The Giant Wood Moth, also known as the Endoxyla species, is an intriguing creature that has captured the interest of many people. These large moths are native to Australia and are known for their impressive size, with some reaching up to 25 centimeters in wingspan.
Due to their size and unique appearance, these moths are often a topic of fascination for those interested in nature and wildlife. Not only are they visually striking, but they also play a vital role in the ecosystem, contributing to the pollination of various plant species.
As you delve deeper into the world of Giant Wood Moths, you’ll learn about their intriguing life cycle, the critical role they play in the environment, and some fascinating facts about these extraordinary insects. Enjoy the exploration!
Overview of Giant Wood Moth
The Giant Wood Moth, also known as Endoxyla Cinereus, is a native species to Australia. This fascinating creature belongs to the family Cossidae and is well-known for its substantial size, which can span up to 25 centimeters in some cases.
Some key features of the Giant Wood Moth include:
- Large wingspan (15-25 centimeters)
- Forewings with a mix of gray and brown shades
- Broad, male antennae
Heaviest Moth in the World
As the heaviest moth in the world, the Giant Wood Moth can weigh up to 30 grams. Its impressive size is mainly due to its dense body composition and the fact that it spends most of its life in the larval stage. During this stage, the caterpillars feed on the wood of Eucalyptus trees, which contributes to their significant weight gain.
Let’s compare the Giant Wood Moth with the Atlas Moth, another large moth species.
|Feature||Giant Wood Moth||Atlas Moth|
|Weight||Up to 30 grams||25-35 grams|
|Wingspan||15-25 cm||Up to 30 cm|
In conclusion, the Giant Wood Moth is truly a wonder of nature due to its immense size and unique characteristics. As the heaviest moth in the world, it demonstrates the incredible diversity and adaptability of insects found in different habitats around the globe.
Lifecycle and Development
The life cycle of the Giant Wood Moth begins with the larval stage, during which the caterpillar feeds on wood for nourishment. Examples of their diet include:
- Eucalyptus trees
- Acacia trees
- Other hardwood species
These caterpillars can grow up to 15 cm long and have a distinctive, corpulent appearance. Some characteristics include:
- Creamy-white color
- Brown head capsule
- Protruding anal fork
As the caterpillar reaches maturity, it prepares to pupate underground or within decaying wood. During this stage:
- A protective chrysalis forms around the caterpillar’s body
- The transformation into an adult moth occurs
The duration of the pupal stage varies with environmental factors like temperature and humidity.
Upon emerging from the chrysalis, the adult Giant Wood Moth is typically short-lived, lasting only a few days. Key features include:
- Wingspan of up to 25 cm
- Brown or gray coloration
- Distinctive patterns on wings
The adult moths focus primarily on reproduction, with females laying hundreds of eggs on appropriate host trees. It is important to note that adult Giant Wood Moths do not feed.
|Larval Stage||Creamy-white color, brown head, feeds on wood||Varies|
|Pupal Stage||Forms chrysalis, transformation occurs||Varies|
|Adult Moth||Large wingspan, brown or gray color, focused on reproduction||Few days|
Habitat and Distribution
The Giant Wood Moth is primarily found in the eastern coastal regions of Australia, specifically in Queensland and New South Wales. These large, impressive insects inhabit the following areas:
- Queensland: Found in a variety of habitats, including rainforests and eucalyptus forests
- New South Wales: Predominantly residing in eucalyptus forests, as well as some rainforest areas
Their preferred habitat consists of tree bark, where they lay their eggs and their larvae burrow into the wood to feed. Here are some characteristics of their habitat:
- Presence of abundant woody material
- Often found in moist environments
- Eucalyptus forests are favored in New South Wales
Giant Wood Moths are not native to New Zealand, but some sightings have been reported due to human activities, such as the importation of plants or timber. Although they haven’t established a stable population in the country, it’s essential to monitor their presence to prevent any potential damage to New Zealand’s native flora.
|Habitat||Queensland, New South Wales||Not native, few sightings|
|Preferred areas||Rainforests, eucalyptus forests||N/A|
|Bark preference||Eucalyptus trees, rainforest tree bark||Non-established habitat preferences|
In summary, the Giant Wood Moth has a well-established distribution in eastern Australia but hasn’t established a population in New Zealand, potentially minimizing any damage to New Zealand’s native ecosystems.
Diet and Predators
Giant wood moths primarily consume tree roots in their larval stage. Some specific examples:
- Eucalyptus roots
- Acacia roots
They’re well-adapted to finding nutrients underground and can cause significant damage to trees in the process.
Giant wood moths face a variety of predators, including:
A comparison of their predators:
|Predator||Hunting Method||Prey Stage|
|Ants||Group attacks, overpowering prey||Larvae|
|Birds||Aerial attacks, using beaks to catch prey||Adult|
|Bats||Aerial attacks, using echolocation to locate||Adult|
Ants, in particular, pose a significant threat to moth larvae by attacking and devouring them when they come across their path.
Reproduction and Mating
Giant wood moths exhibit sexual dimorphism, which means there are physical differences between males and females. Some key differences include:
- Females: Larger in size with a wingspan of up to 25 cm (10 inches)
- Males: Smaller in size, with a shorter wingspan
The mating process for giant wood moths begins with the male moths locating a suitable female for reproduction. Some important points to note about their mating process are:
- Pheromones: Female moths release pheromones to attract males
- Short lifespan: Adult moths have a limited lifespan, so they must reproduce quickly
Comparison Table: Females vs Males
|Wingspan||Up to 25 cm||Smaller|
|Role||Release pheromones||Attracted by pheromones|
Overall, understanding the sexual dimorphism and mating process of the giant wood moth helps reveal the intricacies of their reproduction. Their unique characteristics contribute to their fascinating life cycle.
Human Interactions and Significance
Giant wood moths, such as the witchetty grub, have cultural significance to Indigenous Australians. The witchetty grub, a larval stage of the giant wood moth, is a traditional food source for some Indigenous groups. It is high in protein, and has a nutty flavor when cooked.
