Are Rosy Maple Moths Poisonous? Unveiling the Truth Behind Their Beauty

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Rosy maple moths are small, colorful insects with a wingspan of up to 2 inches.

They are often admired for their bright pink and yellow hues, which can make people curious about their potential danger to humans or plants.

Before venturing into a garden or wooded area, it’s essential to know whether or not rosy maple moths are poisonous.

These moths belong to the silk moth family and are known for their distinctive appearance.


Are Rosy Maple Moths Poisonous
Rosy Maple Moth


Their larvae, known as green-striped mapleworms, have black stripes on their bodies and two black “horns” above their heads.

As adults, rosy maple moths are generally harmless creatures that pose no significant threat to humans or animals.

However, the caterpillars of the rosy maple moths can sometimes be a concern for plants in their vicinity.

When the eggs hatch, the young caterpillars feed on the leaves of host trees, such as maples.

While these caterpillars might cause some leaf damage, it is essential to keep in mind that they are not poisonous, and neither are the adult moths.

Description and Identification


The rosy maple moth (Dryocampa rubicunda) is a unique and colorful insect. Adult moths display a combination of pink and yellow, with variable coloration.

Their wingspan typically ranges up to 2 inches. The caterpillar form, known as the greenstriped mapleworm, has a light green body with darker horizontal stripes.

Geographic Range

These moths belong to the Saturniidae family, also known as the great silk moths. They inhabit North America, with a distribution from:

  • Southern Canada
  • Northeastern United States
  • Florida
  • Texas

The Dryocampa rubicunda can be found in various habitats, from forests to gardens. Their presence is closely associated with their host plants, such as maple and oak trees.

Life Cycle and Habits


  • Rosy maple moth females lay eggs in clusters of 10-30
  • Eggs are deposited on food tree leaves
  • Hatching occurs from late April to September

Rosy maple moth females lay their eggs in clusters of 10-30 on the leaves of food trees. The hatching takes place from late April into September.


Green Striped Mapleworm



  • Known as green-striped mapleworms
  • Features:
    • Black stripes along their bodies
    • Two black “horns” above their heads
  • Feed on various species of maple leaves

The larvae, as mentioned earlier, are also known as green-striped mapleworms. They feed on the leaves of various maple species.


  • Pupation occurs within a thin cocoon
  • Usually found on the ground or leaf litter

The pupa stage takes place within a thin cocoon, typically found on the ground or among leaf litter.


Males Females
Smaller in size Larger and more rounded wings
Emerges in late afternoon Mates with males in the evening

Both male and female rosy maple moths emerge as adults in the late afternoon.

Males are smaller in size, while females have larger and more rounded wings. Mating occurs later that same evening.

Habitat and Host Trees

Preferred Trees

Rosy maple moths are typically found in temperate deciduous forests where they prefer to reside on various maple and oak tree species.

Here are some examples of their favorite host trees:

  • Sugar maple (Acer saccharum)
  • Red maple (Acer rubrum)
  • Silver maple (Acer saccharinum)

In addition to maples, they can also be found on:

  • Turkey oak (Quercus laevis)
  • Other oak tree species


Rosy Maple Moth


Role in the Ecosystem

While rosy maple moths are not considered highly destructive pests, their larvae can cause damage to maple trees.

However, this damage is typically limited to aesthetic issues, as the tree may become partially or entirely bare.

In some cases, a single host tree may have hundreds of caterpillars feasting on leaves.

Adult rosy maple moths lack functional mouthparts, which means they do not feed, making their impact on the ecosystem minimal.

They mainly contribute to the ecosystem through their role in the life cycle of the moth species and by serving as prey for natural predators such as birds and small mammals.

Tree Species Latin Name Preference
Sugar maple Acer saccharum High
Red maple Acer rubrum High
Silver maple Acer saccharinum High
Turkey oak Quercus laevis Moderate
Other oak species Various Moderate

To summarize, rosy maple moths inhabit deciduous forests and favor maple and oak trees.

They play a limited role in the ecosystem, primarily affecting the appearance of trees due to their larvae’s consumption of leaves and their roles as prey for other species.


Newly Eclosed Rosy Maple Moth


Are Rosy Maple Moths Poisonous?

To Humans

Rosy maple moths, scientifically known as Dryocampa rubicunda, are considered to be harmless to humans.

  • They do not have a venomous sting
  • Their larvae (caterpillars) have black stripes and two black horns, but these are not poisonous either (source)

These moths can be appreciated for their vibrant colors without fearing any harm to yourself.

To Pets

Similarly, rosy maple moths pose no threat to pets.

  • They do not carry any toxic substances
  • Their caterpillars are not harmful

Note: It is still advised to keep pets from eating them, as consuming non-food items can cause digestive upset.

Comparison Table: Rosy Maple Moth vs. Poisonous Plants

Features Rosy Maple Moth Poisonous Plants
Sting/Venom None Some plants produce harmful toxins
Effect on humans and pets Harmless May cause skin irritation, poisonings or even death
Examples of harmful species N/A Poison ivy, hogweed, hemlock, and parsnip (source)

In conclusion, rosy maple moths are neither poisonous nor harmful to humans and pets.

Their vibrant appearance can be enjoyed without fear. However, always be cautious around plants, as some may be toxic or cause harm.


Rosy Maple Moth


Threats and Management


Rosy maple moths face several predators. For example:

  • Birds: Some avian predators of rosy maple moths include tufted titmice, blue jays, and black-capped chickadees.
  • Insects: Parasitic flies, wasps, and predatory beetles are known to prey on both the larvae and adult moths.

Pest Control

In urban landscapes and suburban areas, rosy maple moths might pose a threat to their host trees by defoliating them.

