Lichen Moth Demystified: A Concise Guide to Understanding

Lichen moths are fascinating creatures that capture the attention of nature enthusiasts and scientists alike. These moths belong to the family Erebidae and are known for their striking appearance, with unique wing patterns that often resemble the colorful, textured surface of lichens. This camouflage technique helps lichen moths blend into their surroundings, providing them an advantage in evading predators.

The life of a lichen moth begins as a small, inconspicuous caterpillar. These caterpillars feed on various types of lichens, which serve as both a food source and a means of protection. As they grow, the caterpillars undergo several stages called instars, eventually reaching the stage where they form a chrysalis, or pupa. After some time, the adult lichen moth emerges, displaying its distinctive wing patterns and colors.

In addition to their intriguing appearance, lichen moths serve as valuable bioindicators of their environment’s health. Sensitivity to air pollution and habitat changes makes these creatures particularly useful to scientists monitoring ecosystem conditions. By studying lichen moth populations, researchers can gain insights into how factors such as climate change or human activity impact an area’s overall ecological health.

Lichen Moth Overview

Family and Subfamily

Lichen moths belong to the order Lepidoptera, and they fall within the families Erebidae and Arctiidae, specifically the subfamily Arctiinae. This subfamily is known for its diverse and colorful species.

Distribution in North America

They have a widespread distribution in North America, where they can be found in various habitats, including forests, grasslands, and gardens.

Features and Wingspan

Lichen moths exhibit unique features that distinguish them from other moths:

  • Mimicry of lichen patterns on their wings, which helps them blend with their surroundings
  • Diverse coloration, often vibrant, that may serve as a warning to predators

When it comes to wingspan, individual species vary in size. For example, the wingspan of the Painted Lichen Moth (Hypoprepia fucosa) ranges from 25-35 mm, while the Scarce Black-lichen Moth (Clemensia albata) has a smaller wingspan of 20-30 mm.

Colors and Patterns

Significance of Warning Colors

Lichen moths display a variety of warning colors such as red, yellow, black, orange, and white. These colors serve as an important defense mechanism, signaling to predators that these moths might be toxic or unpalatable. For example:

  • Red: Indicates danger or toxicity
  • Yellow: Used for warning or caution
  • Black: Can represent unpalatability
  • Orange: Often associated with a warning or threat
  • White: May indicate a lack of nutritional value

Variations and Identification

Lichen moths exhibit various color patterns to blend with their environment, depending on the type of lichen, alga, or fungi they associate with. Some common associations include:

  • Blue-green algae: Moths may exhibit blue or green hues
  • Green alga: Can result in shades ranging from pale green to dark green
  • Brown lichen: Moth appearance may vary from light brown to dark brown colorations

Identifying specific lichen moths depends on their unique color patterns. However, their strong association with certain types of lichen and algae can aid identification. Here are some bullet-pointed features to look for:

  • Distinct warning colorations (red, yellow, black, orange, white)
  • Association with particular types of lichen or algae (blue-green, green, brown)
  • Specific markings or patterns on the wings
Lichen or Algae Type Colors Observed in Moths
Blue-green algae Blue and green hues
Green alga Pale to dark green
Brown lichen Light to dark brown

Keep in mind that some variations may exist among individual moths, but the listed features and associations generally help differentiate and identify lichen moths.

Habitats and Behavior

Trees and Forests

Lichen Moths thrive in abundant lichens environments. Tree trunks and branches in forests provide an ideal habitat. Examples of key regions include:

  • Pacific Northwest
  • Rocky Mountains

Features:

  • High concentration of lichens on trees
  • Moist and temperate climate

Characteristics:

  • Dense tree coverage
  • Presence of tall trees, like Douglas-firs

Flying and Camouflage

Lichen Moths use their camouflage abilities to blend in with tree trunks and lichens. This helps them avoid predators.

