yellow shouldered slug moth

Yellow-shouldered slug

yellow shouldered slug moth

Common Name: Yellow-shouldered slug

Scientific Name: Lithacodes fasciola

Season: One generation, with adults in early summer and caterpillars by July.

Food: Many deciduous trees, including apple, basswood, beech, birch, blueberry, cherry, chestnut, hickory, locust, maple, oak, and willow.

Ecology: Like many individuals in this family, caterpillars of the yellow-shouldered slug do not resemble caterpillars at all, but rather appear like slugs, with their heads projected down towards the ground and transparent bodies. This is one of the most common type of slug caterpillar encountered in the eastern US, feeding on the underside of leaves in woodlands and forest edges. Adults commonly come to lights at night, and have a strange habit of turning their abdomens up in the air like a tail when at rest. Caterpillars overwinter as pupae.

Doug Tallamy Photo

wavy line heterocampa moth

Wavy-lined heterocampa

wavy line heterocampa moth

Common Name: Wavy-lined heterocampa

Scientific Name: Heterocampa biundata

Season: One generation a year, with adults by June and caterpillars by July.

Food: Many deciduous woody plants, including basswood, beech, birch, cherry, hickory, maple, oak, walnut, willow, and witch hazel. Oak seems preferred in New England.

Ecology: Early molts of the wavy-lined heterocampa caterpillar sprout antler-like projections on their pronotum (the “shoulder” of the insect), but are harmless. Later molts will appear like the chewed edge of a leaf, which it uses to hide from birds looking for an easy meal. Adults, in comparison, appear dark and mossy, allowing them to blend in against the bark of trees. In the fall, caterpillars will turn reddish and overwinter, turning to pupae in the spring.

Doug Tallamy Photo

the beggar moth

The Beggar

the beggar moth

Common Name: The Beggar

Scientific Name: Eubaphe mendica

Season: Two generations, with caterpillars common by June.

Food: Maples and violets. Adults do not feed.

Ecology: This moth has nearly clear wings with very few scales, and bare patches that resemble holes in a beggar’s clothes, which is how the moth received its name. As a caterpillar, the beggar looks very much like a twig, and will use this camouflage to protect itself from being viewed as bird food. Caterpillars overwinter as pupae.

Doug Tallamy Photo

Eastern tent caterpillar

Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moth

Eastern Tent Caterpiller

Common Name: Eastern tent caterpillar moth

Scientific Name: Malacosoma americana

Season: One generation, with caterpillars appearing first in April into late May, and adults by June.

Food: Caterpillars feed primarily on cherry trees, but may build nests on apple and crabapple as well.

Ecology: As the name implies, the caterpillars of this moth form a silken nest in the crotch of tree branches, where caterpillars rest and molt. Caterpillars that leave the nest “scout” for leaves to feed from, dragging a trail of silk behind them that other caterpillars will follow. When the caterpillars reach their final molt, they leave the nest to pupate, and may be found several plants away from their actual host plant. Contrary to popular belief, a nest of tent caterpillars in your cherry tree will not outright kill the plant, and within a month’s time, trees recover. Adults produce a spongy mass of eggs on twigs of their host plant, which will overwinter.

Doug Tallamy Photo

caterpillar nest

Trees have adapted to eastern tent caterpillar nesting activity: Leaves will return after this nesting stage is completed. Adam Mitchell Photo


Another view of eastern tent caterpillar moth. Adam Mitchell Photo

skiff moth

Skiff moth

skiff moth

Common Name: Skiff moth

Scientific Name: Prolimacodes badia

Season: One generation, with adults from May to June and caterpillars by July.

Food: Caterpillars feed on a variety of woody plants, including birch, blueberry, cherry, chestnut, oak, poplar, and willow.

Ecology: The common name of the moth refers to the shape of this caterpillar, whose shape bears resemblance to a boat, or skiff. Caterpillars have small white spots that resemble dead leaf tissue, helping them hide on the undersides of leaves from predators. Unlike other caterpillars of this family, which sting when touched, the skiff moth caterpillar releases foul smelling liquid when alarmed. Caterpillars overwinter as pupae.

