Could the Sunset Moth be the most beautiful insect in the world?

Urania Chrysiridia Ripheus or Sunset Moth

The Urania Chrysiridia Ripheus or Sunset Moth. Credit: Bernard Dupont

With their multi-coloured wings that shimmer metallic in the light as they beat them, the Sunset Moth is mesmerising to behold.

The Urania Chrysiridia Ripheus is also known as the Sunset Moth due to its colourful wings. It is a day flying moth endemic to the island of Madagascar, an isolated ecosystem with many species found nowhere else on earth. In fact, the genus Chrysiridia is entirely African, with just one other known species of moth belonging to it.

The Sunset Moth is known by Malagasy people as Adriandolo or Loloandriana from the word “lolo” which means spirit and “andriana” which means noble or king. Directly translated, it can mean noble butterfly, noble spirit, king butterfly or king spirit.

What’s the difference between a moth and a butterfly? One way to distinguish between them is the way they fold their wings. A moth will fold its wings against its abdomen, while a butterfly folds its wings vertically away from its abdomen.

Many consider them to be one of the most beautiful moths on earth. Their beautiful metallic colouring is likely to have developed as a way to offer camouflage from predators.

While we see beautiful colouring on the iridescent parts of the wings, they in fact don’t have any pigment. The colours originate from the scattering and interference of light by the microstructure of the ribbon-like scales known as chitin covering the moth’s wings.

Left, under the microscope, you can clearly see the scales of the wing. Right, zoomed out slightly to view how the scales or chitin are arranged together to refract light differently.

For more indepth investigation into iridescence in butterflies,
visit How does the Morpho butterfly get its shimmer?

The Sunset Moth thrives on an Omphalea plant species endemic to Madagascar. While the plant is poisonous to most other animals, the Sunset Moth caterpillar feeds on this plant. Once the moth has developed, it no longer relies on the Omphalea exclusively for sustenance, but takes nectar from the flowers of a variety of different plants. The Sunset Moth will keep close to the Omphalea plant where females will lay eggs on the underside of the leaves.

Deforestation poses the greatest threat to the Sunset Moth and other species that rely on the local flora to survive. Thankfully, growing awareness of the unique fauna and flora of Madagascar has lead to a slowing down of deforestation. Papillon Belle directly supports the conservation of the Sunset Moth by supporting butterfly farmers who maintain Madagascar’s original forests to cultivate these incredible insects. Learn more about butterfly farming.

We set these beautiful wings in heirloom pieces like butterfly wing earrings, a butterfly wing pendant, a real butterfly wing bracelet or a sterling silver butterfly ring with a real butterfly wing set behind a glass dome.

Browse Urania Chrysiridia Ripheus butterfly jewellery.

Urania Chrysiridia Ripheus Earrings butterfly wing earrings

The Urania Chrysiridia Ripheus Earrings.

urania butterfly wing pendant

The LTD Edition Urania Chrysiridia Ripheus pendant.

Urania Chrysiridia Ripheus Top Wing Pendant

The Urania Chrysiridia Ripheus Top Wing Pendant.