Rosy Maple Moth: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell!

The Rosy Maple Moth (Dryocampa rubicunda) is a fascinating and colorful moth species native to North America. Known for their eye-catching color combinations, these moths display a beautiful blend of vivid hues, such as pinks, yellows, creams, and purples, with the pink and yellow variation being the most common.

Adult Rosy Maple Moths are distinctively thick and fuzzy, and males have long, comb-like antennae to detect airborne chemicals. Their color variation serves a purpose, as it provides a level of camouflage, allowing them to blend in with their surroundings in nature. With a wingspan of up to two inches in females, their appearance stands out among other moth species.

Female Rosy Maple Moths lay clusters of 10-30 eggs on the leaves of their preferred food trees, such as maple and oak trees. After hatching, the caterpillars, also known as Green-Striped Mapleworms, begin eating the host tree leaves before transforming into a fully grown moth during adulthood.

Physical Description and Coloration

Body Structure

The Rosy Maple Moth (Dryocampa rubicunda) is a small member of the silk moth family Saturniidae, and it has a thick, fuzzy body. Males are slightly smaller than females, with female wingspans reaching up to two inches in length 1.

Wings and Antennae

Their wings are adorned with vibrant colors and patterns, making them an eye-catching species. Males of this species also have long, comb-like, golden antennae that are used for detecting airborne chemicals 2.

Color Variations

Color variations in the Rosy Maple Moth are remarkable. They can be found in hues such as:

  • Cream
  • White
  • Pink
  • Yellow
  • Purple3

The most common color combination includes pink and yellow, although various other combinations exist. Some examples of different forms are:

  • Dark pink form: This is prevalent in the Ozarks, with the coloration being more concentrated on the outer and inner portions of the wings4.
  • Lighter version: Occurs in central and northeastern Missouri5.
  • “alba” (white) form: This is found in western and most of middle Missouri, with the moth being mostly white6.

To summarize, the Rosy Maple Moth is a small, colorful, and fuzzy silk moth with distinct body structures, wings, antennae, and a multitude of color variations. Their unique appearance makes them an intriguing species of moth to study and appreciate.

Habitat and Distribution

North America

The Rosy Maple Moth (Dryocampa rubicunda) is predominantly found in North America, inhabiting various regions across the United States and Canada.

United States and Canada

In the United States, these moths can be found from as far south as Florida and Texas, reaching up to Michigan and Minnesota. They also inhabit parts of Canada, including Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island.

Specific Regions and Habitats

Rosy Maple Moths favor temperate deciduous forests and suburban areas with an abundance of oak trees. In Missouri, for example, they are prevalent in the Ozarks.

Characteristics of the Rosy Maple Moth’s preferred habitat include:

  • Temperate climates
  • Deciduous forests
  • Suburban areas near forests
  • Presence of oak trees

A comparison of Rosy Maple Moth habitat variations in North America:

Region Habitat Oak Trees
Florida, Texas Deciduous forests, suburban areas Common
Missouri Ozarks, deciduous forests Common
Michigan Temperate forests, suburban areas Common
Ontario, Canada Deciduous forests, suburban areas Common
Quebec, Canada Temperate forests, suburban areas Common

Life Cycle and Reproduction

Eggs and Hatching

Rosy Maple Moths lay their eggs on the underside of leaves of their host trees, primarily maple and oak species. A few examples of host trees include:

  • Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)
  • Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
  • Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)
  • Turkey Oak (Quercus laevis)

Eggs hatch in about 10 days, releasing tiny caterpillars ready to feed on leaves.

Caterpillar Development

The caterpillar stage, also known as the greenstriped mapleworm, goes through several molts or “instars” as it grows:

  • First instar: predominantly black
  • Later instars: develop green and yellow stripes

These caterpillars may become a pest as they can defoliate host trees, though they aren’t usually a severe threat.

Pupal Stage

After around 25 days, fully-grown caterpillars enter the pupal stage, transforming within cocoons. This metamorphosis usually takes two weeks.

Mating and Breeding Season

Adult Rosy Maple Moths emerge during late April and can be found up until September. In Missouri, they have at least two generations each year.

Below is a comparison table highlighting key differences between male and female Rosy Maple Moths:

Feature Male Female
Size Smaller Larger
Wing Span Up to 2 inches across when wings are spread Wider than males
Active flight Night time Less active at night, more during mating

After mating, the cycle repeats as females lay a new batch of eggs, beginning a new brood.

Behavior and Ecological Impact

Host Trees and Feeding Habits

The Rosy Maple Moth feeds on a variety of trees. Some common host trees include:

  • Maple
  • Oak
  • Cherry

The larvae, also known as green-striped mapleworms, affect trees by eating the leaves.