Examples:

  • Lichen Moths matching colors of tree barks
  • Mimicking patterns of surrounding lichens

Flying features:

  • Short distances
  • Primarily nocturnal flying
Ability Lichen Moths Other Moths
Camouflage High Varies
Flight Range Short Varies
Activity Time Nocturnal Varies

Lichen Moth Life Cycle

Eggs and Larvae

  • Lichen moths lay their eggs on surfaces with abundant lichen.
  • Eggs hatch into larvae, which feed on lichen for sustenance.

Caterpillars and Mimicry

  • The larvae transform into caterpillars, retaining their dependence on lichen.
  • Some caterpillars, like the Painted Lichen Moth, have evolved to mimic lichen’s appearance as a camouflage tactic.

Adults and Mating

  • Adult lichen moths retain a connection to lichen, mating near it.
  • After mating, the cycle begins anew with the females laying eggs in lichen-rich areas.
Features Lichen Moth Other Moths
Food source during larval stage Lichen Algae, fungi, or mosses
Camouflage strategy Mimicry: caterpillars resemble lichen Varies: some have cryptic patterns or coloration

Pros of the lichen moth’s life cycle:

  • Specialized diet reduces competition for food sources.
  • Effective camouflage strategy as caterpillars.

Cons of the lichen moth’s life cycle:

  • Dependence on lichen for survival limits habitat options.
  • Camouflage strategy may be less effective in areas with less lichen.

Feeding and Host Plants

Plant and Algae Relationships

Lichen moths have a unique connection with lichens, which are symbiotic organisms comprised of fungi and algae. The algae provides nutrients via photosynthesis, while the fungi offer protection against drying out.

For example:

  • Lichen type: Tree-dwelling lichens
  • Common host plants: Douglas-fir, oak, or other trees with ample lichen growth.

Caterpillar Food Plants

Lichen moth caterpillars mainly feed on lichen-covered trees and plants. This diet is crucial for their growth and development.

Some common lichen food plants include:

  • Fucus
  • Typica
  • Soredia

Here’s a comparison of these food plants:

Food Plant Plant Type Lichen Moth Caterpillar Compatibility
Fucus Brown algae High
Typica Green algae Moderate
Soredia Lichen reproductive structures Low

In conclusion, lichen moths rely on lichen-covered plants, particularly trees, as essential food sources. These moths have a strong link with their host plants and have evolved to thrive in their respective environments by consuming lichens found on these plants.

Moth Defenses and Predation

Toxins and Distastefulness

Lichen moths have developed strategies for protecting themselves from predators such as birds. One effective defense is producing toxins or distasteful substances. For example:

  • Hairy caterpillars: Some lichen moth caterpillars have irritating hairs that deter predators.
  • Defensive chemicals: Lichen moths can produce toxins that make them unpalatable to predators.

Predatory Insects and Birds

Besides birds, lichen moths also face threats from parasitic and predatory insects. Here are some examples:

  • Parasitic wasps: These insects lay their eggs on or inside lichen moth caterpillars, and the larva feed on the host caterpillar.
  • Predatory insects: Some insects, like ladybugs, prey on lichen moth caterpillars as a food source.

Comparison Table: Moth Defenses vs. Predators

Moth Defense Predator Type Example
Toxins Birds Birds avoid eating moths that have a distasteful flavor.
Hairy caterpillars Birds Bird may avoid touching caterpillars with irritating hairs.
Defensive chemicals Insects and birds Moths that produce toxins deter various predators.
Moth camouflage Insects and birds Some moths have patterns that blend into their environment.

By employing a variety of protective strategies, lichen moths have evolved to increase their chances of survival against various predators.

Lichen Moth Species

Painted Lichen Moth

The Painted Lichen Moth (Hypoprepia fucosa) is a colorful species native to North America, particularly in regions such as Missouri and Colorado. This moth is known for its striking patterns and vibrant colors.