Moths in Media and Literature
- Example: A student from Mount Cotton State School participated in a creative writing competition in Australia that was inspired by the giant wood moth.
Moths have also appeared in various media and literature forms like:
- Novels with moth-related themes or characters
- Documentaries showcasing moth’s ecological importance and diversity
- Animated films featuring moth characters
Conservation and Climate Change
Giant wood moths are indicators of healthy ecosystems. However, they are increasingly threatened due to climate change and deforestation.
Pros of Conservation Efforts:
- Preservation of native habitats
- Maintenance of ecological balance
- Protection of culturally significant species
Cons of Conservation Efforts:
- Increased financial resources needed
- Possible clashes with development projects
|Factor||Giant Wood Moths||Other Moths|
|Role||Indicators of healthy ecosystems||Can be pollinators or pests depending on the species|
|Habitat||Woodlands||Woodlands, grasslands, gardens, forests etc.|
|Impact||Cultural significance & food source||Varies – some are beneficial, others are destructive|
Entomologists play a vital role in the conservation of giant wood moths, studying their behavior, life cycle and habitat to better understand their ecological importance and the impact of climate change. Educating the public about these fascinating creatures also serves to increase awareness and appreciation, which in turn inspires conservation action.
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 – Casemaking Clothes Moths and Woodlice
Subject: Carpet Moth/Beetle
Location: United Kingdom
April 14, 2014 2:16 am
Good Morning, Please see photos of bugs collected from carpet with rice like cocoons?? Can you identify what the bug is and what the rice bits are. There are areas of carpet which have clearly been eaten and we need to identify the problem.
Signature: Ashley Clarke
The “bugs” are Woodlice or Pillbugs, and though they might be a nuisance indoors, they are not eating your carpet. They are attracted to damp conditions. The rice like cocoons appear to be the cases of Casemaking Clothes Moths, Tinea pellionella, a species that will eat wool rugs and clothes and we believe that is the source of the damage. According to BugGuide, the larvae feed on: “Feed on wool, feathers, fur, hair, upholstered furniture, leather, fish meals, milk powders, lint, dust or paper.” The larvae, not the adult moths, are responsible for the damage. It appears that one of the cases in the center of your “collection” is a different species in the same family, a Household Casebearer Moth case, Phereoeca uterella, which according to BugGuide: “feed on old spider webs; may also eat woolen goods of all kinds if the opportunity arises.” BugGuide also notes: “Larval cases can be found on wool rugs and wool carpets, hanging on curtains, or under buildings, hanging from subflooring, joists, sills and foundations; also found on exterior of buildings in shaded places, under farm sheds, under lawn furniture, on stored farm machinery, and on tree trunks.”
Many thanks really helpful
Letter 2 – Wood Moth from Tasmania, not Ghost Moth
What’s this bug?
Location: Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
January 30, 2011 5:44 am
Hi, thanks for the website. I snapped this very large moth in my back yard in suburban Hobart, Tasmania, the coldest (and island) state of Australia. We are in the middle of summer and it was a warmish night of about 15 degrees celcius. I have not been able to find any information online about this moth except that it resembles many of the hepialidae family. I have seen one of a similar size in the bush but this sighting was a first around the city. Hobart is surrounded by mountains & bush so the wilderness is never very far away from suburbia.
Signature: Bug info
Dear Bug info,
Our first impression, because of the long narrow wings, was that this was a Hawkmoth in the family Sphingidae, but after a brief moment, we revised our opinion in alignment with your speculation. We agree that this interesting specimen resembles the Ghost Moths or Swift Moths in the family Hepialidae, but like you, we have not been able to find any matching images on Csiro which includes this wonderful Hepialidae slide show. We could not find a match on the Moths of Australia Hepialidae page either. We then researched our original impression, but there are no matching images on the Moths of Australia Sphingidae page either.
The large body of this specimen inclines us to believe it is a female full of eggs. When Daniel was researching his book, The Curious World of Bugs, a Ghost Moth from Australia was discovered to hold the record for the most eggs laid by an insect that was not social since Ants, Bees and Termites can lay millions of eggs over the course of the queen’s life. Here is that bit of information courtesy of the Book of Insect Records published online by the University of Florida: “An Australian ghost moth, Trictena atripalpis (see Moths of Australia), is the insect with the highest recorded fecundity among nonsocial species. One female was reported to lay 29,100 eggs, and when dissected, 15,000 fully developed eggs were found in the ovaries.” We remain puzzled by this identification and we hope a reader will come to our assistance.
Update with Identification
We just received three comments from a reader who supplied this link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/psykepinky/3347804907/ of a Wood Moth that looks identical to this amazing creature. When we finish preparing Beoff Bourgenon (or however you spell Beef Burgandy in French), we will update this posting better.
Letter 3 – Giant Wood Moth from Australia
What’s This Moth?
Location: Melbourne, Australia
January 26, 2015
Hi, this landed on my daughter in a nursery in Melbourne today. the lady in the shop said it has been hanging around. My friend thought it could be a Giant Wood Moth after googling and trying to match the pic and finding your page, but we weren’t sure, so I thought i’d ask. This was the moth- it was at the nursery in Plenty in Melbourne, they said it’s been hanging around and keeps coming inside. if you need to crop the pic and take my daughter out of the shot thats ok- it was just the shot of facebook with my daughter it had landed on.
Thanks for resending the image. We agree that this is a Giant Wood Moth, Endoxyla cinereus.
Thanks. Now just wondering what its doing cin melbourne.
While Melbourne, Victoria is not included in the range map on Csiro, it is because no sightings have been reported or verified. Perhaps the range is expanding south due to global warming.
Letter 4 – Giant Wood Moth from Australia
Subject: Moth Identification
Location: Barrington Tops, NSW
December 11, 2013 3:04 pm
My wife and I were camping recently near Barrington Tops NSW and came across an enormous moth which we would like to identify.
