Ailanthus Webworm

Subject: I think it’s a rattlebox moth, but…
Location: Boynton Beach, Florida
October 13, 2016 9:43 am
Hello What’s That Bug!
I think I photographed an ornate bella moth (or rattlebox moth) but it just doesn’t look right to me. The black and white patterns along the sides are very different from the “normal” rattlebox moths seen in our area and it also appears to have touches of purplish black on the back of the neck. This bug was photographed at Seacrest Scrub Natural Area in Boynton Beach, Florida. What do you think? Is it a rattlebox moth that has just decided to be “different”? Thanks for helping us identify all things creepy and crawly – and in this instance, wildly colorful!
Signature: Ann Mathews

Ailanthus Webworm Moth
Ailanthus Webworm Moth

Dear Ann,
This is an Ailanthus Webworm Moth, NOT a Rattlebox Moth.

Thank you so much for correcting me on the identity of this bug. I’ll let the natural area land manager know – this may be a new species for Seacrest Scrub Natural Area. Appreciate all you do!
Ann Mathews
Palm Beach County
Department of Environmental Resources Management

Hi again Ann,
Though this is a native species, it has adapted to eating the invasive, exotic Tree of Heaven,
Ailanthus altissima, which might have gotten established in the Seacrest Scrub Natural Area.  If that is the case, those in charge should attempt to eradicate this noxious tree that is invading native open space across the continent.

Once again, thanks for the additional information about this moth. Our Department works hard to keep the natural areas free of invasive, nonnative plants. However, this particular natural area is surrounded by homes landscaped with lots of exotic plants – so I suspect the adult moths feed in the natural area while the caterpillars feed in the yards adjacent to the natural area.
Ann Mathews

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