Help identifying a moth

Help identifying a moth

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It looks like it might be an emerald moth but its hard to tell from the discoloration in the wings and it is too high up for me to get a better look.

When: July 23rd 2018

Where: Central Illinois

It looks like an Imperial Moth (Eacles imperialis):


As shown on the distribution map at this link, they can be found in central Illinois.

Recording and monitoring

Recording and monitoring carried out by volunteers is vital for the conservation of butterflies and moths.

The current advice to stay at home as much as possible in order to limit the spread of coronavirus and local travel restrictions mean that some recording and monitoring activities are limited for now (see Butterfly Conservation guidance below). As government restrictions vary in different UK countries, so the guidance on butterfly and moth recording and monitoring also varies between the nations.

However, you can still take part in some of our important schemes by recording butterfly or moth sightings at home. Indeed, not only will this continue the flow of data to support conservation, but spending time with nature at home is beneficial for your wellbeing in these unprecedented and challenging times. Here is how you can stay (or get) involved:

Butterfly recording

Please tell us about the butterflies that you see in your garden or other land at home (e.g. if you live on a farm).

If you prefer the flexibility to record butterflies 'as and when' with no particular commitment, or in different places at home as well as your garden, then use BNM Online or the iRecord Butterflies app.

Sightings of any butterflies you happen to see can be submitted on a computer, using Butterflies for the New Millennium Online, or smartphone using the iRecord Butterflies app. Use whichever suits you best - the records will reach Butterfly Conservation either way.

Record butterflies regularly in your garden

If you can record regularly in your garden throughout the year then please take part in the Garden Butterfly Survey. This is only for garden sightings because it aims to monitor how butterflies are faring in the UK’s gardens. Although there are no specific rules about how long to spend watching for butterflies, participants should be committed to recording throughout the year.

Moth recording

Take part in the National Moth Recording Scheme by submitting sightings of day-flying or nocturnal moths at home. Hundreds of moth species occur in gardens so there is a lot to see and garden records contribute greatly to our knowledge of the changing fortunes of the UK’s moths. Even if you don’t have any outdoor space, you can see what moths come to an outdoor light or window.

Thank you for helping us to record and conserve butterflies and moths even in these difficult times.


