Photographs of a 6-inch-long species with large wings and hairy legs flooded social media, causing panic among netizens who described it as a ‘winged tarantula’.
However, despite its great resemblance to an arachnid, it is actually a type of moth (Antheraea polyphemus), which lives in Mexico, United States and Canada.
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They are generally brown in color and have oval yellowish spots on their wings that can resemble the appearance of an eye. As described by the Department of Nematology and Entomology of the University of Florida, United States, this characteristic is used as a defense mechanism of the moth, because when it feels threatened, it flaps its wings and ‘the eye’ scares off its possible predator.
According to the Department of Entomology and Phytopathology at the University of Auburn, also in the United States, these insects feed on the stems and branches of different kinds of trees such as oak, maple, linden, beech, walnut, the willow, among others.
Although the moth does not pose any danger to its habitat, occasionally in California it can be a pest of plum crops.
This species has been the subject of study due to the molecular mechanisms of its sex pheromonesAs this chemical substance released by the female is capable of attracting the male from a distance, especially at dusk.
After mating, the females are in charge of locating the eggs in groups of two or three on the leaves of the trees. Moths found from Pennsylvania to the north produce one brood a year, and those from Ohio to the south have two.
Their caterpillars are usually green in color and when they see a potential predator approaching, they raise the front of their body. When attacked, they use their second defense mechanism, which It consists of producing a click with its jaw and secreting a series of fluids that drive the attacker away.
The cocoons of the particular insect are attacked by squirrels, woodpeckers and when they fall to the ground they also attract mice.
Also, the University of Florida highlights that some Native Americans fill the cocoons of the moth with sand to make rattles, which they tie to their ankles or any branch to use them as musical instruments.