Emerald Moth: All You Need to Know in a Quick Guide

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The Emerald Moth is a fascinating and visually stunning creature that deserves attention and exploration. Known for its vibrant green color and intricate patterns, this moth is a true gem in the world of insects. In this article, we will delve into everything you need to know about the Emerald Moth – from its appearance and distribution to its life cycle and unique characteristics.

One of the striking features of the Emerald Moth is its captivating green wings, which are covered in scales, similar to other moths and butterflies. The scales on their wings provide the moth with a distinct appearance and play a vital role in its ability to fly. In addition to their vibrant color, the patterns on the wings of the Emerald Moth serve as camouflage, helping it blend seamlessly into its natural environment.

Emerald Moths can be found in various parts of the world, inhabiting diverse ecosystems. Their distribution is influenced by factors such as temperature, humidity, and food availability. The life cycle of the Emerald Moth is fascinating, as it undergoes complete metamorphosis – transitioning from eggs to larvae, pupae, and finally adult moths.

Emerald Moth Overview


The Emerald Moth belongs to the family Geometridae within the order Lepidoptera. This order is part of the class Insecta under the phylum Arthropoda. Some examples of other moths within Geometridae include the Peppered Moth and the Willow Beauty.

Physical Characteristics

Emerald Moths are known for their distinct green color, which helps them blend in with foliage. Their size varies, but they typically have a wingspan of around 2 to 4 centimeters. Here’s a brief list of features:

  • Green coloration
  • Belongs to Geometridae family
  • Wingspan: 2 to 4 centimeters

The table below compares the Emerald Moth with another common moth, the Peppered Moth:

Feature Emerald Moth Peppered Moth
Color Green Light or dark
Size 2 to 4 cm wingspan 35 to 60 mm wingspan
Family Geometridae Geometridae

In summary, the Emerald Moth is a fascinating insect boasting a vibrant green color and belonging to the Geometridae family.

Life Cycle

Caterpillar Stage

The caterpillar stage of the Emerald Moth begins when the eggs hatch, releasing tiny, nearly invisible larvae. Over time, these larvae grow and develop:

  • Green coloring
  • Distinctive markings
  • Increased size (0.1 to 0.4 inches)

They feed mostly on leaves during the day to sustain their growth.

Pupa Stage

As the Emerald Moth caterpillar matures, it undergoes a fascinating transformation called pupation. In this stage:

  • The caterpillar forms a cocoon
  • Its body breaks down into specialized cells
  • The cells reconstruct into a moth

This process usually takes two to three weeks and may vary depending on temperature and environmental conditions.

Adult Stage

After completing the pupa stage, the adult Emerald Moth emerges:

  • Wingspan: less than one inch
  • Color: green with spots of iridescence
  • Active predominantly at night in May and June

Adult moths are hard to spot on leaves due to their camouflage, making it a perfect adaptation to blend in with their environment.

Habitat and Distribution

North America

The Emerald Moth thrives in various habitats across North America, including:

  • Woodlands
  • Gardens
  • Parks

They are found in several states such as British Columbia, Michigan, Iowa, and California.

UK and Ireland

In the UK and Ireland, the Emerald Moth is commonly sighted in:

  • England
  • Wales
  • Scotland
  • Isle of Man
  • Channel Islands

Their preferred habitats include:

  • Grasslands
  • Woodlands
  • Gardens
  • Parks


The Emerald Moth can also be found in Mexico, occupying similar habitats as in other regions:

  • Woodlands
  • Parks
  • Gardens

Comparison of Habitats:

Habitat Type North America UK and Ireland Mexico

In summary:

  • The Emerald Moth is widely distributed across North America, UK and Ireland, and Mexico.
  • They inhabit woodlands, gardens, and parks in each region, with grasslands being unique to the UK and Ireland.