The moth was quite docile and as it had landed on a temporary structure which was about to be taken down my wife carefully picked it up and we moved it to a nearby tree. The moth’s abdomen was pumping and it appeared to be about to lay eggs, it was quite heavy according to my wife.
Signature: Happy Camper
Dear Happy Camper,
We believe your moth is in the family Cossidae, the Wood Moths or Miller Moths, and we believe your individual is the Giant Wood Moth, Endoxyla cinereus, which has the distinction, according to the Australian Museum website, of being “the heaviest moth in the world, with some females weighing up to 30 grams.” The Australian Museum elaborates on the life cycle: “The larvae of some species of wood moths are better known as witchetty grubs and bore into smooth-barked eucalypt trees. As they grow, the tunnels left behind in the bark increase in width. They may spend up to one year within the tree before emerging as moths. The newly emerged, small caterpillars lower themselves to the ground on silky threads where they are thought to feed on plant roots. As adults they are unable to feed and only live for a few days. The heavy females lay about 20,000 tiny eggs before dying.” Csiro also has a photo of the Giant Wood Moth. The distinctive striped legs are evident in the photo of the living specimen posted to Butterfly House which states: “The adult moths have a variable vague pattern of light and dark grey or brown on the wings, including a darker spot near the middle of each forewing. The forewings each have a sinusoidal inner margin, and the hindwings a convex inner margin. The moths are very large. The females are larger than the males, and have a wingspan up to 23 cms.” The family page on Butterfly House notes that caterpillars of moths in this family are wood borers known as Witchetty Grubs. Witchetty Grubs are edible.
Thanks very much for taking the time to answer my query and for providing such a wealth of information.
Curtis & Ingrid Brager
Letter 5 – Two Moths: Grapeleaf Skeletonizer and Pearly Wood Nymph
Subject: What is the black & red bug?
Location: The Great Marsh, Beverly Shores, IN
July 28, 2012 11:29 pm
Hi, I like walking through the Great Marsh in Beverly Shores, IN. It is part of the Indiana Dunes National Lake Shore.
I came across a Pearly Wood Nymph which I thought was fascinating. I have included pictures of that. But my question is about the black and red, feathery looking bug. I found it in the Marsh as well. I have never seen another of either bug since then. Thank you.
Signature: Janet baines
The insect you would like identified is a Grapeleaf Skeletonizer Moth, Harrisina americana. According to BugGuide, the adults are nectar feeders and they are unusual in that they are both nocturnal and diurnal. Caterpillarsfeed in groups on the leaves of grapes, eating them to the veins. The Pearly Wood Nymph does an excellent job of mimicking bird droppings.
Thank you so much. I am so glad to have discovered this site.
Letter 6 – Giant Wood Moth
Subject: Large grey moth
Location: Gawler, SA
December 13, 2014 1:06 pm
I found this large grey moth sitting on the platform of a train station near Adelaide. I thought it was the giant wood moth but according to what I read this does not occur in South Australia?
We agree that this appears to be a Giant Wood Moth, Endoxyla cinereus, based on images posted to Butterfly House where it states: “The adult moths have a variable vague pattern of light and dark grey or brown on the wings, including a darker spot near the middle of each forewing. The forewings each have a sinusoidal inner margin, and the hindwings a convex inner margin. The moths are very large. The females are larger than the males, and have a wingspan up to 23 cms. The species occurs over Queensland and New South Wales.” The map on Csiro supports that range information, and states “Not verified” regarding South Australia sightings. Perhaps global warming and other climate changes are resulting in a natural range expansion. It is also possible that this might be another member of the genus that has a greater range. We are curious if our readership has an opinion on this matter.
Thank you for your reply. I am also curious whether your readers will be able to shed some light on the issue. In any case I felt privileged to have been able to see it, as it was the largest moth I have ever seen!
Letter 7 – Giant Wood Moth from Australia
Subject: What is this moth
Geographic location of the bug: Newport Queensland
Time: 10:11 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Good afternoon I found this moth on our back patio this morning. It’s large in size. Not sure what it’s called. Would be very interested in knowing what type it is.
How you want your letter signed: Regards Rach
Letter 8 – Ghost Moths or Wood Moths in Australia
Subject: Ghost Moths
Location: Edenhope Caravan Park, Edenhope, Victoria
April 13, 2015 5:27 pm
Hi To You,
Just found about 28 Ghost Moths, which must have hatched over night.
Thought you might like some photos.
Your images are wonderful. One of them appears to show the shed pupal skin or exuvia. We will attempt a species identification for you when we have more time to browse through the images in the family Hepialidae on the Butterfly House site. We have problems differentiating between Ghost Moths and Wood Moths in the family Cossidae which are also pictured on the Butterfly House site.
Letter 9 – Another Giant Wood Moth from Australia
Location: australia country victoria
January 26, 2015 6:55 pm
hi, im from victoria, australia. I heard flaping like a bird while sitting around a camp fire and found this the next morning on the ground.
is it a type of moth? it has some sort of a stinger though?
We just finished posting an image of a Giant Wood Moth from Australia, and though your individual is a bit battered, we believe it is also a Giant Wood Moth. What you have mistaken for a stinger is an ovipositor. Caterpillars are wood borers.
Letter 10 – Another Giant Wood Moth from Australia
Subject: Large moth
Geographic location of the bug: Liverpool area in Sydney
Time: 03:29 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Can anyone please identify this large moth seen near my work, it’s body is about 10 cm long. Thanks
How you want your letter signed: Allan
This is a Giant Wood Moth and we receive several submissions from Australia each year at this time.
Letter 11 – Beautiful Wood Nymph
Thought it was bird poo at first…
May 9, 2010
I found this interesting moth today on the deck around my mother-in-law’s pool. I probably would have dismissed it as bird droppings, had there not been other moths in the area. Interesting defense mechanism, I assume?
