Type locality: Vienna area, Austria.
Holarctic; western Palaearctic region. Pleistocene refuge: Monocentric -- Pontomediterranean refuge.
Wingspan 55--100mm, with females being the larger. Both sexes resemble grey females of Saturnia pavonia, i.e. the adults are not sexually dichromatic.
Unlike Saturnia pavonia, both sexes of this species are nocternal. It favours sunny, dry, bush-strewn steppe or semi-steppe, but can be found up to 1500m altitude in Turkey. A nomadic species whose colonies may shift from year to year. A member of the Pannonic steppe fauna which penetrates central Europe.
Depending on latitude and altitude, April to June as a single generation.
OVUM: Oval, 1.4 x 2.2mm, greyish-white with olive-brown gum. Laid in neat clusters around peripheral twigs of the host, hatching ten to fourteen days later.
LARVA: Full-fed 65--80mm. Monomorphic.
As in Saturnia pavonia, the newly-hatched, 2.5--3mm-long larvae consume part of their eggshells before clustering together. At this stage they are black and bristly. Unlike Saturnia pavonia, the larvae do not change colour as they grow and remain black, but with some fine grey and blue markings. The button-like tubercles become reddish-orange.
The larvae are gregarious right up until the final instar, and can be conspicuous on their shrubby hosts.
Hostplants. In Europe, polyphagous on Prunus (P. spinosa), wild roses (Rosa), hawthorns (Crataegus), elms (Ulmus), alders (Alnus), willows (Salix), poplars (Populus) and apples (Malus); however, in Turkey and the Crimea it shows a distinct preference for spiny members of the rose family (Rosaceae). Between Saratov and Volgograd (Russia) it is generally found on species of Rhamnus (Oleg Gorbunov, pers. comm. 2005).
PUPA: 26mm. Dark brown to black, noticeably dorso-ventrally flattened, and 'comma'-shaped. Formed in a coarse, thin-walled, pear-shaped, double, unsealed brown cocoon low down amongst the hostplant, often at ground-level. The overwintering stage. Very tolerant of dry conditions, and may remain as a pupa for several years.
Tachinidae: Blepharipa pratensis, Exorista grandis (Zetterstedt), Exorista sorbillans (Wiedemann), Masicera pavoniae (Robineau-Desvoidy), Masicera silvatica (Fallén), Winthemia quadripustulata (Fabricius).
From eastern Austria and Poland across eastern and southeastern Europe to Greece, Turkey, Armenia (Zolotuhin, Didmanidze & Petrov, 2011), the Ukraine, Crimea and Kazakhstan. There is an old report of this species from the Altai Mountains, but this requires confirmation.
Extra-limital range. None.
None, although the population from the Ukraine and southern Russia -- haversoni Watson, 1911 -- is sometimes accorded subspecific status. There is, however, some confusion as to the type locality of this race, which may be eastern Turkey (see Nässig, 1981).