Madagascan Sunset Moth (Chrysiridia rhipheus)

Scientific Classification

Domain: Eukaryota

Kingdom: Animalia

Subkingdom: Metazoa

Phylum: Arthropoda

Class: Insecta

Order: Lepidoptera

Suborder: Heterocera

Family: Uraniidae

Subfamily: Uraniinae

Genus: Chrysiridia

Species: Chrysiridia rhipheus

Common names: Madagascan Sunset Moth, (erroneously Madagascan Sunset Butterfly, Noble Butterfly, King Butterfly)

Chrysiridia rhipheus (Madagascan Sunset Moth)

Photo Credit: John Sullivan CC BY-NC 4.0 Original No alterations made.


Adult Moth (imago): Viewed from above (dorsal side) Chrysiridia rhipheus is black to very dark brown with red, blue, green and yellow markings on the wings. These are not true colour pigments but are caused by light refraction on wing scales (iridescence). There is a white fringe on wing edges, most noticeable on the hindwings. The moth has six tails, one or more are often lost due to predation attempts or general accidents. Pattern aberrations are common.

The body and internal wing edges are covered with setae, a substance with fur-like properties although it is not actually fur and evolved separately. There is little difference between genders but unusual temperatures experienced during the pupal stage can have a marked affect on colour patterning. Body colour is dark brown, lightening towards the thorax and abdomen.

Viewed from below (ventral side) wing patterns are similar to dorsal views. Body colour is greyish brown, with reddish brown setae present around the thorax.

Imagines have a wingspan measuring from 7 to 11 centimetres. Size is influenced by the altitude larvae grow and pupate at: generally, the higher the habitat the larger the moth.

Antennae are not feathered and taper to a point without culminating in a club-like structure.

Cocoon (chrysalis): Chrysiridia rhipheus cocoons are an open silk mesh container. The developing larva can be seen inside the cocoon and changes colour as it develops into an adult moth.

Larva (caterpillar): Largely white or cream with speckled black markings. More black towards the anterior with an orange head. Long, spaded, black setae protrude from the body. Undersides and feet are orange.

4th instar Chrysiridia rhipheus larva (caterpillar).

Photo Credit: Dclees. Public domain.