1A+2A — an unbranched vein thought to have resulted from the fusion of anal veins 1A and 2A into a single vein. It is the most posterior vein on the forewing in many moths and is located near the posterior margin. This is the common state in the superfamily Noctuoidea. Abdomen — the third and posterior-most tagma (body region) of an insect. The ancestral abdomen is believed to have consisted of 11 segments, though most modern insects have fewer. Aedeagus — the male copulatory organ. Characteristics of the aedeagus are often used to separate and identify species. The aedeagus is not visible without dissection. Anal angle — the posterolateral corner of the wing, where the posterior and outer margins meet. Anal dash — a typically short and broad line at the anal angle Anal vein — a longitudinal, unbranched vein that extends from the base of the insect wing to the outer margin. the most posterior of the longitudinal veins of a wing. Anellus — a sclerotized supporting structure that surrounds the base of the aedeagus. The anellus is modified in a few moth species and can be useful for identification (see Lacinipolia pensilis and L. vicina). Antemedial area — the portion of the wing that is located between the basal and antemedial lines. Antemedial line — a thin transverse line found on the basal third of the forewing, between the median and basal lines. This line is located medial to the orbicular and claviform spots when these are present. In the Noctuoidea this line is often double, with the darkest and thickest component bordering the median area, and zigzag in shape. Anterior — the "head" end of an organism, as opposed to the posterior or "tail" end of an organism. Apical — refers to a part of a structure at the furthest distance from the base. Apical dash — a typically short and broad line in the apical area of the wing. Appendix bursae — a part of the internal female genitalia. The portion of the corpus bursae that is not connected to the ductus bursae in species in which the bursa copulatrix is bilobed. Basal — the point of an appendage closest to its attachment to the body. Sometimes referred to as proximal. Basal area — the portion of the wing that is located medial to the basal line. Basal dash — a typically short and broad line at the mid-basal area of the forewing. Basal line — a transverse line extending across the forewing near its base. The most basal of the forewing transverse lines. This line is usually present on the anterior half of the wing, and is darker than the surrounding wing in most moths. Beaded — resembling a string of beads. Usually referring to an antenna. The mid-portion of each segment of a beaded antenna is slightly expanded. Bipectinate — a structure with comb-like or teeth-like structures on both sides. Usually referring to an antenna. Each segment of a bipectinate antenna has elongate distal processes. Biserrate — sawlike or toothed on both sides of a structure. Usually referring to an antenna. Each segment of a biserrate antenna is triangular in shape. Bivoltine — refers to a species that has two generations per year. Brood — the immatures that hatch from eggs laid by a single female at the same time. Bursa copulatrix — a membranous pouch of the female genital system that receives the intromittent organ (aedeagus) of the male during copulation. It is usually divided into a posterior sclerotized tube (the posterior ductus bursae) and an anterior membranous sac (the corpus bursae). The bursa copulatrix is useful for identification purposes but is not visible without dissection Cell — a portion of a wing that is surrounded by veins. For example, discal cells are large cells found on both wings of many moths, including all of the species that are included on this site. Ciliate — fringed with a row of close-fitted setae or hairs. Clasper — A movable sclerotized structure located on the medial surface of the male valve, usually near its mid-point. The shape of the clasper can be useful for identification. Claviform spot — an elongate spot or mark extending laterally from the antemedial line through the median area, toward and sometimes reaching the postmedial line. This spot is usually darker than the surrounding wing, often black. Cocoon — a covering of silk or silk incorporated with other materials such as pieces of leaves and twigs that covers the pupa. Collar — "neck," a structure between the head and the thorax. In the Noctuoidea this term refers to the arched array of scales of the dorsal prothorax. The collar is often in a contrasting color from the head and remaining thorax and is frequently striped with dark transverse lines Cornutus — a slender, heavily sclerotized spine or spines on the surface of the vesica of the male aedeagus. These structures are useful for identification, but are not visible without dissection. Corona — a row of mesially-directed claw-like sclerotized setae located on the cucullus of the male valve. Used for grasping the female during mating. Corpus bursae — the membranous pouch of the female genital system. A spermatophore is deposited into the corpus bursae by the male during mating. The corpus bursae attaches to the anterior end of the ductus bursae and can be single (unisaccate) or be divided (bisaccate). The ductus seminales attaches to the corpus bursae. The shape of the corpus bursae is often useful for identification, but is not visible without dissection. Cosmopolitan — refers to a species that is found throughout all or most of the world, in the appropriate habitat. Costa — the anterior margin of the forewing, sometimes thickened or ridge-like. Costal margin — the anterior margin of the wing. Crepuscular — with activity periods at dusk and/or dawn. Many frequently-seen moths, such as the White-lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata), are crepuscular. CuA1 — Anterior cubitus vein 1. Generally arising from the distal cubitus vein and extending to the margin. This vein arises near the posterior end of the discal cell in most members of the Noctuoidea. CuA2 — Anterior cubitus vein 2. Generally arising approximately midway on the wing cubitus vein and extending to the outer margin. Cubital vein — also called the cubitus. A wing vein arising approximately at the middle of the base of the wing and extending (branched or unbranched) to the wing margin. This vein forms the posterior boundary of the discal cell in the Noctuoidea. Cucullus — the terminal part of the valve in male genitalia. This structure is often broadened and may bear one or more rows of claw-like setae forming a structure called a corona. Digitus — a sclerotized, usually elongate, structure located on the distal third of the valve of the male genitalia of some moths. The presence of a digitus and its shape are useful for identification. Discal spot — a broad contrastingly-colored spot found at the end of the discal cell in some moths. The forewing discal spot is usually referred to as the reniform spot in noctuid moths. Dissection — the process of removing certain internal organs-usually the male and female genitalia-from an insect specimen, in order to examine their structure. Distal — the point of an appendage furthest from its attachment to the body. Diurnal — active during daylight. Unlike butterflies, which are diurnal, most moths are active at night and referred to as nocturnal. A few moth species are strictly diurnal and have adaptations to daytime flight, such as brightly-colored hindwings and reduced eye-size (ellipsoid eyes). Dorsal — refers to the back or the upper side of an organism. For example, a dorsal view would be looking at the animal from above. Dorsum — the back or upper side of an organism. Ductus bursae — the duct in the female genital system that extends from the ostium bursa to the bursa copulatrix. This structure is commonly sclerotized. The ductus bursae cannot be observed without dissection. Ellipsoid — oblong, oval, with equally rounded ends. Commonly refers to reduced eye-size in day-flying moths. The eyes appear small and oval when viewed from the front, rather than large and hemispherical as in most night-flying species. In most of these day-flying species, the sum of the width of the eyes is less than the width of the frons between them. Elliptical — oblong, oval, with equally rounded ends. Excurved — convex, with the apex of the curve directed toward the outer margin. Usually refers to the shape of a wing marking. Falcate — bent or curved, sickle-shaped. This adjective is commonly applied to the apex of the forewing. Fasciculate — bundled, especially a bundle of setae that arise from a common source. Femur — the third segment of the insect leg. Often a large and elongate segment, sometimes with some ornamentation or identifying structures. Filiform — hair-like or threadlike, usually referring to an antenna. Flange — a projecting ridge or collar that provides support. A flange is present on the tips of the ovipositor lobes (papillae anales) of some female moths, likely as an adaptation for laying eggs in hard soil. Fold — a term traditionally used for a longitudinal part of the posterior forewing of moths in the superfamily Noctuoidea that is bordered anteriorly by the cubital vein and its branch CuA2 and posteriorly by 1A+2A. This area lacks supporting veins and is therefore relatively weak. It is sometimes colored differently than the surrounding areas (usually paler) and contains the claviform spot and/or median dash when these markings are present. Forewing — the front wing of an insect. The wing attached to the second thoracic segment (the mesothorax). Characteristics of the forewing are often important in identification. Fringe — the scales, setae, or hairs that extend beyond the edge of a wing membrane. Frons — the area of the face that is dorsal to (above) the antennae. Frontal tubercle — a raised, sclerotized structure arising from the frons of many moth species. This structure is thought to be used to escape from underground after hatching from the pupa, and is most commonly found in species that live in arid environments. The frontal tubercle has been lost secondarily in some species that pupate in sand. Genitalia — the sexual organs, including associated structures. Characters of the genitalia are often used for identification purposes. Some structures of the genitalia are visible in intact specimens, but most characters require dissection for visualization. Hair pencils — long, paired, brush-like pheromone-emitting organs located at the base of the ventral abdomen in males of some moth species. Harpe — a rod-shaped sclerotized structure on the mesial valve of the male genitalia of some moths, arising from the dorsal distal sacculus. The shape of the harpe-especially in relation to the saccular extension- is useful for identification in the genus Euxoa. Hindwing — one of the second pair of wings that is attached to the third segment of the thorax (the metathorax). Holarctic — the zoogeographic region that includes most of the northern hemisphere - Africa north of the Sahara desert, North America including the northern two-thirds of Mexico, all of Europe, and Asia south to the Himalayan Mountains. The Holarctic is divided into the Nearctic and Palearctic. Larva — (plural: larvae). The immature stage between the egg and the pupa. In moths, usually referred to as a caterpillar. Leg — the insect leg consists of a series of segments. Starting from most basal they are the coxa, trochanter, femur, tibia, and tarsus. Longitudinal — oriented along the long axis of a structure. Opposite of transverse. M1 — medial vein one, the most anterior branch of the medial vein. On the forewing of the Noctuoidea, this vein extends from the anterior end of the discal cell to the outer margin, between R5 and M2. M2 — medial vein two, the second branch of the medial vein. On the forewings of the Noctuoidea, this vein extends from the posterior end of the discal cell to the outer margin, between veins M1 and M3. M3 — medial vein three, the third branch of the medial vein. On the forewing of the Noctuoidea, this vein extends from the posterior end of the discal cell near the cubitus vein to the outer margin, between veins M2 and CuA1. Marginal band — A dark, broad, band along the outer margin of the hindwing. This term is usually reserved for a broad marking that is much darker than the ground color, or has a sharply-defined medial margin. Median — in the middle of a structure, along the midline. Median area — the portion of the wing between the antemedial and postmedial lines. Technically, this area includes the median and postmedial areas, but this distinction is rarely made because these areas are usually colored similarly. Median dash — a thickened, short line located medially in the lower half of the forewing. Median line — a, transverse line located in the median area of the forewing, usually near the mid-wing. The median line is typically darker than the surrounding wing, single, thicker and less well-defined than the other transverse lines in the Noctuoidea. Median vein — a longitudinal vein between the radius and cubitus. The portion of this vein proximal to the end of the cell of the forewing has been lost during the course of evolution in the moths included on this site, but its distal branches extend from the end of the cell to the outer margin. Mesial — toward the midline. A synonym of basal, and the opposite of lateral and distal. Multivoltine — refers to a species that has more than two generations per year. Nearctic — a subregion of the Holarctic zoogeographic region that includes North America, the northern two-thirds of Mexico and Greenland. Neotropical — the zoogeographic region that includes southern Mexico, Central America, the West Indies, and South America. Noctuid moth — a common name used for most members of the families Erebidae, Euteliidae, Nolidae, and Noctuidae, but usually excluding the subfamilies Arctiinae and Lymantriinae of the Erebidae. This common name is based on the fact that these moths were arranged together in the family Noctuidae until recently. Synonymous with Owlet moth. Nocturnal — active at night. Most moths are active at night and are referred to as nocturnal. Ocellus — a term that refers to the presence of a central dark spot (pupil) within another spot. Usually used for the orbicular spot of noctuid moths. Orbicular spot — a round or oval spot located in the middle of the discal cell of the forewing, between the antemedial and median lines. This spot is present in most noctuid moths. The outline of the spot is usually darker than the surrounding wing and its center may contain a darker spot called an ocellus. Ostium bursae — the posterior external opening of the female ductus bursae which receives the male intromittent organ (aedeagus) during copulation. The ostium bursae is located at the ventral aspect of the posterior eighth abdominal segment. Outer margin — the outer (lateral) edge of the wing. Ovipositor — the egg-laying structure of the female. Often a cylindrical tube used to deposit eggs in specific locations. Ovipositor lobes — a pair of sclerotized processes at the posterior apex of the female abdomen used to deposit eggs. These are most often conical and are often covered by short or hair-like setae, but can be modified in shape or bear additional flanges or other structures. These are the only part of the female genitalia that are visible without dissection. Also called papillae anales. Ovoid — oblong, egg-shaped. Owlet moth — a common name used for most members of the families Erebidae, Euteliidae, Nolidae, and Noctuidae, but usually excluding the subfamilies Arctiinae and Lymantriinae of the Erebidae. This common name is based on the fact that these moths were arranged in the family Noctuidae until recently. Synonymous with Noctuid moth. Palaearctic — the zoogeographic region that is the Old World part of the Holarctic region. It includes Africa north of the Sahara desert, all of Europe, and Asia north of the Himalayan Mountains Palp — a segmented structure arising from the labium or maxilla. Palpus — a segmented structure arising from the labium or maxilla. Papillae anales — a pair of sclerotized processes at the posterior apex of the female abdomen, used to deposit eggs. These are most often conical, and are often covered by short or hair-like setae, but can be modified in shape or bear additional flanges or other structures. These are the only part of the female genitalia that are visible without dissection. Also referred to as ovipositors or ovipositor lobes. Patagium — a lobe-like structure arising from the prothorax that overlaps the base of the forewing. See tegula. Pectinate — with branches or tooth-like structures. Often referring to an antenna or the tarsal claws. Phenogram — a graph depicting the seasonal pattern of capture dates of a species, with