation and/or parasitism is hypothesized to have played a role in the grouping behavior and aposematism of the Giant Silk Moth. It is known that the late instar larvae are lethally poisonous to predators such as trogon nestlings, among others, when swallowed. The bright colorings, augmented by the large number of caterpillars in a larval mass, are a visible deterrent to any would-be predators.
HabitatThe Giant Silk Moth occurs mainly in Central and Southern America, from tropical Mexico to southeastern Brazil. They can be found on ''Guazuma ulmifolia'', ''Rollinia membranacea'', and ''Bombacopsis quinatum'' plants. They are also found in Costa Rica in all wildland ecosystems from dry forest to very wet rain-forest.
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