  • Features:
    • Bright orange and pink hues
    • Delicate, lace-like wings

Lycomorpha Pholus

The Lycomorpha Pholus, also known as the black-and-yellow lichen moth, is another example of a lichen moth species. Found throughout the United States, this moth showcases a contrast between its black wings and yellow abdomen.

  • Characteristics:
    • Black wings with yellow hairs
    • Yellow abdomen

Other Examples

There are several other notable lichen moth species, such as the Bella Moth (Utetheisa bella), Oleander Moth (Syntomeida epilais), Giant Leopard Moth (Hypercompe scribonia), Fall Webworm (Hyphantria cunea), and Cinnabar Moth (Tyria jacobaeae).

Species Common Name Main Characteristics Distribution
Utetheisa bella Bella Moth Reddish-pink wings with white spots Southeast US
Syntomeida epilais Oleander Moth Black and white bands with iridescent blue wings Americas
Hypercompe scribonia Giant Leopard Moth Black spots on white wings North America
Hyphantria cunea Fall Webworm Light moth with dark spots, web-producing caterpillars North America
Tyria jacobaeae Cinnabar Moth Red and black wings Europe and western Asia

These species showcase different adaptations to their preferred habitats and camouflage techniques with varied colors and patterns.

Conservation and Threats

Pollution and Climate Change

Lichen moths are impacted by pollution and climate change, as these factors affect their primary food source: lichens. Air pollution can lead to a decline in lichen populations, which in turn affects the survival of lichen moths.

Some impacts of pollution and climate change on lichen moths include:

  • Loss of habitat
  • Reduced food availability
  • Changes in reproductive cycles

The Role of Lichen Moths in the Ecosystem

Lichen moths play a crucial role in the ecosystem, particularly in rainforests. They are essential in the pollination process and serve as a food source for their predators. As prey, lichen moths contribute to the survival of many species.

Some of the lichen moths’ roles include:

  • Pollination
  • Feeding predators
  • Nutrient cycling

A field guide to moths may help those interested in identifying lichen moths and understanding their role in the ecosystem. Conservation efforts should target improving lichen habitats and creating awareness about the importance of lichen moths in ecosystems.

Comparison Table: Lichen Moths vs. Non-Lichen Moths

Characteristics Lichen Moths Non-Lichen Moths
Primary Food Source Lichens Varies (e.g., leaves, fruits)
Habitat Rainforests, lichen-rich areas Various habitats
Ecological Role Pollination, feeding predators Pollination, feeding predators
Sensitivity to Pollution Sensitive due to lichen dependence Less sensitive, variable dependence

By understanding the threats that lichen moths face and their role in the ecosystem, conservation efforts can be better focused to preserve these unique and vital species.

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 – Two Lichen Moths from Arizona

 

Subject: Insect Identification
Location: Arizona (specifics in letter)
March 16, 2013 5:17 pm
I’ve taken photos of two different insects on hikes in Arizona which I have been unable to identify. Can you help? The red one landed on me at Red Mountain, northwest of Flagstaff, and the gold and black one was on a leaf in Sycamore Canyon, northwest of Cottonwood. I will appreciate any names and other insight you can provide me. Thanks.
Signature: Tyger Gilbert

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Arid Eudesmia

Hi Tyger,
Normally we really dislike getting more than one insect in an identification request, but in your case, it is totally appropriate and perfectly fine.  Both of your moths are Lichen Moths in the tribe Lithosiini.  The orange and black striped moth is an Arid Eudesmia,
Eudesmia arida, and you may read more about it on BugGuide where the range is listed as “AZ-TX / Mex – BAMONA” and it states:  “larvae feed on lichens growing on rocks, walls, or cliffs.”  The red Lichen Moth does not have a common name, but we identified it as Lycomorpha fulgens on BugGuide where it states the range is:  “southern California; Arizona.” 

lichen_moth_tiger
Lichen Moth:  Lycomorpha fulgens

 

Letter 2 – Lichen Moth Cocoon from Australia

 