WE are very happy that we took the time to look at our old mail dating from a brief trip to Ohio. Your well camouflaged moth is a Beautiful Wood Nymph, Eudryas grata, which can be distinguished from its close relative, the Pearly Wood Nymph, Eudryas unio, because it is: “larger than Pearly Wood-Nymph (E. unio), and the dark band along outer margin of forewing is smoothly curved on the inside, not scalloped as in E. unio” according to BugGuide.
Letter 12 – Beautiful Wood Nymph
Marshmellow Looking Bug
July 16, 2010
Found in Missouri. Looks like a marshmellow with burned edges. Yellowish Green bordering black edges inside. Two legs (?) in front and looks like maybe two in back. Moth, butterfly looking.
Dear Never Seen,
We are amused that you described this Owlet Moth as looking like a burnt marshmallow, because most people describe it as looking like bird poop. It is a Wood Nymph in the genus Eudryas, and we believe based on this BugGuide description: “the dark band along outer margin of forewing is smoothly curved on the inside, not scalloped as in E. unio,” that it is the Beautiful Wood Nymph, Eudryas grata, as opposed to the very similar Pearly Wood Nymph, Eudryas unio.
Letter 13 – Beautiful Wood Nymph Caterpillar
Subject: Curious Caterpillar
Geographic location of the bug: Connecticut, USA
Time: 10:58 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I was hiking and picked up a stick, and underneath I saw a caterpillar-looking bug, presumably hiding its head in a hole in the stick (possibly snacking on the wood?). I tried looking up what kind of caterpillar it was, but can’t find a similar picture with any of my google searches. Please help me learn what kind of bug I found, it looks so cool! Thanks! (Please see picture attached.)
How you want your letter signed: Andi
Because we began our search with a false lead, our identification of this Beautiful Wood Nymph caterpillar, Eudryas grata, took some additional time. Our wrong lead began with locating this image online and the associated site, Beautiful Now, where it is associated with the following caption: “We love the beautiful blackberry and flower petal-eating Blackberry Looper (Chlorochlamys chloroleucaria) patterned with both stripes and polka dots, in bold shades of orange, white, and black.” The Blackberry Looper Caterpillars on BugGuide are a very different Caterpillar. Additional searching led us to this BugGuide image of the Beautiful Wood Nymph Caterpillar. According to BugGuide: “Larvae feed on leaves of several shrubs, vines: Ampelopsis, Buttonbush, grape, hops, Virginia Creeper.” We wouldn’t rule out that this might be the related Pearly Wood Nymph Caterpillar, Eudryas unio, which is also pictured on BugGuide. We don’t know why it was crawling into the hole in the stick.
Letter 14 – Budworm Moth found on Woody Plant
Subject: Budworm Moth caught laying eggs on my woody plant
Geographic location of the bug: Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
Time: 07:32 PM PDT
Your letter to the bugman: Dear Bugman,
Yesterday I noticed the bane of all home Cannabis gardeners, about eight tiny Budworms, Chloridea virescens, crawling on the righteous colas of My Woody Plant as well as on Abel’s Indica #1. They were tiny Budworms, probably just hatched, and they didn’t have time to bore into the buds where they begin eating, leaving a shit-filled shell of a bud as they grow. This morning I found a few more tiny Budworms on the same two plants, and horror of horrors, two buds with signs of a feeding Budworm, the brown and dead florets, and sure enough, larger Budworms were feeding on some swelling buds. I wrote to Mel Frank and he wrote back that it wasn’t too late to spray Bt, so I started spraying about 6:30 this evening. It was a beautiful night sky with a sickle Moon, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars all visible just past sunset. When I began spraying the Purple Fire clone, I saw a moth fly out of the interior of the plant and I missed it with my hand, and I watched it fly toward the plants I had just sprayed. I had a second chance to catch it and missed, so I got a fish net and caught it on the third try. I kind of mangled it in the process, but I am certain what I was watching was the Budworm Moth flying from cola to cola laying eggs, which probably explains why I would only find one Budworm per bud.
How you want your letter signed: Constant Gardener
Dear Constant Gardener,
Thank you ever so much for providing us with your harrowing gardening experience. It sounds quite stressful. BugGuide has no information on the Tobacco Budworm feeding on Cannabis, but it does state the larval foods are “Cotton, tobacco, roses, ground cherries, soybean, and many others” and “Caterpillars feed on buds, flowers, fruits, and seeds, making them an agricultural crop pest.” We did locate a Springer Link essay “Flight activity of Heliothis virescens (F.) females (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) with reference to host-plant volatiles” that states: “Many phytophagous insects use airborne volatiles emitted from plants to locate their hosts. The recent development of bioassay systems for studying host-plant finding and ovipositional behavior under controlled environmental conditions in the laboratory has intensified interest in characterization of the specific behaviors regulated by volatile emissions from plants and identification of the active compounds.” Again, alas, Cannabis in not mentioned. Do the plants in question produce odiferous airborne emissions?
Thanks for all that information. The buds on my plants do smell quite dank. I keep finding Budworm Eggs, but luckily, not much bud damage. Here is an image of one of the dreaded Budworm Eggs. Harvest is near.
Mel Frank Comments:
Tobacco budworm moth is brown with 3 Chevron markings on wings.i believe they are attracted by terpene fragrances which become prominent during flowering, increasing as they mature. Rarely see them in beginning flowering. Once flowers begin smelling you must spray more often than every two weeks.12 days early and once a week flowering.
Letter 15 – Bug of the Month December 2016: Giant Wood Moth from Australia
November 30, 2016 3:46 am
Huge moth dog was trying to get. Was wondering what it is?
We believe this is a Giant Wood Moth in the family Cossidae, possibly Endoxyla macleayi which is pictured on Butterfly House, though there are other similar looking species in the same genus. We would not rule out that it might be a Ghost Moth in the family Hepialidae, a very similar looking family that is well represented on Butterfly House, and we should also point out that other members of the family Cossidae are represented on Butterfly House. We have difficulty distinguishing between the two families. Caterpillars of Wood Moths are known as Witchety Grubs. Because of your timely submission, we have selected this posting as our Bug of the Month for December 2016.
