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As mentioned previously, moths are often more difficult to photograph than butterflies. They hide during the day, and they aren't big and showy. Also -- unlike many butterflies -- moth life cycles aren't always well known, so it may be harder to know where to look for them.

To remedy this, I've been posting some moth life cycles. For example, this week we have a more complete genista moth life cycle.

First we found the orange, black and white larval stage on Texas mountain laurel bushes.

By the way, these are sometimes call sophora worms because their host plant's scientific name is Sophora secundiflora.

Those pupated in a loose silken cocoon.

We waited as the caterpillar changed into a moth.

Ta da! The genista broom moth (Uresiphita reversalis) has emerged.

It belongs to the family Crambidae, the grass moths. Can you see why another common name for the group is snout moth?  Perhaps it will be easier to see from a side view:

The mouthparts form a point at the front of the head that resembles a snout.

Coincidentally, I found another caterpillar from the family Crambidae this week.

This is a mint moth caterpillar in the genus Pyrausta.

Hopefully, we'll find out what the snout looks like for this moth in a few weeks.

In case you are gearing up for National Pollinator Week June 22-28, 2020, remember that moths are pollinators, too.

Related:

Have you spotted any moths or caterpillars this week?

The 9th annual National Moth Week is coming up July 18-26, 2020, so let's take a peek at the abundance of moths in our yard right now.

First there were the genista caterpillars (previous post).


This genista caterpillar was on a neighbor's Texas mountain laurel so I gave it a home.

It made a loose silk cocoon on the cloth at the top of the container and pupated. The orange-brown crescent shape looks like a typical moth pupa.

Perhaps we'll have a moth to show in the next few weeks.

We found at least two separate species of caterpillar on our desert fern tree. The green looper was the larger of the two.

It pupated in the bottom of its container.  Pupae from the family Geometridae often show some emerald green coloration in the thorax region.

Here's the adult. I'm not entirely sure what the species is, but it is common right now.

This is probably another of the same species I found sitting on a wall a few days later.

Moths can be hard to photograph, first of all because they hide in the shadows during the day and secondly because they fly away when someone approaches them.

This powdery gray moth was unusual because it was feeding on a milkweed flower during the day.

Notice the curious fold in the forewing?

You can see the curved fold even in the open wings.

The examples above are just the tip of the moth iceberg.

Let's keep an eye out for moths over the coming weeks and try to learn more about them. For activity suggestions and information, visit the National Moth Week website.

Looking for children's books about moths? Then check out Jerry Pallotta's gorgeous new Not a Butterfly Alphabet Book: It's About Time Moths Had Their Own Book!, illustrated by Shennen Bersani,

plus others on our growing list of children's books about moths and butterflies at Science Books for Kids.

A few weeks ago a friend and I visited the Desert Botanical Garden. As we passed by a Texas Mountain laurel plant, I noticed a caterpillar.

Okay, maybe I knew where to look.

A couple of other people came by, and saw that my friend and I were peering into the bush. I was struck by how different their reactions were.

A young boy spotted one and exclaimed, "Look, a caterpillar!" Soon he had found one after another, excited at each one, pointing them out to us.

A man --probably his father-- came up and said, "A pest."

They walked on.

Obviously, each of us has a unique perspective. For example, I knew the insects were called genista caterpillars, Uresiphita reversalis, and when they finished development they would turn into a moth. I've seen genista caterpillars every year in the spring on Texas mountain laurel plants for over a decade. The caterpillars feed while the plant is flowering, then disappear--pupate and overwinter as a pupa -- until the following year (see a photograph of an adult and a pupa). Generally the plant recovers after the caterpillars pupate, so no need to do anything about them.

Also, Texas mountain laurel leaves and bright red seeds are full of some noxious chemicals (toxic alkaloids). It is actually pretty amazing that the caterpillars can eat the leaves and survive. Genista caterpillars use the plant's chemicals to defend themselves, like monarch caterpillars use the toxins in milkweeds to defend themselves. They are specialized to those plants.

Even though everything seems to be changing (the garden is now closed), there's always hope that we can expect to see genista caterpillars again next year.

Have you ever seen a genista caterpillar?