Look on the Bright Side: The Lives of Ohio Moths
Spring is here and so are our many pollinators and beautiful bugs! Many times when people think of beautiful bugs, their first thought might be butterflies. But what about moths? Moths are usually overlooked as butterflies’ uglier, boring relative but they can be just as interesting and just as helpful to the environment!
Moths and butterflies are from the same order called Lepidoptera and are both important pollinators to our environment, but they have several differences as well. Most moths are nocturnal, and only come out at night, whereas butterflies are diurnal, meaning they come out during the day. Since moths are nocturnal, they have a few different features from butterflies that help them survive at night. Firstly, they have a duller coloring so they can blend into their surroundings easier. Moths also have to have big eyes and big antennae so they can stay safe from predators at night. Here are just a few of the cool moths you can find here in Southwest Ohio!
The luna moth (Actias luna), sometimes mistaken as a lunar moth, is a common and beautiful moth you can find in some Great Parks! They’re a bright green and can be easily identified by their long, curving tails. Luna moths are fairly large moths, with a wingspan of 1–2 inches. They usually can be found in May–June on most hardwood trees. Like all moths, luna moths do not eat as adults, so they only live a few weeks once fully grown. Their main purpose is to breed and pollinate.
Rosy Maple Moth
Rosy maple moths (Dryocampa rubicunda) are covered in yellow and pink coloring. Sometimes they can be more a white or cream than yellow. These eye-catching insect tends to have a wingspan of 1–2 inches. Rosy maple moths can be found in May–August, and usually can be found on several types of maple trees. They use their big antennae to detect odors and sounds, which help them get around more than eye sight!
Giant Leopard Moth
The giant leopard moth (Hypercompe scribonia) is the largest species of tiger moth. The adults are white with mostly hollow black spots, but sometimes they can be solid black spots. Their wingspan is 2–3 inches. Giant leopard moths can be found on several kinds of low-growing and woody plants. Their caterpillars are called wooly bears and they are big, fuzzy-looking caterpillars! To defend themselves from prey, they will curl up to show their spines, similar to a hedgehog. Their spines are not venomous, but are very pointy and sharp. Giant leopard moths also can produce high frequency clicks to respond to bat sonars.
Cecropia moths (Hyalophora cecropia) are a beautiful type of silk moth. They are the largest moth found in North America with a wingspan of 5–7 inches. They can be identified by their red bodies and black or brown wings with bands of red and tan. Cecropia moths can be found in March–July. Their caterpillars are one of my favorite, with their rainbow-like spots going down their back. Cecropia moths usually feed on various trees and shrubs, and they can be found in a lot of urban areas because they’re easily attracted to street lights and porch lights.
We are lucky enough to see many different amazing moths in Southwest Ohio and these are just a few to look for! If you’re interested in learning more about these beautiful creatures, check out the resources below.
Nature Interpreter, Miami Whitewater Forest
- Cecropia moth. National Wildlife Federation. (n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Invertebrates/Cecropia-Moth.
- “Ohio Moths.” ButterflyIdentification.org – North American Butterfly, Moth, and Skipper Flying Insects, https://www.butterflyidentification.org/moths-by-state-listing.php?reach=Ohio.
- “Butterflies and Moths of Ohio (481 Found).” Insect, Bugs and Spider Identification – North America, https://www.insectidentification.org/insects-by-type-and-region.php?thisState=ohio&thisType=Butterfly+or+Moth.
- “Luna Moth Actias Luna (Linnaeus, 1758).” Luna Moth Actias Luna (Linnaeus, 1758) | Butterflies and Moths of North America, 23 Sept. 2017, https://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species/Actias-luna.
- Giant Woolly Bear, Great Leopard Moth – Hypercompe Scribonia (Stoll 1790), https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/MISC/MOTHS/Hypercompe_scribonia.htm.
- “Rosy Maple Moth Dryocampa Rubicunda (Fabricius, 1793).” Rosy Maple Moth Dryocampa Rubicunda (Fabricius, 1793) | Butterflies and Moths of North America, 28 June 2021, https://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species/Dryocampa-rubicunda.