Letter 16 – Wilson’s Wood Nymph Moth Caterpillar
What kind of caterpillar is this?
Location: San Antonio, Texas
May 2, 2014
We can’t seem to find it. Found in San Antonio, Texas. Will also attach pic of the vine plant we found them on. thank you
Our internet connectivity is incredibly slow today, which is inhibiting our ability to identify your caterpillar. We are posting the image and we will continue to research this matter. We gave it one more stab and we discovered images of Wilson’s Wood Nymph Moth Caterpillars, Xerociris wilsonii, on BugGuide, where the foodplant is listed as “Sorrelvine, Cissus trifoliata (Vitaceae).” The image of Sorrelvine on the USDA website confirms the identification as it is a match to the plant image you supplied.
Letter 17 – Caterpillar of Wilson's Wood-Nymph
Caterpillar I can’t identify!
Location: College Station, Texas
April 5, 2012 7:38 pm
Salutations! I was out in my backyard when I noticed this caterpillar on my blackberry bush. The paddle shaped ”setae” (they might not be hairs, hence the quotes) are really distinctive, but I couldn’t find anything that looks like it! I can send more pictures if you want.
Signature: Meaghan P.
Ed. Note Our automated response: Thank you for submitting your identification request. Please understand that we have a very small staff that does this as a labor of love. We cannot answer all submissions (not by a long shot). But we’ll do the best we can!
I asked some people at the Entomology department here at the university I attend, and they have identified the wee-beastie as Wilson’s Wood-nymph Moth (Xerociris wilsonii).
We are sorry we didn’t get back to you but we are very happy you got a correct identification. We will be posting your photo of the Caterpillar of Wilson’s Wood-nymph Moth and linking to the BugGuide page for the species.
No apologies needed! I love your website and I was SO excited to have something to send in. Hope you all have a great weekend!
Letter 18 – Common Wood Nymph
Whats that butterfly
I found this butterfly lying on the plant floor. They tend to die when they fly into a paint plant. It was near shipping and receiving so it might have come off of a truck from anywhere. Found in Southfield Michigan.
This lovely butterfly is a Common Wood Nymph, Cercyonis pegala. It is an elegantly marked, but not very flashy butterfly. We doubt it came in on a truck. If there are meadows near your plant, especially meadows surrounded with woodland, that is the perfect habitat for the Common Wood Nymph. BugGuide describes the habitat as being: “Large, sunny, grassy areas including prairies, open meadows, bogs, and old fields” and also notes that the coloration and markings are quite variable geographically. Caterpillars feed on grasses and adults feed on rotting fruit as well as flower nectar.
Letter 19 – Common Wood Nymph also called Goggle Eye!!!
Location: southern oregon
August 3, 2012 9:32 am
Hi, I snapped this guy in my So.Oregon backyard on July 2012,I want to put it on my blog,but I cannot seem to find it’s name.I did not see what it looked like with it’s wings open,because it quickly flew off.Hope you know the name,Thanks.
This is a Common Wood Nymph, Cercyonis pegala, a butterfly that inhabits meadows near wooded areas. It is found throughout much of North America. According to BugGuide, it is the: “Largest species in genus. Geographically variable. Wings are brown. Forewing has 2 large, usually yellow-ringed eyespots. Lowerside of hindwing has a variable number of small eyespots. Southern and coastal butterflies are larger and have a yellow or yellow-orange patch on the outer part of the forewing. Inland butterflies are smaller and have the yellow forewing patch reduced or absent.” Though it shares a common name, the Common Wood Nymph should not be confused with the Wood Nymph moths in the genus Eudryas that mimic bird droppings.
Letter 20 – Constant Gardener finds evidence of Budworms on Woody Plant
Subject: I found evidence of a Budworm on My Woody Plant
Geographic location of the bug: Mount Washington, Los Angeles, CA
Time: 4:43 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Dear Bugman,
I was inspecting the nugs of My Woody Plant when I discovered evidence of Budworms on two colas. I’ve learned so much since I submitted an image of a Budworm two years ago. I immediately harvested both and set up a three bowl wash of first hydrogen peroxide in water, second lemon juice & baking soda in water, and finally a water rinse. While trimming the cola, I discovered a silken chamber with a .3 inch bronze-backed Jumping Spider that I carried back to the garden to the plant I just trimmed, talking to it as it jumped from one hand to the next, back and forth. Sorry, I didn’t have a camera at the time, so no photo of the spider. I finished cutting out all the caterpillar fouled portions of two buds, but I never found the caterpillar. Do you think the caterpillar moved from one cola to the next where it encountered the lair of the Jumping Spider that promptly ate it? I didn’t want to count on predators to control these dreaded Budworms, so I followed the advice of Mel Frank and promptly sprayed my plants with Bt, a naturally occurring bacteria that causes the caterpillars to stop eating so they eventually die, and it is not a pesticide so it doesn’t harm my predators, like spiders and mantids.
How you want your letter signed: Constant Gardener
Dear Constant Gardener,
We will probably catch some flack from some Facebook followers for highlighting another Cannabis posting. Thank you for sharing your organic Caterpillar prevention strategy as well as your saving a tainted crop strategy. We found information on The Cannabis Grower that states the Budworm will “burrow into your buds and eat them from the inside. You’ll have no idea they’re even there until you see a bud that looks a little off…one leaf is dying, or the bud looks dried out, somewhat similar to the symptoms of bud rot. If you see this, you must inspect the bud. Take the leaf or bud and pull it away from the plant until you can see all around it. Look for sand-grain sized balls that are black or brown. That’s caterpillar poop, and you have a problem. The good news is that you can usually find the worm by following the poop around the buds until you find the worm or the hole he’s in. The bad news is you MUST find that worm, otherwise he’ll just keep eating and eating into your buds.” Regarding the possibility that the Jumping Spider ate the Budworm, we suppose that is entirely possible, especially since you did not fine the culprit.
