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National Moth Week comes to a close

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Synchlora larvae shows off its attire of Dune Sunflower petals, as well as its handiwork on the flower.  With a Pityopsis graminifolia blossom and an index fingertip for size comparison, this captures just how small these Synchlora caterpillars are, even adorned in flower petals. Caterpillar photos by Laura Bennett-Kimble Today is the final day of the 10th annual National Moth Week, and to cap off the week, we’re going to look at the Synchlora genus, a group of moths that include tiny inchworm-type caterpillars and beautiful emerald moths A very interesting trait of the 12 North American species in this genus is that of disguising themselves when vulnerable larvae. The Camouflage Looper, or Wavy-lined Emerald Moth, ( Synchlora aerata ) and Southern Emerald Moth ( Synchlora frondaria ) are two species that cover themselves in flower petals and other plant material. The larvae seem to prefer composite flowers, such as those found on Pityopsis graminifolia , Helianthus debilis and Biden

Inscrutable as a sphinx?

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Two sphinx moths seek out nectar from forked bluecurls and pityopsis plants.  The two close-up photos, which show more detail, including the proboscis on one of the moths, are cropped from the larger photo. Photos by Laura Bennett-Kimble. Have you ever been excited to spot a hummingbird buzzing around flowers, only to realize it was actually a large moth? You’re not alone. Many species in the moth family Sphingidae resemble hummingbirds in flight, as they beat their wings rapidly and hover over blossoms, and their abdomen shape can actually resemble the body of those tiny birds, too. The moths are commonly called hummingbird, hawk and sphinx moths, the latter name having all sorts of interesting connotations. Sphinx is the name of a winged female Greek monster that had a tendency to kill those who couldn’t answer her riddles, and it’s also the name of an ancient Egyptian mythological creature with a human head and a lion’s body – think of those enormous stone monuments in Egypt’s deser

Our biggest moth - the Cecropia Silk Moth

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Cecropia moth ( Hyalophora cecropia ) adult. Photo by lotteryd, CC BY-NC Today, we’re going to take a look at a big, beautiful moth – the Cecropia Silk Moth ( Hyalophora cecropia ). Striking in appearance in both its larval and adult phases, this moth can be found from Florida north to Nova Scotia in Canada, and as far west as the Rocky Mountains. The moths are the largest found in North America. Their bodies are reddish orange, and wings are black to brown with striking bands of white, red and tan. A typical wingspan is five to seven inches, according to the National Wildlife Federation . Caterpillars are spectacular looking, too, with bright green bodies covered in knobby protuberances of orange, yellow and blue, as well as delicate black spikes. Like most butterfly and moth larvae, the caterpillars do change coloration and morphology as they grow from one developmental stage (instar) to the next. Cecropia Moth caterpillar, St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve. Photo by Sophia Fonsec

Tussock moth caterpillars – Don’t touch!

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The fancy, sometimes troublesome Tussock Moth caterpillar. Photo by Laura Bennett-Kimble. A Tussock Moth caterpillar meanders across an outdoor restaurant's table. Photo by Laura Bennett-Kimble. An adult Fir Tussock Moth ( Orgyia detrita ) hanging out on a stucco wall. Photo by zara_nature_nerd, CC BY-NC We all have our defense mechanisms, whether it’s cracking a joke when someone says something inappropriate to you or jumping out of the way when a cyclist roars past you without saying, “on your left.” In the natural world, defense mechanisms can get a little more aggressive, as anyone who’s inadvertently disturbed a wasp nest can attest. Other defenses are just part of an insect’s physiology. Take the spines and spikes that adorn many caterpillars. Are they trouble or not? It depends. The Royal Walnut Moth ( Citheronia regalis ) caterpillar has formidable spikes and horns that apparently are not toxic to humans, but they sure make you pause before grabbing one. However, cute litt

A tiny burst of color: Syngamia florella

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A Syngamia florella moth on the native Phyla nodiflora , in a ruderal area of south Orlando. Indiscriminate in its food choices, this adult Orange-spotted Flower Moth is on the flower of the nonnative Shrubby False Buttonweed ( Spermacoce verticillata ). Photos: Laura Bennett-Kimble We continue our celebration of moths during National Moth Week by focusing on the dainty, zippy little Orange-spotted Flower Moth, which is remarkably colorful when seen up close. As you can see in the photos, its pronounced yellow, orange, and brown coloration make this small creature stand out in the moth world. The Syngamia florella moth, also known as Red-waisted Florella Moth, is just 15 millimeters from wingtip to wingtip. It can be seen day and night, and it does feed, unlike other moths that do not eat as adults. This means it serves as a plant pollinator. In the Pyraustinae subfamily, along with the Coffee-loving Pyrausta Moth ( Pyrausta tyralis ), this species seeks nectar from a variety of wi

A mighty moth: Citheronia regalis

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An adult Regal Moth ( Citheronia regalis ) rests on the end of a shortened Cabbage Palm ( Sabal palmetto ) leaf at the Madison County I10 Eastbound Rest Area. Photo by Kuqi_baba, CC BY-NC The moth Citheronia regalis , a burly beauty with elegant autumnal coloring, goes by a few evocative names: Regal Moth, Royal Walnut Moth, and Hickory Horned Devil. Going by those latter two names, you would be correct to assume the moth has a relationship with trees. Caterpillars can be found throughout much of the eastern part of the country munching on the leaves of hickories ( pignut , scrub , water , and mockernut ), pecan, butternut, black walnut , sweet gum , persimmon , sumacs, and even cultivated cotton. It’s also possible to find them on buttonbush , wax myrtle , plum ( chickasaw  and  flatwoods ), sourwood , ash ( green , pop , and white ), sycamore , sassafras , and lilac, according to University of Florida/IFAS . Local populations appear to prefer some hosts more than others, UF/IFAS says

Red alert! Cosmosoma myrodora

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A Scarlet-Bodied Wasp Moth ( Cosmosoma myriodora ) on a Romerillo ( Bidens alba ) flower. P hoto by Judy Gallagher , CC BY . People can be pretty opinionated about the native dog fennel ( Eupatorium capillifolium ), which some gardeners consider a nuisance plant and others merely tolerate. But for those who welcome it into their outdoor space, another interesting native could be there, too – the Scarlet-bodied Wasp Moth ( Cosmosoma myrodora ). The plant provides this species protection from predators, such as the golden orb-web spider, according to an interesting research document by University of Florida IFAS Extension. But not through serving as a host plant for the moth’s larvae, however. Researchers found that adult male Scarlet-bodied Wasp Moths obtain defensive compounds by feeding on dog fennel. “The male transfers the pyrrolizidine alkaloids acquired from dog fennel to the female through seminal infusion, and the same alkaloids are then transferred to eggs by the female as a d