Bug of the Week: Ailanthus Webworm

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?

1 Comment

  1. Ashley

    Ailanthus Webworm is really beautiful. Thanks for sharing a wonderful article about it.

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