Camouflage and Appearance

Caterpillar Camouflage

The Synchlora aerata, or wavy-lined emerald moth, has caterpillars that exhibit excellent camouflage. They cover themselves with small bits of their host plant, making it difficult for predators to spot them.

Fore example:

  • On a leaf, they’ll appear like a tiny extension of the plant
  • On flowers, they can mimic petals or buds

Adult Moth Patterns

Adult wavy-lined emerald moths showcase a vibrant green color that helps them blend seamlessly with foliage. Their wings possess a striking pattern involving:

  • A bold white line running across both wings
  • Fringed edges along the outer wing margins

Color Variations and Markings

Wavy-lined emerald moths display some color variations in their markings, making each individual unique. These variations include:

  • The intensity of the green color on their wings
  • Subtle differences in the white stripe’s thickness and curvature

Comparison Table

Feature Caterpillar Adult Moth
Camouflage Covers itself with plant material Green color matches foliage
Main Pattern/Marking Mimics host plant parts White line across wings
Additional Pattern/Marking N/A Fringed wing edges

By understanding the camouflage and appearance of the wavy-lined emerald moth both in its caterpillar and adult stages, we can appreciate the incredible adaptation these insects have developed to survive in their natural habitats.

Food Sources

Caterpillar Diet

The Emerald Moth caterpillars feed on a variety of plants and trees. Some common host plants include:

  • Aster family: plants like goldenrod, artemisia, and daisy
  • Rubus: shrubs like raspberry and blackberry
  • Corylus and Betula: trees like hazel and birch
  • Beech family: beech, chestnut (Castanea), and oak (Quercus)

Furthermore, caterpillars also consume leaves of Prunus (e.g., cherry and plum), Alder, and Crataegus (hawthorn) trees.

Adult Moth Diet

Adult Emerald Moths feed on nectar from flowers. They primarily visit the blossoms of trees and shrubs. Here are some examples:

  • Corylus: hazel tree flowers
  • Prunus: cherry and plum tree flowers
  • Quercus: oak tree flowers
  • Betula: birch tree flowers
Caterpillar Diet Adult Mo- Diet
Leaves from a variety of plants Nectar from tree and shrub flowers

The distribution of Emerald Moths strongly depends on the availability of their food sources. Their conservation status can be affected by changes in the plant species they depend on for sustenance.

Conservation and Resources

Conservation Status

The Emerald Moth is not listed under the UK BAP conservation status. This indicates that they are not considered a priority species for conservation efforts. Nevertheless, it’s important to be aware of their preferred habitats and food sources to ensure their survival.

The Emerald Moth can be found in diverse natural habitats where their larval host plants thrive:

  • Downy Birch (Betula pubescens)
  • Silver Birch (Betula pendula)
  • Hazel (Corylus avellana)
  • Beech (Fagus sylvatica)

Additional Resources

There are a variety of resources available to naturalists, amateurs, and those looking for accurate information on the diverse natural world.

Expert Advice

For expert professional advice on the Emerald Moth and its conservation, consider contacting your local extension office. They can provide valuable context, resources, and reference materials to help you understand and support this species.

Fun Facts

Emerald moths are fascinating creatures with vibrant colors that capture the attention of nature enthusiasts. Despite their name, they are not related to emeralds, which are gemstones. The name “Emerald moth” comes from their striking color.

They are active primarily at night, when they use their ability to reflect light to their advantage. This unique feature helps them navigate their surroundings and search for food. On the other hand, butterflies are active during the day and rely on their colorful wings as a camouflage mechanism.