Doug Tallamy Photo

Schinia florida moth

Primrose Moth

Schinia florida moth

Common Name: Evening primrose flower moth

Scientific Name: Schinia florida

Season: One generation a year, with caterpillars from late July into September. Adults are present by June.

Food: Evening primrose

Ecology: Caterpillars of this moth prefer to feed on flowers and seed capsules of their host plant rather than leaves. Caterpillars will bore a hole into the seed pod and eats its way through until the pod is hollow. One can often find the bodies of these caterpillars sticking out of flower buds and seed pods as a result. The adults hide during the day by pushing themselves into partially closed flowers. Caterpillars overwinter as pupae.

Doug Tallamy Photo

Paonias myops moth

Small-eyed sphinx

Paonias myops moth

Common Name: Small-eyed sphinx

Scientific Name: Paonias myops

Season: Two generations in New England, with adults by April and again in July; caterpillars by May and again in August.

Food: Cherry, hawthorn, and shadbush.

Ecology: Caterpillars are nocturnal, feeding during the night and hiding on damaged leaves or near the base of branches to avoid predation. Caterpillars seem to avoid new leaves and feed on older branches so as to not expose themselves. In contrast, the adults are quite conspicuous, bearing large eyespots on their hindwings that may startle nocturnal predators and give the adults a chance to escape. Caterpillars overwinter as pupae.

Doug Tallamy Photo

Hyalophora cecropia moth

Cecropia moth caterpillar

Hyalophora cecropia moth

Common Name: Cecropia moth, Robin moth

Scientific Name: Hyalophora cecropia

Season: One generation a year in New England, with adults flying late May into June, and caterpillars from June into the fall.

Food: Many different woody plants in the Northeast: alder, ash, basswood, birch, cherry, dogwood, elm, hawthorn, maple, oak, poplar, wax myrtle, and willow.

Ecology: One of the largest moths in the US, with a very large caterpillar to boot. Unfortunately, this species of moth is in decline, due to a parasitic fly that was initially released to handle gypsy moths, as well as loss of native host plants. Although caterpillars appear to have spikes on their body, they do not sting. Caterpillars will move to the base of host plants and form silken bag cocoons, where they will overwinter.

Doug Tallamy Photo

Rose hooktip moth

Rose hooktip

Rose hooktip moth

Common Name: Rose hooktip

Scientific Name: Oreta rosea

Season: Two generations a year, with adults flying from late spring into June, and again in late summer into September. Caterpillars appear from July and into late fall.

Food: Birch and viburnum

Ecology: Adults of these small moths can vary in appearance, appearing as two separate species. The most commonly encountered form has a broad, yellow band across its wings and pink, hooked wingtips. The second form is entirely brown or brownish-purple. Both moths mimic dead leaves. Rose hooktips will overwinter as pupae.

Doug Tallamy Photo

Hag moth

Hag Moth and Caterpillar

Common Name: Hag moth

Scientific Name: Phobetron pitchecium

Season: Adult, May-Oct.; caterpillar, July-Oct.

Food: Many woody plants, including apple, ash, cherry, chestnut, dogwood, hickory, oak, persimmon, walnut, and willow.

Ecology: One of the most bizarre looking caterpillars in the US, referred to as “monkey slugs”. Caterpillars bear six pairs of feathery appendages that easily break off, and these appendages contain stinging hairs that can be painful if touched. It is believed that the caterpillars are meant to mimic the shed skins of tarantulas, hence the strange appearance. In contrast, the adult female hag moths mimic the appearance of bees, with large tufts of hair on the middle leg to mimic the appearance of a pollen basket. Males mimic the appearance of wasps. All of these different appearances are to fool birds into avoiding the insect as a meal.

Doug Tallamy Photos


Hag moth caterpillar