the date on the x-axis and number of records on the y-axis. Phenology — the life history or life cycle of an organism as it relates to development over time within a single generation or several generations over a season. Pollex — a thumb-like ventral projection from the distal valve of some moths in the tribe Noctuini-notably in the genus Xestia. This structure resembles a digitus but is considered to be separately derived. Posterior — the "tail" end of an organism, as opposed to the anterior or "head" end of an organism. Posterior margin — the hind margin of the forewing, opposite the costal margin. Also referred to as the trailing margin. Postmedial line — a thin, transverse line located lateral to the discal spot, typically on distal third of the forewing. This line is usually darker than the surrounding wing. It is often double, with a darker medial component, and is scalloped between the veins in the Noctuoidea. The portion of this line lateral to the discal spot is usually convex toward the outer margin (excurved). Proleg — an abdominal leg found on Lepidoptera larvae. They are fleshy legs that occur in pairs, with rows of hooked spines at the tip called crochets. Proximal — near to the body or the base of an organism, as opposed to distal. Pupa — the stage between larva and adult in insects with complete or holometabolous metamorphosis. It is a non-feeding and non-mobile stage that, in moths, is often surrounded by a cocoon. Quadrifid — a term that describes a specific branching pattern of the hindwing veins, in which the distal cubitus vein appears to have four branches: M2, M3, CuA1, and CuA2. This branching pattern is present in the family Erebidae and some subfamilies of the Noctuidae (which are referred to as "Quadrifid noctuids"). See trifid. Quadripectinate — a comb-like structure consisting of four projections per unit. Usually refers to an antenna. Radius vein — a branched vein located near the anterior margin of the wing. This vein typically has five branches, numbered R1-R5, in the Noctuoidea. Reniform spot — a broad C-shaped or kidney-shaped discal spot found at the end of the discal cell in some moths. This spot is usually outlined in a dark color and filled with a lighter color. Saccular extension — a distal, spine-like process of the ventral sacculus of the male genitalia, typically found in the genus Euxoa of the Noctuidae. The ends of the saccular extensions can often be observed without dissection if the scales are removed from the distal abdomen. Sacculus — an expanded basal portion of the valve of the male genitalia. Scale — a flattened, cuticular extension that covers the body and wings of members of the order Lepidoptera ("Lepidos" means "scale" in Greek). These scales are often overlapping and contain pigment, providing for the distinctive color patterns found on the wings. Scape — the first, or most basal segment of the antenna. Sclerotized — hardened. Usually referring to a section of the exoskeleton or a specific structure that is hardened as opposed to soft and membranous. Seta — (plural: setae) a hair-like projection of the epidermis or living layer of the exoskeleton. Spine — an outgrowth of the exoskeleton, usually thorn-like. Spur — a moveable spine. Often refers to an enlarged or otherwise modified spine on the legs of some moths. Submarginal band — a dark band located near the margin of the hindwing of some moths. Differs from a marginal band in that a submarginal band does not extend to the outer margin. Subreniform spot — a spot located in the median area posterior to ("below") the reniform spot in a few noctuid moths. Examples are found in Papaipema and Catocala. Subterminal — situated slightly proximal to the end of structure. Subterminal area — the portion of the wing that is located between the postmedial and subterminal lines. Subterminal line — a thin, often zigzag or patterned, transverse line situated near the distal end of the forewing between the postmedial and terminal lines. It is single, usually paler than the wing ground color, and often preceded by a dark shade or wedge-like spots in the Noctuoidea. Tagma — in insects and other arthropods, a group of segments that have become fused to form a functional unit (body region). For example, an insect body is composed of three tagmata: the head, thorax, and abdomen. Tarsus — the fifth and final leg segment, distal to the tibia. Often consists of several segments and ends with a pair of claws. Tegula — a small, flap-like structure that overlaps the base of the forewing. This structure is colored or patterned differently from the forewings and/or thorax in some moths. Terminal — referring to the end of a structure that is farthest from its base of attachment. Terminal area — the portion of the wing between the subterminal line and the outer margin. Terminal line — a thin, transverse line situated at the margin of the forewing, at the base of the fringe. This line is often comprised of a series of dark spots between the veins in many members of the Noctuoidea Thorax — the second, or middle, tagma of an insect. An insect is composed of three tagmata: the head, thorax, and abdomen. The thorax itself is composed of three segments called the prothorax, mesothorax, and metathorax. The wings and legs of moths are attached to the thorax. Tibia — the fourth segment of the insect leg. Often a large and elongate segment with some ornamentation or identifying structures. Tiger moth — a common name for the species in the tribe Arctiinae of the Erebidae, many of which are boldy-patterned with bright colors. Trailing margin — the posterior margin of the wing, opposite the costal margin. Also called the posterior margin. Transverse — across a structure, at a right angle to the longitudinal axis. Trifid — a term that describes a specific branching pattern of the hindwing veins, in which the distal cubitus vein appears to have three branches: M3, CuA1, and CuA2. This branching pattern is present in many subfamilies of the Noctuidae (which are referred to as "Trifid noctuids"). See quadrifid. Tubercle — a small, usually rounded protuberance. Tuft — a group or bunch of setae arising from a group of very closely associated bases. Tussock moth — a common name for the species in the subfamily Lymantriinae of the Erebidae. This name refers to the hair pencils and tufts that are found on many larvae in this subfamily. Uncus — a long, hook-shaped midline process of the tegumen (the dorsal distal abdominal segment) present in many male moths that is used to hold the female during mating. Its shape is sometimes useful for identification. Univoltine — refers to a species that has one generation per year. Valva — In males, the broad paired paddle-like organs developed from the lateral ninth abdominal segment. The valves are articulated at the base, and are used to grasp the end of the female abdomen during mating They are typically modified in shape and bear additional structures, such as the clasper, digitus, and corona. The valve structure is often important for identification and their ends are usually visible without dissection after brushing the scales from the tip of the abdomen. Valve — see Valva Ventral — refers to the belly, or underside of an organism. For example, a ventral view would be looking at the animal from below. Vernal — referring to insect activity that takes place during the spring of the year. Vesica — the membranous, terminal part of the aedeagus. The vesica is collapsed inside the aedeagus prior to mating, and is everted inside the female during copulation. It is visible only after dissection, and must be inflated in order to observe its shape. Voltinism — the production of a certain number of generations by a species during a given year. For example, univoltine, bivoltine, or multivoltine are categories of voltinism. While most species are restricted in the number of generations that they produce during a year, the number of generations sometimes varies, depending on geographic location or the favorable weather of a given year. W-mark — a relatively common sideways W-shaped feature of the subterminal line in many species of noctuid moths, in which the line is zig-zagged, with teeth extend to or near the outer margin on veins M3 and CuA1. Worn — an old or otherwise damaged moth specimen, from which many of the scales have been lost. Worn specimens are more difficult to identify than fresh ones.