Letter 21 – From Australia: Ghost Moth, Wood Moth or other???
Subject: Moth – Cossidae?
Location: Armidale, NSW
April 21, 2013 1:53 am
Are you able to identify the family of this moth? I originally thought it was Cossidae but then it also looks like it could be Hepialidae or Notodontidae or something else. It was found in Armidale, NSW, in Australia, in March (Autumn).
For years we have been mixing up Hepialidae and Cossidae, and we have them lumped together in our archive under Ghost Moths and Wood Moths. This is a beautifully mounted specimen and we imagine getting the correct identification is especially important to you. We would recommend that you contact a local natural history museum for assistance. Please get back to us if you get a proper identification.
Letter 22 – Giant Wood Moth from Australia
Subject” Giant moth to be identified
Geographic location of the bug: Kangaroo Ground, Victoria
Time: 05:20 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: This was on a tree in our yard yesterday 8 Feb 2021. It has been an unusually mild summer, with lower temperatures than usual. And last year we had more rain than usual. We wonder if this is a Giant Wood Moth, even though we are in Victoria. Photos include a closeup of the wings, a photo side-on showing environmental context and relative size to my husband who is 6’4″ tall (in which you should be able to see the striped body of the moth), and a photo of the remains of a cocoon on the same tree from which we believe it emerged. Hopefully this helps.
How you want your letter signed: Thank you
We agree that this is a Giant Wood Moth, Endoxyla cinereus, and according to Butterfly House: “The caterpillars pupate in their borehole. When the adult moth emerges, the empty pupal skin is left sticking out of the hole” as your one image illustrates. According to Australian Museum: “The Giant Wood Moth is the heaviest moth in the world, with some females weighing up to 30 grams.”
Letter 23 – Pearly Wood Nymph
What the heck is this moth?
I thought this was bird poop until I noticed it kept moving across the glass every time I went by. The only way I could tell it WASN’T bird poop, was when I noticed it had fuzzy feet from the inside of the glass. It was unbelievable. I’ve never seen a moth like that around here.
You had us stumped Kara,
We checked our obsolete Holland Moth Book and found something that resembled your moth, but we were unsure as it was a mounted specimen that showed yellow underwings. The moth is Euthisanotia unio and is a member of the family Noctuidae. Then we did a google search with that name, and somehow found a link claiming the name was changed to Eudryas unio that sent us to Lynn Scott’s Lepidoptera Images that had a photo which also showed the underwings, but it showed the furry front legs as well. A closely related species, is E. grata. Nowhere is anything written about the moth resembling a bird’s dropping, which your photo makes very obvious. Continued searching led us to this page with a nice photo. The common name for E. unio is the Pearly Wood Nymph. The common name for E. grata is the Beautiful Wood Nymph.
Letter 24 – Pearly Wood Nymph
bird dropping moth?
I thought you might be able to help me identify this moth. My limited research leads me to suspect that it is a looper moth? I photographed it on my back deck located in lower south-western South Carolina. Thanks for your help.
The Pearly Wood Nymph, Eudryas unio, really does resemble bird droppings.
Letter 25 – Pearly Wood Nymph
Found your site while searching the web looking to identify this insect. It landed on our door frame here at work about a month ago – luckily, one of us took a few pictures. It never spread its wings in the two hours we watched it before leaving for the day, so couldn’t get a nice view. Haven’t seen a picture of another fuzzy-legged butterfly yet. Any idea what it is?
The Pearly Wood-Nymph, Eudryas unio, is a moth not a butterfly.
Letter 26 – Pearly Wood Nymph
help ID’ing moth
Good morning …this moth was out in a field and hoping you can help ID it. Thanks much!
Your moth is a Pearly Wood Nymph, Eudryas unio. According to BugGuide, the Pearly Wood Nymph can be distinguised from the Beautiful Wood Nymph, Eudryas grata, which is “larger than Pearly Wood-Nymph ( E. unio ), and the dark band along outer margin of forewing is smoothly curved on the inside, not scalloped as in E. unio.” Your moth has the scalloped edges. We have received numerous letters commenting on the resemblance of this moth to bird droppings, obviously a protective coloration.
Letter 27 – Pearly Wood Nymph
Is this a type of Puss Moth?
Location: Central Florida
October 29, 2010 9:10 pm
This gorgeous little guy was on the door post of our garage on October 8. We live in Central Florida. I’m not sure what type of moth it is, but the hairy legs made me wonder if it’s a puss moth? Thanks for any help you can provide!
Your moth is a Pearly Wood Nymph, Eudryas unio, and people often write in to us requesting the identification of the bird poop moth because it really does seem to resemble bird droppings.
Letter 28 – Pearly Wood Nymph
What Kind of Moth is This?
Location: Sidney, Maine
July 11, 2011 4:02 pm
I’ve been trying to attract moths to my porch light to photograph for the last month and a half or so, and most of the moths showing up have been ones I’ve seen before, except for this one. It showed up at just before 7PM on July 8th 2011, and I have no clue as to what it is, do you have any ideas?
This is either a Pearly Wood Nymph, Eudryas unio, or a closely related species in the same genus. The Wood Nymph moths are very effective at mimicking bird droppings.
Letter 29 – Pearly Wood Nymph
bird poop moth
September 10, 2011 11:50 pm
you had a posting about a moth commonly mistaken for bird poop, and i cant seem to find it anymore, i was hoping to get the name of them, i just found a picture on a freinds facebok page and she saw what she thought was bird poop, until it startedd flapping wings. hoping to let her know what it REALLY is, but cant remember enough of the post to find it myself. THANKS IF YOU CAN HELP ME
Signature: elizabeth anderson
We typed “bird poop moth” into our search engine and were lead directly here, to the Pearly Wood Nymph.
