Wikijunior:Bugs/Moth

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A moth...
This moth flies in the daytime. It sips nectar through its long proboscis and even looks like a hummingbird!

What does it look like?[edit | edit source]

Moths have 4 wings with delicate scales that rub off easily. They have a long coiled tube (proboscis) for drinking nectar or tree sap. The proboscis is small or absent in some species. A few species have jaws for eating pollen.

Most moths are night fliers and have dark, dull colors. Those that fly in the day have brighter colors. Moths have different ways of holding their wings. Some hold them like a roof over the body. Others curl them around the body. Antennae sometimes look like combs or feathers.

Yucca Moths are small with a wingspan of 1-3/8 inches or less. Many are black or metallic blue. They are sometimes marked with gold or silver. Others are pure white. They have long threadlike antennae. The wings are covered with tiny hair-like spines under the scales.

Fairy Moths are a kind of Yucca Moth. Males have long delicate antennae. They have a wingspan of ½ to 5/8 inch. The front wings are shiny black or bronze. Wings are sometimes yellowish-brown with rows of black dots and silver bands.

Clothes Moths are small and pale. There is a tuft of dense bristly hair on the head. Their threadlike antennae have scales around each segment. Their wingspan is 3/8 to 1-3/8 inches. Wings may have a dull golden sheen.

Bagworm Moth males are small with blackish or transparent wings. The wingspan is 3/8 to 1 inch. Most female Bagworm Moths are wingless.

Gelechiid Moths are small. They often have brilliant metallic colors. Their wingspan is less than 5/8 inch. The back wings are broader and pointed at the tips. Wings are fringed along the outer edges.

Potato Tuber Moths are a kind of Gelechiid Moth. The body is silver-gray or brown. The wingspan is 3/8 to 5/8 inches. Wings have dark specks or streaks. Back wings are smaller and have fringe along the outer edges. The forewings are silver-gray or brown.

Ermine Moths are small with a wingspan of 1-1/8 inch or less. They have spots or patterns on their wings. Wings wrap around the body when at rest.

Ailanthus Webworm Moths are a kind of Ermine moth. Their wingspan is 1-1/8 inches. Forewings and thorax are shiny orange. Forewings have greenish-yellow spots and black borders. Hind wings are pale gray with dark gray borders.

Clear Winged Moths are slender. They look like wasps. They have dark bodies banded with yellow or red. Fringes of hair cover the legs. There are tufts of bristles on the tips of the antennae. Wings are narrow and partly transparent. They have a wingspan of ½ to 2-3/8 inches.

Manroot Borers are a kind of Clear Winged Moth. They have a wingspan of 1-5/8 to 2-3/8 inches. The front wings are brownish to gray. The back wings are feathery and reddish orange.

Spanish Vine Borers are a kind of Clear Winged Moth. Their wingspan is 1 to 1-1/2 inches. The body is about 5/8 inches long. They resemble wasps. The forewings are metallic olive-green. Hind wings are transparent with narrow brown margins. They have a red abdomen and a row of black dots on the back. Their legs are black with thick reddish fringes.

Doll’s Clearwing Moths are about 7/8 of an inch long. They have a wingspan of 1-1/8 to 1-5/8 inches. The wings are reddish-brown with yellow bands and streaks.

California Sycamore Borer is a kind of Clear-Winged Moth. The body is about ¾ inch. Wingspan is ¾ to 1 inch. The forewings are clear with a large black spot. Hind wings are transparent with black veins and fringes.

Tortricid Moths are small. They can be brown, tan, yellow-gray, or black-and-white. Many have square-tipped forewings. They have a wingspan of 3/8 to 1-3/8 inches. The wings fold back in a shield shape when at rest.

Fruit Tree Leaf-Roller Moths are a kind of Tortricid Moth. They have a wingspan of ¾ inch. The front wings are pale yellow-brown with cream colored spots on the front margin.

Orange Tortrix Moths have a wingspan of ½ to 5/8 inch. The wings are tan to rusty brown. The wings fold over in a V-shape when at rest. Codling Moths are a kind of Tortricid Moth. Their wingspan is 5/8 to ¾ inch. The body and front wings are brownish-gray. Back wings are brown with pale fringes.


This is the moth with the largest wingspan - It is called the White Witch!

Where does it live?[edit | edit source]

Fairy Moths are found throughout North America, at the edges of shady woods. In the northern regions, they can be seen flying April through July.

Yucca Moths live in dry regions wherever yucca plants grow. They are found from New York to the Midwest, south to the Southwest and Mexico. Many caterpillars live inside leaves and feed on leaf tissue. They are called leaf miners, They make tiny lines or spots on leaves. Others spin cases (cocoons) from dark coarse silk. Some make cocoons at the base of the tree. Others wrap up in living leaves. Adults can be seen in flight May through July.

Potato Tuber Moths live in potato fields and storage areas. They are found in the southern and southwestern United States.

Ailanthus Webworm Moths live in meadows of southern New England to Michigan and south to the Gulf of Mexico.