Subject: What is this caterpillar and the hairy stuff around it?
Location: Sydney
May 4, 2017 10:59 pm
Hi! I live in Sydney, Australia and it’s currently autumn. I saw this caterpillar on my cumquat (calamondin) tree. Do you know what kind it is? What is that hairy structure around it? Is it the start of a cocoon?
Signature: Carey

Lichen Moth Cocoon, we believe

Dear Carey,
We found an exact match to your cocoon on FlickR, but alas, it is only identified as a “wingless moth cocoon.”  We actually found that image after finding several similar looking, but not exact images, beginning with Butterfly House where there are images of the caterpillar, caterpillar in its cocoon and pupa in the cocoon of Cyana meyricki, and this information is provided:  “The cocoon made by the caterpillar is quite remarkable. It is an open square mesh cage, constructed out of larval hairs held together with silk. The hairs are too short to construct the cage directly, so the caterpillar attaches pairs of hairs to each other end to end, and uses these pairs to make the sides of the cage. The pupa is suspended in the middle of the cage, equidistant from the sides. The caterpillar even manages to push its final larval skin outside the mesh cage while forming its pupa. When the moth emerges, it appears to exit the cage without damaging it.”  We found another image of the caterpillar in its cocoon on FLickRAustralia Museum provides the common name Lichen Moth and provides this information:  ” This lichen moth makes an elaborate open mesh cocoon using the shed hairs from the hairy caterpillar which are held together with silk. The pupa is suspended in the middle.”  Now we will present our opinion.  We believe this is a Lichen Moth Caterpillar in its cocoon, after losing its hairs and constructing the cocoon, but before the final molt to the pupa occurs, so you are seeing a pre-pupal caterpillar that doesn’t really exactly resemble either the caterpillar or pupal stage as it is in transition.

Update:  May 17, 2017
We just approved a comment that the Clouded Footman,
Anestia ombrophanes, is another possibility, and images on Butterfly House tend to support that possibility.  The site states:  “They form a pupa inside a sparse cocoon made of silk and larval hairs, attached to a fence, a tree, or a wall.”

Letter 3 – Painted Lichen Moth

 

Subject: Pretty bug
Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba
April 6, 2013 10:32 am
Hello,
During a family trip to the zoo we came across this pretty and interesting bug. However, I just can’t seem to figure out what kind he/she is. Thank you
Signature: Puzzled

Painted Lichen Moth
Painted Lichen Moth

Dear Puzzled,
This pretty moth is a Painted Lichen Moth,
Hypoprepia fucosa, and according to BugGuide: “adults fly from May to August in the north; perhaps most of the year in Florida,” which would indicate that your individual is very early.  The ratio of black to orange on the wings is highly variable, and your individual is especially dark.

Letter 4 – Orange Patched Smoky Moth

 

black and orange moth?
Thu, May 28, 2009 at 7:27 AM
Hi Bugman,
I saw this black and orange “bug” in Brown County Indiana State Park in between West Tower and Ogle Lake. Not sure if it is a moth or what… Thanks in Advance!
-T
Brown County Indiana State Park

Black and Orange Lichen Moth
Orange Patched Smoky Moth

Dear -T,
All you need to do is to insert the word Lichen into your subject line, and you will have the common name for your moth, Lycomorpha pholus, the Black and Orange Lichen Moth or Black and Yellow Lichen Moth. You can match your photo to the ones posted on BugGuide.

Correction: Sat, May 30, 2009 at 3:04 PM
Though I’m not certain, I think there’s a chance this is actually an Orange-patched smoky moth, Pyromorpha dimidiata.
Artemisia

Dear Artemisia,
After looking at the BugGuide page for the Orange Patched Smoky Moth, Pyromorpha dimidiata, we are inclined to agree with your correction.  According to BugGuide:  “Day-flying. Wings black, translucent, basal half of forewing orange. Note that inner margin of forewing is black, orange in rather similar Lycomorpha . Also note phenology: Pyromorpha flies in early summer, Lycomorpha in late summer, fall. “

Letter 5 – Black and Yellow Lichen Moth

 

Tennessee Bugs
Hi
Please could you identify the atached beasties for me? Took the photos while staying on a farm in TN in September. Many thanks,
Gaynor (Wales, UK)

Hi Gaynor,
The image we are posting is of a Black and Yellow Lichen Moth, Lycomorpha pholus. Your other images are of Polistes Paper Wasps and a Geometrid Moth.