Letter 30 – Pearly Wood Nymph
Subject: Indian Head Dress Moth
Geographic location of the bug: Wayne NJ
Time: 03:29 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: hi,
found this on my front window after a rain storm.
How you want your letter signed: na
This is a Pearly Wood Nymph, Eudryas unio, (see BugGuide) which can be distinguished from the very similar looking Beautiful Wood Nymph, according to BugGuide, because the “dark band along outer margin of forewing is scalloped on the inside, not smoothly curved.” We are amused that you described this Pearly Wood Nymph as an “Indian Head Dress Moth” because our readers have often observed that they resemble bird droppings, and we agree.
Letter 31 – Pearly Wood Nymph Caterpillar
We love your site! We have a mystery caterpillar that we’re hoping you can help us id. We found it in the sedum plants, but it didn’t seem to be eating them. It was right next to a skeletonized rose bush, but those little green caterpillars have been chewing on the roses all summer so I don’t know that the big caterpillar was also eating the rose. Oh, we’re in SW Wisconsin.
Karen, Bronwyn, Connor and Piper
Identified before we could respond
(08/20/2008) Mystery caterpillar id’d
After we emailed you this morning, we ended up finding our caterpillar, I think. Pearly Wood-Nymph ( Eudryas unio ) http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/insects/cateast/eudrunio.htm Here’s the mature moth: http://lepidopteraresources.homestead.com/GovNelsMoths.html Thanks,
Karen, Connor, Bronwyn and Piper
Dear Karen, Connor, Bronwyn and Piper,
You have done an excellent job of identifying your Pearly Wood Nymph Caterpillar. We are very pleased to see that some of our readership actually continues to search for their answers after clicking the “Ask WTB?” link on our site. We would not discount the possibility of this caterpillar being another member of the same genus though, as evidenced by images on BugGuide.
Letter 32 – Pearly Wood Nymphs: Bird Dropping Moths
I thought these two were bird droppiings on the leaf when I first saw them! Then the one on the bottom moved his "tail" slightly. I live in South East Texas and these were on some weeds at the edge of my yard. Although the one on top looks squashed, he’s not. They are either facing each other, or facing away from each other. The were both gone when I went back a short time later to look at them again. Can you tell me what they are? Oh, and btw, I’m so glad I found your website. It’s so easy to use! Keep up the good work!! (And I know it’s work, cause I have a site of photos I’ve taken!)
Thanks for the compliment. These are not caterpillars, though as moths, they once were caterpillars. They are Pearly Wood Numphs, Eudryas unio, or perhaps Beautiful Wood Nymphs, Eudryas grata , and Bird Dropping Moth is an apt name either way. They are not facing one another.
Letter 33 – Probably Wood Moth from Costa Rica
Subject: Moth identification
Geographic location of the bug: Costa Rica, pacific side, in the mountians
Time: 11:02 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hello Bugman. Came across this awesome Critter in Costa Rica at first it look like a strange furry cicada but after having him walk on my hand I do believe he was a moth?
How you want your letter signed: Kat
We believe this is a Wood Moth or Carpenter Moth in the family Cossidae, but we have not had any luck locating a definitive matching image online with a species identification. We did locate this similar looking individual on FlickR and Butterflies and Moths of North America has some similar looking but not exact images on their site where it states: “Adults are robust and heavy-bodied, and are typically nocturnal, drab, and mostly gray with black markings. Females are often much larger than males. Eggs are usually laid in crevices or under bark with an extensible ovipositor, and may be produced in vast numbers. Larvae bore into branches or trunks of living shrubs or trees, sometimes causing considerable damage, and require 1 to 4 years to mature.” Perhaps one of our readers will have better luck than we have had.
Letter 34 – Weidemeyer’s Admiral feeds on Woody Plants
Subject: White, Black and Orange Butterfly, Helena National Forest, Montana
Location: Helena National Forest, MT
August 8, 2017 4:22 pm
I saw this butterfly in Montana back in July and haven’t been able to “pin” down what type it is. The color brings up too wide of a search result, and most of them more black and orange than white. I’ve seen swallowtails with similar coloring, but this doesn’t seem to be a swallowtail by shape. Birds are usually my target, but I do try to ID the butterflies as well, and this one is flummoxing me!
Signature: Tina Toth
Please forgive us for bypassing your question to tell you this is just about the most beautiful image we have seen in a long time of a butterfly. With such shallow depth of field, you were quite lucky this perfect specimen decided to pose with its wings parallel to the film plane. As you can see by this BugGuide posting, this is a Weidemeyer’s Admiral, Limenitis weidemeyerii. What was the environment like? According to BugGuide: “Found around wet places where its host plants grow” and “Larvae feed on Poplar (Populus spp.), Willow (Salix spp.) and perhaps other woody plants.” Woody plants have sparked quite a dialog on our site and its Facebook page of late.
Thank you for the glowing compliment! I blush! I think my experience trying to capture birds has helped with be more patient with setting up a butterfly shot, but I always consider myself lucky either way. I have a lot of pictures of empty branches!
This is where I found it, and your comments about environment are spot on. There is a creek that runs through the area, and the woods are fairly old and dense. A lot of pine, but also a lot of shrubs because of the creek, such as willow.
I’ve stopped here twice going to and from vacation spots in Montana. It’s a good spot, but small, to find a thrushes, flycatchers and a yellow warbler or two while you stretch your legs a bit.
Thank you for the ID, I would’ve never ever figured out the type from the underside of the wings, compared to the pictures of the topside I see with the name look up! Even worse, I have what I think is a White Admiral from 2012, and didn’t make the connection. There was also another butterfly from the same place and date I haven’t had the time to ID either, though it looks like checkerspot or frittilary. Attached, just for fun.
