White-Marked Tussock Moth (Family Lymantriidae)

White-Marked Tussock Moth are in the tussock moth family Lymantriidae, a cold-tolerant lot populated by a number of black sheep including the gypsy moth. You can find them from the Great Plains to the Atlantic Ocean, including southern Canada, in mixed forests or in the shrubby edges where woods meet fields. Because of their catholic appetites, WmTM caterpillars have occasional local population booms and defoliate trees, and Christmas tree growers in the northeastern part of their range are sometimes plagued by them.

Fall Webworms (Family Arctiidae)

Fall Webworms are found in North America from coast to coast and border to border. They are native sons and daughters that have, since WWII, spread through Europe and Asia. Look for them in parks, forest edges, and roadsides. Cherry leaves are a favorite caterpillar food, but they will dine happily at quite a variety of trees including ash, willow, poplar, hickory, American elm, walnut, some maples, and a few fruit trees. A colony of caterpillars can eat lots of leaves, and they may defoliate part or all of a tree.

Gypsy Moth (Family Erebidae)

We all know the Gypsy Moth story; it’s the poster child of Invasive Species. Gypsy moths (Lymantria dispar) were imported from Europe to the Boston area in 1868 by French scientist Leopold Trouvelot. M. Trouvelot planned to do a little genetic tinkering to develop a hybrid caterpillar that was hardier than the native silkworms. Some of his breeding stock (inevitably) escaped.

Plume Moth (Family Pterophoridae)

The Plume Moth is a smallish moth (½” to 1 ½” wingspread) that is pretty easy to walk past, since it’s disguised as a piece of dried vegetation. All are known for their slim bizarre wings, which are deeply divided into fringed lobes. The hind wings generally have three lobes, and the forewings two, but when they are at rest, they roll the lobes of each wing together until they resemble twigs. Plume moths are found all over the world, and their flight periods include most of the warm months. The adults are often found on flowers, feeding on nectar and pollen, right out in the open.

Buck Moth (Family Saturniidae)

Buck moths can be found in the Cedarburg Bog in October. Like many of their larger silk moth relatives, the adults do not feed. When they are startled, they are as likely to fold their wings and drop into the vegetation below as they are to fly away. Female buck moths lay a cuff of eggs on the twig of a larval food plant in fall, and the eggs hatch in spring. During the first half of their caterpillar-hood, the shiny, black larvae are gregarious and are picky eaters. Caterpillars pupate in early summer and the adults emerge in fall.

Beautiful Wood Nymph and Hog Sphinx Moths

Moths (and butterflies too) are in the Order Lepidoptera. A Lepidopteran’s color is in the scales that cover its wings, legs and bodies, and these scales brush off easily when the insects are handled. Of the 12,000+ species of Lepidoptera in North America north of Mexico, only about 700 are butterflies. This episode features two very different moths, the Beautiful Wood Nymph and the Virginia Creeper Sphinx, that share the same food plant, a vine in the grape family called Virginia Creeper.

Meal Moth (Family Pyralidae)

Meal moths tend to be small (maybe ½”), drab, ragged-looking moths. They can be seen flying across the kitchen during any season of the year. Successful? A typical female may lay 350 eggs that will hatch in 4 days into larvae that will feed for 7 to 10 days and then pupate for a week. Their larvae eat stored plant materials including grains, cornmeal, and bird seed. Basically, if humans store it, some Pyralid eats it.

Metallic Casebearer Moth (Family Coleophoridae)

Casebearer Moths are small, but their genus is large, with around 1,000 species known worldwide—maybe 100 in North America. Many Coleophora larvae start out life as leaf-miners—eating and ambulating in the tissue between the top and bottom layers of a leaf. Soon, they make a life-style change, eschewing the innards of the leaf for its outside. They fashion a portable case by gluing together with silk some tiny pieces of their food plant plus poop. These they tote about, snail fashion.

Woolly Bear (Family Arctiidae)

Tiger moths are in the Family Arctiidae, a diverse group with worldwide distribution and 250 species in North America. Arctiid moths are unusual in that they have an organ on their thorax that vibrates to produce ultrasonic sound. They “vocalize” to attract mates and to defend against predators. Many of their caterpillars are fuzzy, earning a group name of woolly bears or woolly worms.

Clearwing Moth (Family Sphingidae)

This “Hummingbird Moths” in the genus Hemaris; their genus name may come from the Greek hemara meaning a day in reference to their day-time habits. They are also called Clear-winged Moths, a common name they share with yet another very spiffy but unrelated group of moths. Their range extends from the Pacific Northwest, east and south through most of the U.S. Adults hover in front of the flowers of fields, gardens and edges to sip their nectar.