Letter 6 – Lichen Moth

 

Black-Bordered Lemon?
Dear Bugman:
We found a few of these guys (?) in our garden last week. This one was sitting on a "Toad Lily" in our pond. The moth is about 20 mm long. We live in Albuquerque, NM at 5800′. This looks like the Black-Bordered Lemon (Thioptera nigrofimbria) pics I have seenon the web, but it’s rust-orange color is unique.
Jim Hunter

Hi Jim,
This is a Lichen Moth in the genus Lycomorpha. The closest match we can find is Lycomorpha grotei.

Letter 7 – Lichen Moth

 

Insect Identification Request…Please?!
Greetings!
First and foremost, I LOVE your website and have referred many a fellow insect enthusiast to your site. Thank you for all that you do. Secondly, I need help to identify the flying insect in the attached photo. My hiking companions and I encountered it on the West Fork Trail of Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona (water, juniper pines, assorted wildflowers). I didn’t notice the insect on any of the surrounding flora, only on the rocks nearest the water. Any insight that you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Again, my thanks.
PCG

Dear PCG,
This is one of the Lichen Moths in the subfamily Lithosiinae. It is a pretty close match to a specimen of Lycomorpha fulgens found in Arizona that is pictured on BugGuide. From BugGuide we followed a link to the Moth Photographers Group website where there was an image of Lycomorpha fulgens as well as an image of Ptychoglene phrada, which looks similar. Sorry, we are not skilled enough to provide the exact species.

Letter 8 – Lichen Moth

 

Red winged bug
Mon, Jun 15, 2009 at 5:25 PM
Dear Bugman,
I saw this red insect while hiking in Bear Canyon in the San Gabriel Mountains in June. It looked somewhat moth-like, with bright red wings that were outlined in black. It had a black head and black antennae. Could you please help identify this? Thank you!
Madena
Bear Canyon, San Gabriel Mountains, California

Lichen Moth
Lichen Moth

Hello Madena,
This is a moth;  more specifically  it is a Lichen Moth in the Tiger Moth subfamily Lithosiinae. It goes by the polysyllabic name Lycomorpha fulgens, but has no common name.  BugGuide reports the species from Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado.

Letter 9 – Lichen Moth from Asia

 

Subject: Type and countey of origin if possible
Location: South east asia
May 23, 2014 8:34 am
I found this beauty staying still for quite a long time.. dont want to catch it though.. love to know what species is this beauty from..
Signature: M.tux

Lichen Moth
Lichen Moth

Dear M. tux,
Your inquiry has us confused.  You did not get very specific in your location, and you are requesting the “countey of origin” which implies that you don’t know where the image was taken, yet your text implies you took the image.  At any rate, this is a Lichen Moth in the tribe Lithosiini and we believe we have correctly identified it as 
Cyana horsfieldi thanks to this posting on FlickR.  It is also pictured on the Moths of Borneo and on BioLib.

Thanks.. I took the picture at my country, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I wanted to know the origin of the bug if possible, I mean from which country. I guess I did not understand the fields of the form actually, my bad. But thanks for identifying that bug for me

Letter 10 – Lichen Moth from Singapore

 

Unknown Moth from Singapore
Hey there bugman,
Would you know what moth this is? We actually got them at caterpillar stage, about 30 odd of them. Each caterpillar was a dirty yellow and sticky if you irritated them. Due to a lack of food plant (i’m not sure what type of plant either) they were left for dead. But no! Surprised to see 3 survive and make it into adults (hah, better than none). The pictures are just one of the three…anyway, thanks for your help! It’ll be great to know what they are. &n bsp;
Jon

Hi Jon,
We can’t tell you the species, but this is a Lichen Moth in the family Lithosiinae.