Camouflage and Predation

Although the Rosy Maple Moth exhibits bright colors, it can still blend into its surroundings due to its variable coloration. Depending on the location, it appears in shades of white, yellow, cream, or pink. This helps it avoid predation.

Pest Control and Prevention

While the Rosy Maple Moth is not a significant pest for agricultural crops, the related Potato leafhopper is a known pest of maple trees in nursery production and can cause damage to other trees such as apple, ash, birch, crabapple, dogwood, elm, hickory, and redbud. Maintaining proper tree health through watering, fertilization, and pruning can help reduce the impact of these pests.

Comparison of Rosy Maple Moth and Potato Leafhopper:

Feature Rosy Maple Moth Potato Leafhopper
Color White, yellow, cream, pink Pale green
Feeding Habits Eats leaves of host trees Attacks various trees, causes damage
Size Females have a wingspan up to two inches 1/8 inch long

Footnotes

  1. Maryland Native Wildlife

  2. Rosy Maple Moth (Dryocampa rubicunda)

  3. Mountain Lake Biological Station, UVa

  4. Rosy Maple Moth | Missouri Department of Conservation

  5. Rosy Maple Moth Green-Striped Mapleworm

  6. MDC Teacher Portal

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 – Rosy Maple Moth

 

Subject: Imperial Moth?
Location: Raleigh, NC
July 25, 2014 7:47 am
Hello!
We found this relatively small, maybe an inch long, beauty on the outside of our garage door this morning. Last week we spotted an Imperial Moth in all his glory, wings splayed, on the side of our house but he was much bigger than this little guy. Even though he is much smaller I’m wondering if this is an Imperial as well. Thanks and my five year old and I LOVE this website. Having just moved to the south we are using it to identify all sorts of new bugs (our latest is a Giant Stag Beetle) that cross our paths.
Signature: Sheri

Rosy Maple Moth
Rosy Maple Moth

Dear Sheri,
Thanks so much for the compliment.  The Imperial Moth and this lovely Rosy Maple Moth are in the same family Saturniidae, but they are distinct species.

Letter 2 – Rosy Maple Moth

 

What’s this moth?
Location: Central CT
May 6, 2012 10:36 pm
I photographed this moth on an outbuidling on May 16, 2010. It’s very beautiful and I was wondering what it is.
Signature: Ken

Rosy Maple Moth

Hi Ken,
This is a Rosy Maple Moth,
Dryocampa rubicunda.  They seem to be more common some years than others and we have not had a year with numerous sightings since 2005.

Letter 3 – Rosy Maple Moth and Eggs

 

What To Do With Rosy Maple Eggs?
May 30, 2010
Hello!
My 4 1/2 year old daughter and I visit your website regulary to identify new moths and bugs we find each morning around our house!
One of our favorites is the pink/yellow Rosy Maple Moth.
We found a rather large one yesterday and withing a few minutes of putting her into one of our bug houses, she began to lay eggs! Now 24 hours later she’s still working and is up to about 30 tiny yellow eggs on the walls of the habitat.
So our question is about what to do witht the eggs? Should we release Rosy after she’s done laying all of them?
If we leave the eggs alone in the bug house, will they hatch?
I’m assuming it might be too much to try and feed the larvae/catpillars for so long, so what kind of tree should we release them on after they hatch (if we’re so lucky)?
Thanks fo your help!
Mo & Skyler
Albany, New York (mid-state)

Rosy Maple Moth lays eggs

Dear Mo & Slyler,
Your letter contains so many wonderful questions.  You should not try to move the eggs because you may damage them.  Releasing the female moth after laying eggs will probably not matter since she will soon die.  Rosy Maple Moths, Dryocamps rubicunda, are members of the family Saturniidae, the Giant Silkmoths and Royal Moths, and they do not feed as adults since they have atrophied mouth parts.  Releasing her soon will allow her to continue to lay eggs near a proper food source for the caterpillars.  The eggs should hatch, provided the female mated.  If she was captured before mating, the eggs will not be viable.  The caterpillars should grow quickly.  To provide a learning experience, you can release most of the caterpillars, and try raising just a few.  The caterpillars will feed on the leaves of maple and oak trees.  If the name of a plant is incorporated into the common or scientific name for an insect, it is inevitable that the plant is part of the insect’s diet.

Hi Daniel:
Thanks for such a quick response!  I figured maple leaves might be as obvious as it is, but I wanted to be sure.   We’ll be keeping our fingers crossed the eggs are fertilized!
maureen

Letter 4 – Rosy Maple Moth identified

 

Rosy Maple Moth
Thanks for identifying this little pink beauty on your site. Hopefully this will provide another angle for you to include… This one was taken in Durham, NC.
John Snyder

Hi John,
We are very happy our site was helpful. We are also happy to add your lovely photo to our archive.

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.

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