Here is a brief overview of some management options:

  • Natural predators: as mentioned before, birds and insects can help control moth populations
  • Fertilization: providing host trees with appropriate nutrients can improve their resilience

There isn’t a single universally effective strategy for controlling rosy maple moths, as each situation is unique.

As a result, it’s essential to evaluate the specific context and consider the potential benefits and drawbacks.

Control Method Pros Cons
Natural predators Minimal intervention required Cannot guarantee complete control of pest populations
Fertilization Strengthen host trees May not stop moths from causing damage

By considering these factors, it’s possible to devise a well-rounded management plan to deal with the threat of rosy maple moths without causing excessive harm to the environment or the host trees they inhabit.

Bug Control Recommendation Tool

What type of pest are you dealing with?

How severe is the infestation?

Do you require child/pet/garden safe treatments (organic)?

Are you willing to monitor and maintain the treatment yourself?

Interesting Facts and Additional Information

Coloration and Patterns

The rosy maple moths are striking insects with beautiful coloration. Their bodies are characterized by:

  • Yellow bodies: A bright yellow color that is quite eye-catching.
  • Hindwings and forewings: Pink edges with a triangular yellow band.
  • Antennae: Bushier in males, green in color.
  • Legs: Neon green with white stripes and black dots.

Overall, their unique appearance makes them quite attractive and easily distinguishable from other moth species.


Rosy Maple Moth


Role in Culture and Science

Larvae: Also known as green-striped mapleworms, they have a green body with white stripes and spines along their back.

Hosts: Maple, apple, and willow trees; they primarily feed on the leaves of these trees during their late summer to fall.

Silk moths: The rosy maple moth belongs to the Saturniidae family, which also includes the well-known silkworm moth.

Docile nature: They are generally docile insects, making them popular in the pet trade for moth enthusiasts.

Scientific research: The University of Michigan has conducted studies on their fascinating color patterns, pheromones, and other features.

Features Rosy Maple Moth Other Moths
Coloration Bright yellow body with pink patterns Various colors depending on species
Antennae shape Bushier antennae (males), green color Varies depending on species
Larvae stage Greenstriped mapleworm caterpillar Dependent on the species
Feeding habits Primarily feed on maple, apple, willow Varies based on host preferences
Family & related moth species Saturniidae family, related to silkworms Numerous moth families

The rosy maple moth’s captivating appearance and unique features make it an interesting subject for both cultural and scientific research, while also adding a touch of beauty to gardens and the natural environment.


Rosy Maple Moth



Rosy maple moths are beautiful insects that belong to the family Saturniidae, which includes some of the largest and most colorful moths in the world.

They are not poisonous to humans or animals, but they may have chemical defenses to deter predators, such as birds and bats.

Rosy maple moths can be recognized by their pink and yellow coloration, furry bodies, and feathery antennae.

They are native to North America, where they feed on the leaves of various maple trees.

These moths have a short lifespan, but they can produce several generations in a year.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about Rosy Maple Moths. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Rosy Maple Moth

Subject: moth of some kind
Location: P.E.I. Canada
July 10, 2012 6:18 pm
hi bugman i saw this moth last night on my doorstep i would love to know what kind it is and if they are here all the time because this it the first time i’ve ever saw this kind before here and its name.

p.s.since i do not know it real name i have come to call it ”butter cotton candy moth” you can see why by the photos 🙂 lol
Signature: from: samantha

Rosy Maple Moth

Dear Samantha,
Though we love your descriptive “Butter Cotton Candy Moth” this moth goes by the equally colorful name Rosy Maple Moth

The colors are rosy and the caterpillars feed on the leaves of maple trees.  Back in 2005, deep in our archive, a reader once wrote:  “What a gorgeous sherbert color moth.

Letter 2 – Newly Eclosed Rosy Maple Moth

Subject:  Maybe a grub or caterpillar
Location:  Cosby, Tennessee
September 10, 2016 3:19 pm
We were camping in TN in the great Smokey Mountains of Cosby just this past month (August) when we saw this cute little bug … it moved it’s feet quite fast and it just seemed so cute and happy. Do you know what it is?

I did just discover an even better picture, and I really look forward to hearing back from you.  We asked one of the rangers in the camp, but he had no idea what it might be.
Signature:  Vicki

Newly Eclosed Rosy Maple Moth
Newly Eclosed Rosy Maple Moth

Dear Vicki,
This newly eclosed Rosy Maple Moth will take several hours before its wings expand and it is capable of flying.

Letter 3 – Painted Lichen Moth and Rosy Maple Moth

Subject: W. VA moth
Location: Baker, WV
July 24, 2017 6:50 am
I’m looking up several bugs, moths mostly, found in Baker, WV.
Signature: ThosRDyer

Painted Lichen Moth (left) and Rosy Maple Moth

Dear ThosRDyer,
The image you attached that contains two moths has a Painted Lichen Moth on the left and a Rosy Maple Moth on the right.

Letter 4 – Rosy Maple Moth

Rosy Maple Moth – Dryocampa Rubicunda
Dear Bug Man,
Now that my friends are aware of how much I have my camera with me to capture unique things, my friend Robin send me this tonight. I can’t find her in your moth section. What a gorgeous sherbert color moth.

Robin and I think it is a Rosy Maple Moth? She took this picture at her home in Bella Vista, Arkansas in Spring 2005 in her carport. Love the site! Amazing how many things I can identify now!
Steph Hart

Hi Steph,
This is indeed a Rosy Maple Moth and we do have photos. As a page gets too large, we either add a new page or split the pages. The Rosy Maple Moth photos can be found on our Saturnid Moth or Giant Silkworm Moth page.

Sorry about the confusion. We do have a search engine to help alleviate any confusion caused by our site becoming such a behemoth.


  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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