Letter 11 – Lichen Moth in insect collection

 

Subject: Butterfly, Southern California ID?
Location: Santa Cruz Island, CA
September 1, 2016 1:44 pm
Hello
Found this butterfly in a collection with no ID.
Sorry for the one and only picture.
Any chance of an ID?
Signature: Geoff

Lichen Moth
Lichen Moth

Dear Geoff,
What is the origin of this collection?  Are you certain the specimen was from Santa Cruz Island?  We are curious as there is no label on the specimen.  This is a Lichen Moth in the tribe Lithosiini.  It resembles
Lycomorpha regulus which is reported from California on BugGuide but Lycomorpha fulgens is also reported from California according to BugGuide.

Hello Daniel
Yes, this was collected on Santa Cruz Island, I was working organizing the Herbarium Collection for the UCSB SCI reserve, the same room has the Bug collection also. This was in one of the Lepidoptera cases I was cleaning.
I can get a better picture next time. Is there any diagnostic characters I should focus on to tell the two apart?
I will look for any other unknowns next time Im out there.
Let me know if any of you bug guys are out this way and I can see about getting out to Island?
Thanks for your help.
Geoffrey

Hi again Geoffrey,
We don’t know that we are going to be able to provide you with exact diagnostic information.  According to BugGuide, of
Lycomorpha regulus:  “Closely related to L. fulgens, and L. grotei.”  Your island offer is highly tempting, but alas, we have just begun a new semester teaching and our free time has evaporated.

Hello Daniel

Not a problem, I understand about volunteer time constraints and the details of parsing out moth spp.
I work at UCSB in IT at the Bren School, so I understand what happens when the students come back.
I volunteer at the Islands during the quite times. Please see the links below for the future and keep us in mind when out west.
For what school do you work for?
http://nrs.ucsb.edu/
http://nrs.ucsb.edu/our-reserves/santa-cruz-island
Thank you again Geoffrey

 

Letter 12 – Painted Lichen Moth

 

who is this guy?
My son and I saw this guy on our roof, during my semiannual fix-the-TV-antenna party. Any idea what he is?
Thomas

Hi Thomas,
We hope you don’t consume spirits while on the roof as we would hate to have you take a tumble. This is a Painted Lichen Moth, Hypoprepia fucosa, and it represents a new species for our site.

Letter 13 – Painted Lichen Moth

 

Painted Lichen Moth
You already have an entry for a Painted Lichen moth on your site at Moths 3. This one was on my SW Georgia deck. Thanks for all the fun!
Jerry

Hi Jerry,
Thank you for sending such a nice photo of a Painted Lichen Moth, Hypoprepia fucosa. Multiple postings of insects ensure that our readership will have a better chance of stumbling upon the object of their search amongst the seemingly endless archive we have amassed.

Letter 14 – Painted Lichen Moth

 

We’ve so many bugs, so little knowldge
Location: Northeast Texas
December 13, 2010 8:26 pm
We’ve moved to the country, 60 miles east of Dallas Texas. We are finding soooo many bugs. Reckon we should buy a book?
Two pics of same ”spider” different angles.
The ”bug” didnt appear to have a ”light” on. ?? 🙂
Signature: Marlin

Painted Lichen Moth

Dear Marlin,
The insect you believed to be a Firefly is actually a Painted Lichen Moth,
Hypoprepia fucosa, which we identified on BugGuide.  The spider is a Spiny Orbweaver.  Anyone interested in insects should purchase a good identification guide and we strongly endorse Eric Eaton’s book, The Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America.