Glossary References

Forbes WTM. 1954. Lepidoptera of New York and Neighboring States. Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station. Memoir 329. 433 pp.

Gordh, G. and D. H. Headrick. 2001. A Dictionary of Entomology. CABI Publishing, New York, NY. ix+1032 pp. (2010 addition available)

Triplehorn, C. A. and N. F Johnson. 2005. Borror and Delong’s introduction to the Study of Insects, Seventh edition. Thomson Books/Cole. Belmont, CA. x+864 pp.

Bite-sized Biology Concept Cards

Biology Bits stories are a great way for you to learn about biology a little bit at a time. We’ve broken down information into pieces that are very tiny—bite-sized biology cards. Cutting out the cards will let you organize them however you want, or use them as flashcards while you read and study different biology topics.

These cards are great for all types of learners and flexible to be used at many grade levels. Pull up a set of cards and start learning. When you’re ready to move on, use the blank cards to write out what you learned. You can copy what was already written. If you are up to a challenge, you can write it in your own words. Just remember, don’t bite off too much at once!

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Budding Biologists

If you're interested in becoming a biologist, we've gathered a few resources that might help you out

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The rest of these resources can also be helpful, no matter where you are in the process of becoming a biologist.

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Getting Involved with Citizen Science

Citizen science enables the public to help out on special studies. Usually people make observations of certain plant or animal species. They can then record them online as part of a larger data set. Here are some of the ongoing citizen science projects:

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Help identifying a moth - Biology

Moths are insect closely related to butterflies. Both belong to the order Lepidoptera. The differences between butterflies and moths is more than just taxonomy. Scientists have identified some 200,000 species of moths world wide and suspect there may be as many as five times that amount.

Moth Description

Moths often have feather like antennae with no club at the end. When perched, their wings lay flat. Moths tend to have thick hairy bodies and more earth tone coloured wings. Moths are usually active at night and rest during the day in a preferred wooded habitat.

Moths have very long proboscis, or tongues, which they use to suck nectar or other fluids. These proboscis are very tightly coiled not in use, like a hosepipe. When in use, the proboscis are uncoiled to their full length and in some species, that length is remarkably long. The Hummingbird Moth has a tongue that is actually longer than its whole body. The Darwin’s Hawk moth of Madagascar has a proboscis nearly 13 inches long, evolved, no doubt, to enable feeding on deep throated orchids which grow in that region.

Not all Moths have long tongues. In some, the proboscis is very short, an adaptation which enables easy and effective piercing of fruit.

In some, there is no feeding mechanism at all. There are adults of some species that do not take in any food. Their brief lives as an adult are spent reproducing and they are able to acquire all of the energy needed for this from the fat stored in the body by the caterpillar.

A moths antennae, palps, legs and many other parts of the body are studded with sense receptors that are used to smell. The sense of smell is used for finding food (usually flower nectar) and for finding mates (the female smelling the males pheromones). Pheromones can be dispersed through the tibia segment of the leg, scales on the wings or from the abdomen. Pheromones released by females can be detected by the males from as much as 8 kilometres away.

Moth Camouflage

Camouflage is a great defence in avoiding detection by a hungry predator. Some moths look just like lichen, others look exactly like the bark of trees native to their habitat. It has even been noticed that in city areas where smoke pollution is strong, some moths have actually developed a darker colouration than the same species that live in less polluted areas.

Another effective form of camouflage is colouration which can confuse a predator into either striking at a none vital part of the moths body or into missing it all together. The lines and spots on these moths would make aiming in on it difficult, especially when it is moving.

Another form of defence is where the moth takes on the appearance of a larger/or more threatening creature. This amazing ability is called ‘mimicry’. This form of defence ranges from caterpillars with tails that look like a large venomous snakes head, to moths and butterflies whose markings make them appear to be large birds.

Moth Vision

Moths (like many other adult insects) have compound eyes and simple eyes. These eyes are made up of many hexagonal lens/corneas which focus light from each part of the insects field of view onto a rhabdome (the equivalent of our retina). An optic nerve then carries this information to the insects brain. They see very differently from us. they can see ultraviolet rays (which are invisible to us).

The vision of Moths changes radically in their different stages of life.

Moth caterpillars can barely see at all. They have simple eyes (ocelli) which can only differentiate dark from light. They cannot form an image. They are composed of photoreceptors (light-sensitive cells) and pigments. Most caterpillars have a semi-circular ring of six ocelli on each side of the head.

Moth Senses

A caterpillars ‘fuzz’ gives it its sense of touch. Caterpillars sense touch using long hairs (called tactile setae) that grow through holes all over their hard exoskeleton. These hairs are attached to nerve cells and relay information about the touch to the insects brain.

Setae (sensory hairs) on the insects entire body (including the antennae) can feel the environment. They also give the insect information about the wind while it is flying.

Moth Navigation

Moths navigate by two methods. They use the moon and stars when available and geomagnetic clues when light sources are obscured.

Moth Behaviour

Moths heat up their flight muscles by vibrating their wings, since they do not have the radiant energy of the sun (being nocturnal) at their disposal to serve that purpose.

Other interesting facts about Moths

Night-blooming flowers usually depend on moths (or bats) for pollination, and artificial lighting can draw moths away from the flowers, affecting the plants ability to reproduce. A way to prevent this is to put a cloth or netting around the lamp. Another way is using a coloured light bulb (preferably red). This will take the moths attention away from the light while still providing light to see by.

Despite being framed for eating clothing, most moth adults do not eat at all. Most like the Luna, Polyphemus, Atlas, Prometheus, Cercropia and other large moths do not have mouths. When they do eat, moths will drink nectar. Only one species of moth eat wool. The adults do not eat but the larvae will eat through wool clothing.

The study of Moths (and Butterflies) is known as ‘lepidoptery’, and biologists that specialise in either are called ‘lepidopterists’. As a pastime, watching Moths (and Butterflies) is known as ‘mothing’ and ‘butterflying’.

Moths, and particularly their caterpillars, are a major agricultural pest in many parts of the world. The caterpillar of the gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) causes severe damage to forests in the northeast United States, where it is an invasive species. In temperate climates, the codling moth causes extensive damage, especially to fruit farms. In tropical and subtropical climates, the diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella) is perhaps the most serious pest of brassicaceous crops (the mustard family or cabbage family).

Butterflies and moths hear sounds through their wings.

Thousands of tiny scales and hairs cover moths wings, not powder.

Butterflies and moths both have an organ called the Johnston’s organ which is at the base of a butterfly or moths antennae. This organ are responsible for maintaining the butterflys sense of balance and orientation, especially during flight.

A Cecropia moth has the ability to smell his mate up to 7 miles away with his feathery antennae.

The Sphinx Hawk moth is the fastest moth in the world, capable of reaching speeds over 30 miles per hour.


