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Moths of the Amazon and Andes
Bullseye moth
Automeris liberia CRAMER, 1780
Superfamily - BOMBYCOIDEA
Family - SATURNIIDAE
subfamily - HEMILEUCINAE
Tribe -
Automeris liberia, Ecuador.  Steve Ife
Introduction
There are about 260 species in the genus Automeris. The forewings of most species are brownish, marked with dark lines; and usually have a dark blotch at the end of the discal cell. When they are at rest, with the hindwings concealed, they are convincing dead leaf mimics. Some species instead have greyish forewings mottled or marbled with darker tones, providing them with a very effective bark-like camouflage when they are at rest on tree trunks. The hindwings of most species feature large conspicuous false eyes, set against a yellowish or orange ground colour.
Automeris liberia occurs in Ecuador and Peru.
Habitats
This species is found in a wide variety of forested habitats, at altitudes between about 200-1500m.
Automeris liberia, final instar larva, Manu cloudforest, 900m, Peru Adrian Hoskins
Lifecycle
The caterpillars of most Automeris species are bright green, marked laterally with dashes or stripes of white, edged with red or orange. Along their backs and sides are rows of multi-branched stinging spines, each like a miniature Xmas tree. When young the larvae feed gregariously, but as they get older they gradually disperse and become solitary by the final instar.
Most Automeris species are polyphagous - e.g. the known foodplants of Automeris io include such unrelated pabula as Salix, Quercus, Hibiscus, Azalea, Prunus, Trifolium and Euterpe.
Automeris liberia is known to feed in the wild on Salix, Quercus and Gleditsia.
Adult behaviour
If the moths are molested they instantly drop to the ground, exposing their hindwings to reveal the startling eye-spots. They then arch their abdomens and twitch violently, jerking the hindwings in a series of rhythmical movements to draw attention to the eye-spots. This is an effective scare tactic which usually causes humans to recoil in shock. Birds probably react in a similar manner, and in many cases may be so startled or scared that the moths escape being eaten.

 

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