I started bird watching in 2013, when I got sick, and 10 months later had brain surgery (long story) but it’s taken us some amazing places, and we love to see all the wildlife along the way. Below is a link to my better shots from as far back as 2010, and if you click on the “i” it tells you when, what and where, though please don’t think you have to ID them. I am pretty OCD about IDing birds and trying to not let it get too deep into other things I see, haha! Anyway, just enjoy if you have the time. And yes, you helped me ID the Police Car moth a couple of years ago! 🙂
Letter 35 – Wood Leopard Moth
Subject: Never seen this before
Location: Lancaster County
July 11, 2016 8:17 am
Found this on my flag this morning. Have never seen this before? Please enlighten.
Signature: James DeBord
Where is Lancaster County? If you are in UK, this is a native species. If you are in Pennsylvania or North Carolina, this is an introduced species. It is a Wood Leopard Moth, Zeuzera pyrina, and according to BugGuide: “Supposedly introduced (from its native Europe?) in mid-1800s; first reported in North America at Hoboken, New Jersey in 1882. It is considered a pest of some fruit trees.”
Yes sorry, I didn’t specify. Pennsylvania. Thanks for the info. I have never seen one before in all my years in PA.
Letter 36 – Wood Leopard Moth
Subject: Unknown insect
Location: NJ shore
July 13, 2017 9:46 am
Any idea what this is?
This is a Wood Leopard Moth, not to be confused with the Giant Leopard Moth that looks very similar but is not related. According to BugGuide: “Unlike the Giant Leopard Moth, this one is not native to the US. Supposedly introduced (from its native Europe?) in mid-1800s; first reported in North America at Hoboken, New Jersey in 1882. It is considered a pest of some fruit trees.”
Letter 37 – Wood Leopard Moth
Subject: any clue
Location: North East New Jersey (W Milford)
July 13, 2017 11:09 am
Are you able to identify this … taken today.
This is the second image of a Wood Leopard Moth from New Jersey that we are posting today.
Letter 38 – Wood Moth from Australia
Subject: Wood moth from WA?
Location: Dongara, Western Australia
November 29, 2015 10:27 am
This moth was found resting on a wall in Dongara, Western Australia. I suspect it’s a wood moth of some kind – what do you think?
Signature: Nick S
This is most likely a Wood Moth in the family Cossidae that is well represented on Butterfly House, and based on the image of the adult posted to Butterfly House, it does look to us like Endoxyla leucomochla whose edible larva is called a Witchety Grub. We would not rule out though that it might be a Ghost Moth in the family Hepialidae, also represented on Butterfly House.
Letter 39 – Wood Moth crashes and lays eggs
Subject: Giant Wood Moth
Location: Adelaide, South Australia
September 14, 2012 7:26 am
I swear this is not unnecessary carnage. I was filming an orb spider one night when this thing tried to kill me! I kung foo dodged it and it K.O.’d itself on the balcony. Initially I thought it was a mouse that had evolved wings but on further inspection realised it was a moth. This picture shows it unconscious but still alive. I now know from research this is a Giant Wood Moth. I think they spend years underground as pupae only to emerge and try to destroy any humans they encounter. I gather they have a short life span and it started shooting out hundreds of eggs on the money. Lesson: money is dirty and you don’t know where it’s been. In the end I flicked the moth and eggs by the base of a large gum tree, they were probably the next days ant food. It looked in a bad way as it crawled off into the darkness and would have been food for my bearded dragon if I didn’t think there was the posibility of a choking hazard. As a reference, the Austra lian currency shown is about 12cm in length.
We were highly entertained by your encounter with this fecund Wood Moth which is also commonly called a Ghost Moth.
Letter 40 – Wood Moth or Ghost Moth from Australia
Subject: What Moth Is This?
Location: South-western suburbs of Sydney
February 12, 2016 5:31 pm
I recently found a moth in the south western suburbs of Sydney that I have never seen before in this area. I assumed it was some kind of Wood Moth, however I’m not too sure and I was hoping that you would be able to tell me what moth this is.
Thank You Very Much!
This is either a Wood Moth in the family Cossidae, which is represented on Butterfly House, or a Ghost Moth in the family Hepialidae, also represented on Butterfly House. We frequently have trouble distinguishing members of these families from one another, and your lateral view does not provide the same wing detail that a dorsal view provides.
Letter 41 – Wood Moth or Ghost Moth from Australia
Subject: What bug is it?
Location: Sydney, Australia
December 1, 2016 3:20 am
Hi, recently after bringing in the washing a giant moth like bug rose out of my washing. I wish I had taken a photo. It looked nearly as big as my hand.. like a big mottley black/greyish moth type creature. It’s wings moved a bit and it walked around. It’s body was dark and very solid from what I saw. I was hoping for a few suggestions? To lead me in the right direction. I’ve never seen a bug like that my whole life. The picture I put with it was similar, but the one I saw was darker.
This is either a Ghost Moth in the family Hepialidae (see ButterflyHouse) or a Wood Moth in the family Cossidae (see ButterflyHouse) and we believe it looks like the Wood Moth Endoxyla secta that is pictured on Butterfly House. We did make the Giant Wood Moth our Bug of the Month for December.
Letter 42 – Beautiful Wood Nymph Moth
Moth disquised as bark or bird poop?
Hey there Bug Man,
I was out working in the driveway and noticed what I thought was bird poop at first on the brick garage return. As I got closer I knew exactly what it was, a very well disguised moth. I haven’t had a chance to look it up and I always love seeing new bugs on your site so I thought I would shoot it your way. Would love to share it with your devout viewers. Thanks again
This wonderful Bird Dropping mimic is a Wood Nymph Moth in the genus Eudryas. Disguising oneself like fecal matter is one good way to keep from being eaten, and there are numerous examples in nature where this works. Sometimes looking like $#!+ isn’t a bad thing.
Update: June 29, 2018
This is a Beautiful Wood Nymph, Eudryas grata, (see BugGuide) which can be distinguished from the very similar looking Pearly Wood Nymph, according to BugGuide, because the “dark band along outer margin of forewing is scalloped on the inside, not smoothly curved.”