The larval stages feed on grass leaves using their chewing and biting mouthpart and can cause extensive damage. They feed only after sunset during dusk or at night. They prefer hot and dry grassy areas like banks and steep slopes, where drought stress can be a greater problem. The first four larval stages feed superficially on the upper leaf surface of the grass, so the injury is often overlooked. Sodworms in the fifth and sixth larval stages cause serious damage to the grass by chewing the entire leaf blades. The initial symptoms are small-sized patches, which become yellow-brown in midsummer (Figure 3). These patches quickly coalesce in dry weather to form large, dry patches of turfgrass, which can easily be confused with drought symptoms. Additional evidence can be provided by birds, which feed more than usual on sod webworm larvae. Grasses can recover if the infestation is not too severe and if proper cultural practices have been followed.

Figure 3. Larva, pupa, and damage caused by sod webworms. Source: Steven Arthurs, University of Florida*

Identify Moths and Other Insects

With more than 10,000 species of moths in North America alone, it can be a bit overwhelming to begin identifying moths for the first time. You may also find a whole variety of other types of insect arrive at your sheet besides moths, including lacewings, stoneflies, alderflies and dobsonflies, caddisflies, and mayflies. While some of these other types of insects may appear moth-like, you can tell moths apart by the scales that cover their wings, bodies, and even legs—most moths appear furry!

A moth showing characteristic scaled body and wings. “Unidentified Moth” by Danny Chapman, CC-BY 2.0

The types of moths that arrive at your sheet will be influenced by the location, time of day, season, light source, nearby habitat, and the presence or absence of other nearby artificial light sources. To tell individual moth species apart, start with moth guidebooks—they are great for identifying large and distinct species, and many also provide images of the caterpillars of moth species as well. For trickier species, use online communities like, Project Noah, and What’s That Bug, which have photos of moth species already identified and allow users to submit their own photos for identification by a community of experts.

Reverse chemical ecology at the service of conservation biology

Chemical ecology is the study of the chemical languages, cues, and mechanisms controlling interactions among living beings, including communication among individuals of the same species and between organisms and their environment. Organisms use chemicals to lure their mates, associate with symbionts, deter enemies, and fend off pathogens (1). Since the identification of the silkworm moth sex pheromone almost six decades ago (2), chemical ecologists have been deciphering hundreds of these “Rosetta Stones” (3) by using bioassay-guided protocols. This conventional chemical ecology approach is based on an invasive process of extracting secretions from chemical signal (semiochemical) senders (e.g., female moths), separating extracts into fractions, using receivers (e.g., male moths) to assist in the identification of active ingredients and, finally, by elucidating chemical structures and synthesis. The state-of-the-art techniques in chemical ecology have reduced analysis to even single individuals in many cases, but it is still too invasive for studying endangered or vulnerable species. In PNAS (4), a multidisciplinary group of scientists from China, Italy, and France apply tools of reverse chemical ecology (5) to study chemical communication in the giant panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, a vulnerable species endemic to China.

The giant panda has an obligate bamboo diet and a carnivorous digestive system (6), which leads to a sedentary life with a limited reproduction rate, resulting in only a single offspring every other year. This mismatch of lifestyle and physiology coupled with fragmented habitats in its native environment in southwest China placed the giant panda on a list of endangered species until last year. Conservation campaigns would benefit from understanding at the molecular level how the giant pandas communicate among themselves and with the environment. Zhu et al. (4) use genomics, proteomics, functional analysis, and structural biology to get a better understanding of chemical communication and host–plant interactions in the giant panda. First, the authors analyze the panda genome to identify putative odorant-binding protein (OBP) genes. OBPs have been identified by two independent groups almost simultaneously in the sensillum lymph of moths (7) and bovine nasal mucous (8). Their role in olfaction is still a matter of considerable debate, but it has been well established that, at a minimum, they are carriers of odorants from the external environment (air) through the aqueous compartments surrounding odorant receptors. In insects, OBP expression is more restricted to the sensillum lymph surrounding receptors (9), but in vertebrates OBPs are also involved in transporting semiochemicals from the site of production to the external environment (10). In short, in vertebrates OBPs are involved in the delivery and uptake of semiochemicals. Zhu et al. (4) identify in the panda genome two OBPs, AimelOBP3 and AimelOBP5, of particular interest, given their sequence similarities to a salivary protein involved in releasing and detecting pig pheromone (10) and a human nose OBP (11), respectively. By using proteomics approaches and samples collected during regular health examinations, Zhu et al. (4) demonstrate that indeed these proteins are expressed in both the nasal mucus and saliva of the giant panda. Functional analysis showed that these two proteins have different binding preferences. AimelOBP5 has a binding preference for fatty acids and no binding to aldehydes and most plant volatile compounds, including those derived from bamboo. In contrast, AimelOPB3 displays a high affinity for long-chain unsaturated aldehydes and natural terpenoids. Although constituents of pheromones of the giant panda are yet to be identified, these findings suggest a possible parallel with the Asian elephant, which uses (Z)-7-dodecen-1-yl acetate, a common constituent of moth sex pheromone systems (12), as their own sex pheromone (13). Additionally, the high affinity of AimelOBP3 to the terpenoid cedrol is of particular interest, because this semiochemical is a key constituent of the bouquet emitted by spring bamboo shoots (14). Semiochemicals that attract the giant panda to bamboo (plant kairomone) may help conservation efforts by improving attraction and enticing the giant panda to feed on supplemental nutrition, such as “the panda bread” (15). On the other hand, panda-produced odorants, particularly male-emitted pheromones, may be invaluable in conservation efforts. One possible application is the use of male-produced odorants (pheromones) to enhance sexual motivation (15).

