Green leuconycta moth

Green leuconycta moth

Common Name: Green Leuconycta

Scientific Name: Leuconycta diphtheroids

Season: Two generations, with caterpillars in June and August, and adults in late June.

Food: Goldenrods and other asters.

Ecology: A common caterpillar in open fields and meadows, green leuconyctas hide on the underside of wildflower leaves, and may drop to the ground if alarmed. As adults, they bear a striking resemblance to lichen of a tree, and moths make a good habit of blending in to woody vegetation whenever they can. Green leuconycta will overwinter as pupae.

Doug Tallamy Photo

greater grapevine looper moth

greater grapevine looper moth

Common Name: Greater grapevine looper

Scientific Name: Eulithis gracilineata

Season: Two generations, with caterpillars by June and adults in July.

Food: Grape and Virginia creeper.

Ecology: Many caterpillars feed at night to avoid being detected by birds, but they need a clever way to avoid being noticed while they rest during the day. The greater grapevine looper mimics the appearance of a twig, and will hold itself straight and still for extended periods of time to avoid detection. Eggs that are laid in the fall or late summer will overwinter.

Doug Tallamy Photo

forest tent caterpillar

forest tent caterpillar

Common Name: Forest tent caterpillar

Scientific Name: Malacosoma disstria

Season: One generation per year, with caterpillars in late spring to early summer, and adults soon after.

Food: Alder, basswood, birches, cherries, oaks, poplars, and willows. Adults do not feed.

Ecology: Although related to eastern tent caterpillars, forest tent caterpillars don’t form “tents”. Instead, they form large silken mats near the base of branches or the tree itself, where they gather in large numbers, sometimes in the hundreds, to molt or to rest. When a caterpillar leaves the mat to look for food, it leaves behind a trail made of silk. Like a trail of bread crumbs, the caterpillars follow the silk trail left behind in search for tender leaves. Forest tent caterpillars, like the eastern tent caterpillar, may defoliate the trees they feed on, but rarely do they ever kill their host plants. The eggs overwinter and hatch the following spring.

Doug Tallamy Photo


Forest tent caterpillar moth. Adam Mitchell Photo

Alianthus webworm

Alianthus webworm

Common Name: Alianthus webworm

Scientific Name: Atteva aurea

Season: At least two generations in the northeast, and more likely to increase due to climate change. Adults by May, and caterpillars throughout the summer and into fall.

Food: Tree-of-Heaven, an invasive species. Its native host plant can only be found in southern Florida and into the tropics. The adults take nectar from flowers.

Ecology: Originally, this species could only be found in southern Florida. However, since the introduction of the invasive plant Tree-of-Heaven (Alianthus altissima) and climate change, the Alianthus webworm has since spread north. If the moth if found on your property, it is likely that Tree-of-Heaven plants are somewhere nearby. Caterpillars form nests made of silk, and eat the leaves within.

Doug Tallamy Photo

Acronicta fallax moth Fishers Island 2015

Acronicta fallax moth Fishers Island 2015

Common Name: Green Marvel

Scientific Name: Acronicta fallax

Season: Two generations in New England; mature caterpillars in June and July, and again from August into October. Moths from late May into June, and again in late July. Caterpillars in the fall overwinter as pupae.

Food: Viburnum

Ecology: The Green Marvel earns its name well with the bright green and black patterning across its wings, which help the moth blend into lichens and moss on the bark of trees during the day. It can be found in forests and scrub meadows where viburnum bushes are common. As caterpillars, they hide on the underside of leaves to feed. When the caterpillars are ready to pupate, they tend to tunnel into soft wood to help protect themselves from being fed on.

Doug Tallamy Photo

Azalea Sphinx Moth

Azalea Sphinx Moth

Common Name: Azalea sphinx

Scientific Name: Darapsa choerilus

Season: At least two generations a year, with adults by June and caterpillars onward.

Food: Caterpillars feed on azalea, black gum, blueberry, grape, and viburnum. Adults take nectar from flowers.

Ecology: Like many sphinx moths, the Azalea sphinx is diurnal, meaning it is active during the daytime. Adults take nectar from flowers with their long tongues, and prefer elongate, tube-like flowers. As such, these moths are pollinators, and provide an important service to the environment. Caterpillars will move to the base of their host plant and form a silken cocoon out of dead leaves. Caterpillars overwinter as pupae.

Adam Mitchell Photo

azalea sphinx moth

Photo by: Douglas Tallamy, Entomologist

Pandorus Sphinx Moth

Common Name: Pandorus Sphinx

Scientific name: Eumorpha pandorus

Season: Some places see only one generation a year, while others see two.

It is a large, greenish gray moth with darker patches and pink edges and small pink eyespots. The underside is usually pale yellow-green or brown. It has a wingspan of 3¼–4½ inches (8.2–11.5 cm), females being slightly larger than males. Pandora sphinx moths fly during dusk.

Adam Mitchell Photo

Luna moth, male

Luna moth, male

One of the most beautiful silkmoth species in North America. Male luna moth, June 15, 2016, Fishers Island, New York.

I collected this male from a light trap around midnight and released him after a few pictures. You can tell the males apart from females in most silkmoths by the large, feathery antennae, which they use to “smell” pheromones of females, up to miles away!

Common name: Luna moth

Scientific name: Actias luna

Food: Luna moths feed on a variety of woody plants as caterpillars, including birches, persimmons, walnuts, sweetgums, and sumacs.

Ecology: As adults, they do not feed, and rely on the energy they consumed during their caterpillar stage to keep them alive until they find a mate. Unfortunately, they only live a few days after emerging from their cocoons.

Luna moths have been in severe decline for the past century. There are many reasons why: habitat loss through loss of native host plants, the introduction of parasitic flies and wasps that attack the caterpillars, and artificial light from buildings and streets that attract adults all contribute to population decline.

luna moth

This image gives perspective to magnificent male luna moth.

Adam Mitchell Photos

Automeris io moth

Common Name: Io moth

Scientific Name: Automeris io

Season: Usually two generations in the Northeast.

Food: Feeds on many different trees, shrubs, legumes, and grasses (this one was feeding on black locust).

Ecology: Adults emerge during late morning or early afternoon, and mating takes place in the late evening. Females lay clumps of eggs on leaves or stems of the host plants. Young caterpillars feed together as a group and move in long “trains” while older caterpillars feed alone. Papery cocoons are spun in litter under the host plant or in crevices.

Adam Mitchell Photos


Caterpillars of the io moth are dangerous to touch, even young caterpillars such as these (mature caterpillars become green). The large spines that protrude from their backs can cause a stinging sensation to the fingers, similar to stinging nettle. The adults, however, are harmless.


mothCommon name: Common spring moth, Fishers Island NY, June 2017

Scientific name: Heliomata cycladata

Season: March-July

Food:  Black locust and honey locust.

Ecology: As the name implies, these moths are common to see during the spring and into July through the Mid-Atlantic. Although small, they are quite beautiful.