Some fun comparisons between the Emerald Moth and other winged creatures are in the table below:

Features Emerald Moth Butterfly Brown Moth
Color Green Colorful Brown
Time of Activity Night Day Night

As for habitat and food preferences, the Emerald Moth can be found in the UK and enjoys munching on several common caterpillar food plants. Some examples include:

  • Hawthorn
  • Corylus avellana
  • Silver birch (Betula pendula)
  • Downy birch (Betula pubescens)
  • Fagus sylvatica

It’s interesting to note that even though Emerald Moths are not listed under the UK BAP, they still play an essential role in their ecosystem. Their colorful presence and nocturnal habits help maintain a diverse wildlife population.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Emerald Moth


mystery moth
Location: Southern California
May 9, 2011 12:15 am
Hello WTB,
This beautiful moth was on the wall just outside my front door today. I took a picture of it with my phone and have been trying to look it up online but have not come up with anything that looks like it. Can you tell me what it is??
Signature: thank you , Pamela


Hi Pamela,
This is a member of the Geometridae subfamily
Geometrinae commonly called the Emeralds.  This is a large subfamily and most members are described on BugGuide as:  “Small moths named for their delicate green color.”  If you require an exact species identification, you may try browsing through BugGuide for possibilities.  It would seem that the red edges on the wings might be a noteworthy feature for identification purposes.

Letter 2 – Emerald Moth may be Blackberry Looper


Subject: Blackberry Looper Moth?
Location: Austin, TX
April 10, 2014 9:29 am
I found this little gal on my front porch in Austin, TX – the linked HSU page says’ she’s a Blackberry Looper. Can you confirm? Sure is pretty.
~ Laura
http://www.hsu.edu/pictures2.aspx?id=16785 website
Signature: Laura


Hi Laura,
Thank you so much for resubmitting your request using our standard form as it is much easier to create postings if we have a standard format.  We cannot say for certain that your moth is a Blackberry Looper,
Chlorochlamys chloroluecaria, but that is a good possibility.  Your moth is definitely an Emerald in the subfamily Geometrinae which contains many similar looking green moths.  See BugGuide for the myriad possibilities.  Perhaps someone with more experience identifying Geometrid Moths will be able to confirm the identity of your moth.

Letter 3 – Emerald Moth from Mexico


Subject: White-barred Emerald Moth
Location: Mexico
January 9, 2016 2:40 am
I think this may be a White-barred Emerald Moth (Nemoria bifilata)? or relative.Found in San Sebastian 3/12/15.
Signature: Graeme Davis


Hi Graeme,
This is an Emerald in the subfamily Geomertinae, but there are many North American species that look quite similar and we suspect those species are also found in Mexico, so we cannot say for certain that this is a White-Barred Emerald.  In addition, there may be more species found in Mexico that do not range across the U.S. border.  BugGuide has many images of many similar looking species.  We rarely attempt a definite species ID with this subfamily.

Letter 4 – Emerald Moth in Mount Washington


Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
February 18, 2016 10:50 PM
Upon arriving home from work tonight, this gorgeous green Emerald, possibly Nemoria leptalea which is pictured on BugGuide, was waiting on the front door.  According to BugGuide “Larva can be found on buckwheat” and we have three Buckwheat plants in the garden.

Emerald, possibly Nemoria leptalea
Emerald, possibly Nemoria leptalea

Letter 5 – Emerald Moth on the front door


Location:  Mt Washington, Los Angeles, California
June 28, 2011
A few times a year, Emerald Moths in the subfamily Geometrinae come to the porch light.  This is the first individual we have noticed this year.


Letter 6 – Guenee's Emerald from Australia


Guenee’s Emerald, Chlorocoma melocrossa
Thu, Nov 27, 2008 at 6:08 PM
Hi guys,
Have been having a bit of a problem tracking this guy down but near as I can find is Guenee’s Emerald, Chlorocoma melocrossa, one of the geometridae but unlike the examples I have seen on the net this one has no wing markings.
Taken in the Capricornia Region, Queensland
Capricornia Region, Queensland

Guenee's Emerald from Australia
Guenee's Emerald from Australia

Hi Trevor,
The Emeralds are a very distinctive group of Geometrid Moths.  Thanks for allowing our readership to see what one of the Australian species looks like.


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    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com 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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