To gain more insights into the putative pheromones carried by AimelOBP3, the author studied the 3D structure of AimelOBP3. Like other vertebrate OBPs, AimelOBP3 belongs to the lipocalin family, with a β-barrel formed by eight-stranded, antiparallel β-sheets, which are rolled up in a cylindrical shape (Fig. 1A). An α-helix flanking the barrel is followed by a ninth β-sheet and an unstructured C terminus (Fig. 1C). A loop in the N terminus covers the binding pocket. Whereas insect OBPs require three disulfide bridges for proper folding (16), AimelOBP3 needs only one disulfide bond to link β-strand-4 to the C-terminal segment (16). Although functionally similar, insect OBPs have a completely different folding. As exemplified by an OBP from the southern house mosquito, Culex quinquefasciatus, CquiOBP1 (17), insect OBPs are helical-rich (Fig. 1B), with binding pockets covered by a C-terminal segment. Further analysis by Zhu et al. (4) shows that (Z)-11-tetradecen-1-yl acetate appears to be an excellent ligand for AimelOBP3, thus suggesting that the giant panda pheromone system might involve this or related aldehydes. Rome was not built in a day, nor does the article by Zhu et al. (4) have answers to all of the questions, but it does shed light on chemical communication of the giant panda and possible applications in conservation biology.

Structures of the odorant-binding proteins from the giant panda, AimelOBP3 (4), and the southern house mosquito, Cx. quinquefasciatus, CquiOBP1 (17). Whereas AimelOBP3 (A and C), like other vertebrate OBPs, show a lipocalin folding, insect OBPs like CquiOBP1 (B and D) are helical-rich. The binding cavity of the former is covered by a loop closer to the N terminus, whereas the binding pocket of the latter is covered by an unstructured segment in the C terminus (see arrows in A and B). Figure prepared with University of California, San Francisco Chimera software. Rainbow colored representations with N and C terminals in blue and red, respectively.

For the last six decades, chemical ecology has unraveled intricacies in animal communication and contributed significantly to improving the human condition. Sex pheromones and other semiochemicals have been used for surveillance (18), mass trapping, Zhu et al. use genomics, proteomics, functional analysis, and structural biology to get a better understanding of chemical communication and host–plant interactions in the giant panda. attract-and-kill (19), and mating disruption (20) strategies aimed at insect pests as well as insects of medical importance (21). The savings for the environment for reduced use of agricultural chemicals are enormous and the direct benefits to growers are tangible (22). Molecules that have a signaling or defensive value in nature, such as ivermectin, cyclosporine, FK-506, and taxol, prove to be useful to humans (1). Additionally, chemical ecology may serve conservation biology. Pheromone-based monitoring is already used for assessing the conservation status of many threatened species (23, 24). With their reverse and noninvasive approach, Zhu et al. (4) pave the way for chemical ecology to serve conservation biology by assisting in ongoing programs aimed at saving the fragile population of merely 1,864 giant pandas remaining in the wild (25).

Integrated Pest Management

The gypsy moth is an important invasive pest of many forest and shade trees in Michigan and across much of the northeastern United States. This foliage-feeding insect, which is native to Europe, was introduced into Massachusetts in 1869 by a misguided naturalist. Gypsy moth has been slowly spreading across the U.S. and Canada. The first gypsy moth outbreaks in Michigan occurred in the mid-1980s in Midland and Clare counties in the central part of Lower Michigan. Since then, gypsy moth has become established in all Michigan counties and most of the state has experienced one or more gypsy moth outbreaks.

The gypsy moth can be an annoying pest in residential, urban and rural areas as well as forests. Gypsy moth caterpillars, the immature &ldquolarval&rdquo stage, feed on the leaves of more than 300 species of trees. They especially like oaks but many other trees are also good hosts. During an outbreak, the density of gypsy moth caterpillars can be so high that many host trees are heavily or even completely defoliated. The abundance of large, hairy caterpillars and the resulting rain of frass (fecal pellets) from infested trees is unpleasant and can be distressing, especially for people who have not experienced a gypsy moth outbreak before.

Here are frequently asked questions and answers by residents during gypsy moth outbreaks.

How do I know if I have gypsy moth feeding on my trees?

Many insects will feed on tree leaves, but there is only one gypsy moth. Gypsy moth caterpillars have pairs of red and blue spots along the back and long, dark hairs. They feed on leaves of oaks and other preferred host trees including aspen, apple, basswood, birch, crabapple, willow and many other types of trees in early and mid-summer, usually from mid- or late May until early July.

Gypsy moth larva. Photo by Jon Yuschock,

Eastern tent caterpillar (Malacosoma americana F), for example, is a native insect that makes silk tents in apple, crabapple and cherry trees. It feeds early in spring but rarely causes severe defoliation.

Eastern tent caterpillar. Photo by Robert F. Bassett, USDA Forest Service,

Fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea F), another native insect, feeds in late summer and fall on many different species of hardwood trees. The light colored caterpillars wrap silk webbing around leaves as they feed. Although the large webs can be unsightly, the late summer defoliation does not affect the tree&rsquos health.

Fall webworm. Photo by Eric Rebek, Oklahoma State University,

Gypsy moth caterpillars spin reddish brown cocoons in late June or July. Over the next one to two weeks, the caterpillars develop into moths, a process called pupation. Many other insects feed on oak trees and are sometimes mistaken for gypsy moth.

Gypsy moth larva and feeding damage. Photo by Bill McNee, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Gypsy moth pupate in reddish brown cocoons. Photo by USDA APHIS PPQ,

Adult moths emerge from cocoons, usually in July or early August. The moths live only a few days and do not feed. Adult males are brown with dark markings on the wings and are active fliers. Adult females have white wings with black chevron markings, but do not fly. Each female lays one tan egg mass, which she covers with a dense mat of tiny hairs from her body. Egg masses may be small, about the size of a quarter, or up to 3 inches long. Egg masses are laid in July or August, overwinter and hatch the following April or May.

Female moth and egg mass. Photo by Karla Salp, Washington State Department of Agriculture,

Has gypsy moth killed my tree?

An oak or other hardwood tree that is completely defoliated by gypsy moth caterpillars may look as if it's dead. However, most of these trees will &ldquore-flush&rdquo and produce a second set of leaf buds, usually by late July. This second set of leaves will provide enough energy for the tree to survive winter. Severe defoliation does stress the tree, but trees can usually tolerate even complete defoliation for a few years. If trees are affected by other stress factors such as severe drought, disease or poor growing conditions, there is a greater chance severe defoliation will lead to mortality.

