Just when we thought we were done with moths, we found an orange, black, and white beauty feeding on a Queen Anne's lace flower in western New York. It almost looks as lacy as the flower.
With the striking coloration, it didn't take long to figure out it is an ailanthus webworm moth, Atteva aurea.
These moths were thought to be native to Florida, where they feed on paradise trees, Simarouba glauca and S. amara. The introduced Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) can also serve as a host plant. When the Tree of Heaven began to spread throughout the U.S., the ailanthus webworm did, too.
The caterpillars are called webworms because of the silk they produce while feeding. You can see them in action in this video.
Many of the caterpillars in the ermine moth family (Yponomeutidae) build webbed nests like this.
It turns out these little moths are ideal models, probably because their orange and black colors are a warning pattern. The one in the photo was not fazed by my attention, probably because not much tries to eat them. What a cool little moth.
Have you discovered any interesting moths this week?
Is it a bird? Is it a bee? No, it's a.... moth!
This moth has many names. Because its fuzzy amber yellow and black body resembles a bumble bee, it is called a bee moth, bumblebee moth, or bee hawk moth. Unlike other moths, you can see through its wings, so sometimes they are called clearwing moths. Finally, because they are active during the day, because of their size, and because they hover around flowers sipping nectar, members of their family are also called hummingbird moths.
As is usual for the Family Sphingidae, bee moth larvae (caterpillars) have a pointy "horn" or spike at the end of their abdomens and are called hornworms.
This short video shows a bee moth caterpillar feeding. Can you see its brownish thorn-like horn?
The caterpillars eat various shrubs, such as snowberry, or some small trees like cherry trees.
Once mature, larvae drop to the ground to pupate in the leaf litter before transforming into an adult moth.
The adults feed on nectar from flowers. They seem to be particularly attracted to bee balm (Monarda).
Aren't moths amazing?
And don't forget, it's National Moth Week.
Have you ever seen a bee moth? What did you think it was?
Next week is National Moth Week, so let's go crazy about moths!
This year geometrids are the featured moth family for National Moth Week. The name geometrid roughly translates as "earth measurer" and refers to the fact the larvae are mostly inchworms.
See our recent blog post about geometrid moths.
How to celebrate:
First, be sure to check the National Moth Week events page to see if there are any public events in your area. For example, here in Arizona there's a talk at Brandi Fenton Memorial Park in Tucson on July 28, 2018.
If there aren't any events, you can create some activities of your own. Check out the kids' page for an awesome coloring book to download, plus games and stories.
For some cool science in more depth, read this article about how Bogong Moths use magnetic fields to guide their long distance migrations in Australia.
Moth Blog Posts at Growing With Science:
If you ever want to learn more about moths, check out the moths category in the sidebar.
Or visit our growing list of children's books about moths and butterflies at Science Books for Kids.
Finally, we also have two Pinterest boards you might enjoy: All About Moths and Butterfly and Moth Feeders to Make.
Let us know how you celebrate National Moth Week.