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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.

Milkweed Critters Revisited

This week’s BOTW is another of those retreads from the olden days when BOTW was brand new. If you are a Charter BugFan, you’ll note that exciting new species, pictures and information have been added.

Moth Madness

Three moths are featured in this story. The Virginia Ctenucha Moth, Sweetheart Underwing, and the White Underwing.

Giant Silk Moths (Family Saturnidae)

The Cecropia, Promethea, Polyphemus and the Luna are members of the Giant Silk Moth family or Saturnids, and some are giants indeed, measuring in the 4” to 6”. Saturnids are distantly related to the moth that is used in silk production, and some Asian and South American Saturnids are semi-domesticated and the silk spun by their larvae is harvested.

Laurel Moth (Family Sphingidae)

Sphinx moths are also known as hawk moths because they are strong and fast fliers. They sometimes hover over flowers when sipping nectar; many fly in the late afternoon and are mistaken for small hummingbirds, and some night-flowering plants are pollinated by sphinx moths. The hornworms (as in the notorious Tomato hornworm) are Sphinx caterpillars.

Tent Caterpillar (Family Lasiocampidae)

Larvae of the Eastern Tent caterpillar emerge by the hundreds from egg cases that encircle the twigs of their food trees—members of the Rose family like apple, cherry and hawthorn. They spin communal, webby enclosures in the forks of branches in late spring and summer. The unspectacular brown moths they metamorphose into produce more egg mass in late summer. The adults do not feed.