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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Family: Saturniidae (emperor moths)

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Ecdysozoa > Panarthropoda > Tritocerebra > Phylum: Arthopoda > Mandibulata > Atelocerata > Panhexapoda > Hexapoda > Insecta (insects) > Dicondyla > Pterygota > Metapterygota > Neoptera > Eumetabola > Holometabola > Panorpida > Amphiesmenoptera > Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) > Glossata > Coelolepida > Myoglossata > Neolepidoptera > Heteroneura > Ditrysia > Apoditrysia > Obtectomera > Macrolepidoptera > Bombycoidea

Adult of Pine tree emperor Imbrasia cytherea.


Larva of Pine tree emperor Imbrasia cytherea feeding on Watsonia leaf in fynbos.


Pine tree emperor larva photographed on Watsonia on the Cape Peninsula (photo by P.A. Hulley - copyright).

People eat emperor moth caterpillars

"Emperor moth caterpillars are widely consumed in southern Africa. One of the most difficult periods of the year to survive are the months preceding the harvest. Fortunately during this period caterpillars can be harvested from forest trees which foliate before the start of the rainy season. The larvae can be dried and stored. The most well known emperor moth is Imbrasia belina, the 'mopane worm'. Large quantities are harvested annually and sometimes exported to other countries. A canning factory was set up in South Africa some years ago. However, the unpredictable nature of the occurrence and number of larvae, and unsuccessful attempts at large scale farming have made this and other similar enterprises economically inviable (Oberprieler, 1994). The population dynamics of the species are being studied in order to obtain a more predictable and sustainable harvest with consequent economic stability (Frears, 1995)." (van Huis 1996)

Subfamilies native to southern Africa

List from Vári et al. (2002).




One species native to southern Africa: Argema mimosae*



One genus native to southern Africa: Epiphora







  • VÁRI, L., KROON, D.M., & KRÜGER, M. 2002. Classification and checklist of the species of Lepidoptera recorded in southern Africa. Simple Solutions, Chatswood Australia.