Painted Lichen Moth

Thanks for taking the time to ID our moth.
I forgot to mention we had found the orb spiders on “Whatsthatbug”. I was just sending ya the pics cause I thunk this guy wuz way cool. Thanks too for the “BugGuide” link.
Outside of the bug realm, the neatest “animal” we’ve spotted here is a pileated woodpecker. I had no eyedeer 🙂 they got so big.
Have a very Merry Christmas
Marlin

Letter 15 – Painted Lichen Moth

 

Subject: Fly?
Location: Western NC
July 15, 2012 12:59 pm
Wondering what type of insect this is
Signature: P. Isaacs

Painted Lichen Moth

Dear P. Isaacs,
We believe your insect is a Scarlet Winged Lichen Moth based on photos posted to BugGuide, but we would not discount the possibility that it might be the closely related Painted Lichen Moth, also profiled on BugGuide.  The more we examine your photograph, the more we are favoring the latter.

Letter 16 – Painted Lichen Moth

 

Subject: Painted Lichen Moth
Location: St. Peters Village, PA, USA
July 4, 2013 8:09 pm
I was able to identify this little stunner with a simple Google search, but I just had to share because he was such an impressive little specimen. He was a striking red with rich grey stripes that didn’t blur or blend at the edges at all. He was so bright that at first I though someone had lost a fishing lure. I found him on July 4th in southeastern Pennsylvania just sitting on the side of a boulder on a very hot and humid day. I hope you enjoy!
Signature: JKay

Painted Lichen Moth
Painted Lichen Moth

Dear JKay,
Thank you for sending your photo of a Painted Lichen Moth,
Hypoprepia fucosa.  That appears to be lichen in your photograph, so we suspect this might be a female laying eggs since according to BugGuide:  “larvae feed on lichen, algae, and moss on trees.”  

Letter 17 – Possibly Lichen Moth from Panama

 

Subject:  Orange and Black Beetle-Like Moth
Geographic location of the bug:  Boquete, Panama
Date: 10/01/2017
Time: 07:35 PM EDT
A friend refuses to believe this is a moth, but I’m sure it is. What species?
How you want your letter signed:  Nora

Possibly Lichen Moth

Dear Nora,
Thanks for resending this image as a unique request.  The one beetle this really resembles is the moth-mimic Banded Net-Winged Beetle, but the legs, antennae and wing veins are quite different.   like you, we are inclined to believe this is a moth.  In our opinion, it resembles a Lichen Moth, but we could not locate any similar looking species on Kirby Wolf’s Costa Rica Tiger Moths page.  We also considered it might be a Leaf Skeletonizer Moth in the family Zygaenidae, but again, we could not locate any matching images.  We are going to contact Julian Donahue to get his opinion, and we would also enlist the assistance of our readership with this identification.

Update: While attempting to identify another Tiger Moth, we found Correbidia germana on FlickR and we are quite confident it is your orange and black moth.  According to Panama Insects:  “This moth, and several similar-looking species illustrated in this gallery, are nearly always present at lights in various abundance. They all, to one degree ot another, appear to mimic beetles in the family Lycidae that are present on Isla Colon.”

Letter 18 – Scarlet Winged Lichen Moth

 

Subject: need help
Location: Temple, TX
April 5, 2017 1:29 pm
What is this?
Temple, Tx
Signature: Joy

Scarlet Winged Lichen Moth

Dear Joy,
This is a Striped Footman or Scarlet Winged Lichen Moth,
Hypoprepia miniata, or another member of the genus.  According to BugGuide:  “Larvae feed on lichens and is often found under loose stones and on trunks of trees.”

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    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.

  • 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.

7 thoughts on “Lichen Moth Demystified: A Concise Guide to Understanding”

  1. Though I’m not certain, I think there’s a chance this is actually an Orange-patched smoky moth, Pyromorpha dimidiata.

    Reply
  2. Alas, I doubt this photo was taken this year, as we still have at least a foot of snow on the ground in most places in Winnipeg, and the temp still is mostly stuck below freezing! Sad, but true.

    Reply

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