Also, when conifer trees such as spruce, pine, fir and Douglas-fir are severely defoliated, they will probably die. Conifer trees produce buds in late summer and have no ability to re-flush if they are defoliated. Gypsy moth caterpillars seldom feed on conifers unless populations are high and most of the leaves on oaks and other preferred hosts have already been consumed.

Defoliated trees. Photo by Bill McNee, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources,

How can I keep my trees healthy?

Drought stress can be a problem for trees that are heavily defoliated. The best thing you can do for your trees is to water them once a week during dry periods in the summer and fall. Let a hose run slowly near the base of the tree for a few hours once a week. Alternatively, place a sprinkler between the trunk and the drip line of the canopy. Set an empty can or plastic container near the sprinkler and let the sprinkler run until an inch of water has accumulated in the container. Avoid compacting the soil or damaging the root system of trees, which can affect water uptake.

Also, be careful with lawn mowers, weed whips, snow shovels and other equipment. Wounds increase the risk that trees will become infected by disease.

Is there anything I can do to help reduce gypsy moths in my yard?

You bet! Search for gypsy moth egg masses on trees, firewood and outdoor furniture. Scrape egg masses into a bucket or similar container filled with soapy water, or burn or bury the egg masses. Don&rsquot leave the eggs or bits of egg mass on the ground &ndash those eggs can often hatch the following spring.

Gypsy moth egg masses on a tree trunk. Photo by Karla Salp, Washington State Department of Agriculture,

Will gypsy moth pheromone traps help prevent or reduce defoliation?

No! Pheromone traps are used by scientists and pest managers to detect new gypsy moth populations in uninfested areas. These traps, which are baited with the sex pheromone produced by female gypsy moths, only capture male moths and will have no effect on the current or future gypsy moth populations. Setting pheromone traps in Michigan, where gypsy moth has been established for decades, will not affect the abundance of caterpillars, nor reduce defoliation this year or in future years.

Red Delta trap on tree. Photo by USDA APHIS PPQ, Green Delta trap on tree. Photo by Chris Evans, University of Illinois,

Many natural enemies including mice, some birds and predatory insects feed on gypsy moths at various life stages. Several insect parasitoids, which are highly specialized types of wasps or fly species, attack gypsy moth eggs, caterpillars or pupae. You can encourage these natural enemies by avoiding the use of broad-spectrum insecticides and providing habitat for birds and predators.

Calasoma sycophanta, the gypsy moth hunter. Photo by Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources,

A virus disease (nucleopolyhedrosis virus, or NPV) that affects caterpillars usually causes gypsy moth outbreaks to collapse after two or three years of heavy defoliation. The gypsy moth fungus Entomophaga maimaiga can also kill large numbers of caterpillars in some years.

Some residents use Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki) to protect landscape trees from severe defoliation. Bt is applied by spraying leaves on the host trees one to two weeks after eggs have hatched. Young caterpillars are more vulnerable to Bt and controlling these early stages will protect trees from severe defoliation. Caterpillars must consume leaves that have been recently sprayed for the Bt to be effective simply coming into contact with sprayed leaves will have no effect.

Bt is not harmful to humans or other mammals, birds, fish or other animals. Bt products, which are approved for organic farms and gardens, also have little impact on beneficial insects, including predators, parasitoids and pollinators. You can spray Bt yourself or hire a professional arborist or tree care service to spray trees. If your trees are large, it is often a good idea to hire professionals who have equipment to get the Bt into the canopy where the caterpillars will feed. For more information about using Bt, see our publication &ldquoBtk: One management option for gypsy moth.&rdquo

Several types of conventional insecticides can be used to control gypsy moth caterpillars on landscape trees. It is best to apply any insecticide when caterpillars are young to limit defoliation. Many conventional insecticide products are applied by spraying the host trees where the caterpillars are feeding. This can be effective but will likely affect non-target species including beneficial insect predators, pollinators and parasitoids.

Other types of insecticides are injected into the base of the trunk of a tree. Trees transport the insecticide up the trunk to the leaves where the gypsy moth caterpillars are feeding. Insecticide products with the active ingredient emamectin benzoate, for example, should effectively control gypsy moth. Check with MSU Plant & Pest Diagnostics if you have questions about whether a specific insecticide product will control gypsy moth.

Will I have to deal with gypsy moth next year?

Gypsy moth populations typically remain high for two to three years then collapse and return to low levels. This population collapse usually is the result of a virus disease called NPV that affects gypsy moth caterpillars. When populations are high, the caterpillars compete with one another for food and resting spots. Stressed caterpillars become more susceptible to the NPV disease. After a year or two of heavy defoliation, the NPV disease, in combination with a fungal disease and other natural enemies, will generally control the outbreak. Gypsy moth populations usually remain at low levels for five to 10 years and sometimes longer. Eventually, some factor triggers another outbreak and a new cycle begins.

NPV larval cadaver. Photo by Steven Katovich,

Can't we just get rid of ALL the gypsy moths?

Nope. Gypsy moth is here to stay and is a part of Michigan's forest and urban forest ecosystems. You can, however, help keep gypsy moth from spreading into states that are not yet infested. Gypsy moth females like to lay their egg masses in dark, protected locations such as the underside of lawn chairs or picnic tables or on firewood. Egg masses may also be found on recreational vehicles or trailers or in the wheel wells of cars.

Accidentally transporting egg masses to a new location can result in a new gypsy moth population that will cause headaches for other people. Be sure you know what a gypsy moth egg mass looks like. Inspect firewood, vehicles, lawn furniture and other outdoor items that might have egg masses before moving them out of state. If you find egg masses, scrape them off into a bucket of soapy water or burn or bury them.

Watch the video: Αντιμετωπίστε τον σκόρο οικολογικά (November 2022).