Manroot Borer Moths live in dry open areas. They are found in Kansas and western Texas, in southern California, and north to Oregon.

Spanish Vine Borers live in open areas that are being prepared for raising crops (cultivated). They are found from southern Canada to Mexico, but not on the Pacific Ocean coast.

Doll’s Clearwing Moths live in woods where the trees are not too close together. They live on tree-lined streets and along roads. They are found along the Atlantic coast from Massachusetts to the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia.

California Sycamore Borers live in forests that have California sycamores and oaks trees. They are found from Idaho to California and north to Washington.

Fruit Tree Leaf-Roller Moths are found throughout North America. They are found in forests and orchards living among trees. Their caterpillars live in rolled up leaves held together with silk.

Orange Tortrix Moths live in orchards and in fields where shrubs and plants grow close to the ground. They are found from Wyoming to California and north to Canada.

Codling Moths are found throughout North America in fruit orchards, especially apple and pear trees.

What does it eat?[edit | edit source]

Fairy Moth caterpillars feed on flowers or seeds of milkweed and other plants. As they grow they feed on foliage.

Yucca Moths eat foliage and seeds. Their caterpillars eat yucca plant seeds. Without moths, yucca plants cannot reproduce by pollination. They have to reproduce by root offshoots instead. Fewer new yucca plants grow by offshoots.

Clothes Moth caterpillars have moveable cases and live near a food source. They feed on leaves, fungus, vegetable fibers, and hair. Adults are short-lived and do not feed. Bagworm Moths spin a cocoon to carry around while feeding.

Gelechiid Moth caterpillars include leaf miners, gall makers, and seed eaters. Leaf miner larvae live inside plant leaves. Leaf miners make little lines in the leaf. Gall makers cause little bumps on leaves, stems, flowers, and roots. Galls appear in many shapes and sizes.

Potato Tuber caterpillars feed on leaves, stems, and potatoes. Ermine Moth caterpillars eat leaves or bore into fruit. Spanish Vine Borer caterpillars eat gourds, squash, pumpkin, cucumber, and musk-melon.

Clear Winged Moth caterpillars make holes on stems, roots, and bark of trees and other plants. Dolls Clearwing Moth caterpillars bore into willow and poplar trees. California Sycamore-Borer caterpillars usually eat older, living trees.

Fruit Tree Leaf-Roller caterpillars eat leaves of apple, pear, quince, and walnut trees. Orange Tortrix caterpillars feed on buds, leaves, and blossoms of fruit trees and shrubs. Codling Moth caterpillars feed on fruit.


The larvae of this moth eats clothing.

How does it defend itself?[edit | edit source]

Some species of moths make a clicking sound to defend against bats. The clicking sound disrupts echolocation signals that bats use to find prey.

Fruit Tree Leaf-Roller caterpillars use silk threads to drop to the ground when threatened. They use the same threads to return to their nests after danger passes.

The Wood Tiger Moth has bright colors to warn predators. This moth has two kinds of defenses. One is a very bad smell to keep birds away. The second is a toxic fluid that defends against insects.

What stages of metamorphosis does it go through?[edit | edit source]

Bagworm Moth females lay eggs in a cocoon to protect the caterpillars.

Gelechiid Moth females lay 150 to 300 eggs on leaves, stems, or exposed tubers (fleshy outgrowths). The caterpillars spin silken cocoons.

California Sycamore-Borer females lay eggs in bark crevices. Caterpillars hatch in a few days and bore into the bark. They make tunnels where they over-winter and mature.

Fruit Tree Leaf-Roller females lay their eggs in tree trunks or branches. They cover them with a kind of cement. The eggs hatch in the spring. They grow in rolled-up leaves.

Orange Tortrix females lay masses of pale-yellow eggs on twigs and branches. Caterpillars make nests among twig tips, where they overwinter and grow.

What special behavior does it exhibit?[edit | edit source]

Fruit Tree Leaf-Roller caterpillars make silk threads to drop to the ground when danger threatens. ok

A Leaf-Roller caterpillar makes silk threads to wrap up a leaf and make a protective covering. ok

Yucca Moth females make a sticky ball from yucca flower pollen. They carry the ball to a different yucca flower to lay their eggs. This cross-pollinates the plant so many flowers will bloom. It also makes food for the caterpillars. ok

How does this bug affect people?[edit | edit source]

Adult flying moths do not damage clothing. Clothes Moth larvae make holes in clothes made from wool, silk, and other fibers.

Pantry Moths are also called Indian Meal Moths. They eat flour, bird seed, pet food, cereal and other grains.

Most Gall-making moths do not damage host plants. Galls are often used in flower arrangements and crafts.

References[edit | edit source]

Milne, L. & Milne, M. (2009). National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders. New York, NY: Alfred A Knopf.

https://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu/library/landscaping/gall-making-insects-and-mites/

https://backyardnature.net/moths.htm

https://www.britannica.com/animal/hawk-moth#ref245820

https://bugguide.net/node/view/1972

http://idl.entomology.cornell.edu/wp-content/uploads/Galls-on-Plants.pdf

https://www.scientificamerican.com/