Category Archives: Moths

Moon moth

2015-07-29 luna moth 002Morning light flows through another arthropod: the luna moth, showing the spring-leaf green of her wings. The brown leading edge is a great match for the viburnum twig on which she rests.

This species belongs to a larger grouping, the Asian-American moon moths. Like the trees on which they feed, these American and Asian insects look very similar (here are a couple of examples of look-alikes, and then some more crazy-winged cousins). They have a distribution that encompasses the east of North America and parts of Asia, reflecting the old biogeographic continuity of these places.

Unfortunately, parasitic flies introduced to North America to control gypsy moths are turning their attentions to the luna moth. So far, lunas appear to be more robust than most other large moth species, many of which are in decline or have gone regionally extinct, at least in New England. We lack long-term data (to my knowledge) on populations of moths in the south.

Why such long tails? Bat befuddlement. Ed Yong tells this luna-tale, with a review of some cool experiments, along with videos, on his fabulous blog at National Geographic.

Closing moth thoughts as they antennate the air’s breath, seeking pheromonal scent (attributed to Rumi from, as far as I can tell, Coleman Barks’ interpretations of English translations):

“At night, I open the window and ask the moon to come and press its face against mine. Breathe into me. Close the language-door and open the love-window. The moon won’t use the door, only the window.”


Dryocampa rubicunda

This caterpillar was racing across our driveway, heaving its body along in lurches. It is a “green-striped mapleworm.” It looks big and fat enough to pupate. After the animal emerges from the pupal stage, it will be a “rosy maple moth,” one of the more striking of our local moth species. Here in Tennessee, this species goes through several generations each year, so the moth will likely lay eggs in September and get one more generation completed before the winter. The pupae of the year’s last generation overwinter in the soil and emerge as moths in the spring.

Snowberry clearwing moth

The buttonbushes’ nectar has attracted a hummingbird moth. This insect looks and behaves just like a hummingbird, hovering in front of flowers while it drinks nectar. Both the moths and the birds are endotherms, generating heat internally to power their active flight.

Snowberry clearwing (Hemaris diffinis). Another species that looks similar to this one is the Hummingbird clearwing (Hemaris thysbe), but the Snowberry clearwing has dark (not yellow or light) legs and a black line that runs from the eye down its side.