Sallow Moth: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell

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The Sallow Moth is a fascinating creature that has captured the interest of many nature enthusiasts. Known for their unique patterns and color variations, these moths boast a diverse range of physical features and habitats. As you delve into the world of Sallow Moths, you’ll discover information on their biology, life cycle, and fascinating ways they’ve adapted to their environment.

To start your journey into this amazing insect’s world, it’s essential to understand the basics. Sallow Moths, belonging to the Noctuidae family, are nocturnal and active mainly during the night. They exhibit intriguing behaviors, such as their extraordinary way of camouflaging themselves within their surroundings to avoid predators.

As you explore the characteristics of Sallow Moths, keep in mind their importance in ecosystem functioning. Serving as pollinators and an essential food source for other creatures, these moths play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of their environment. By learning more about Sallow Moths, you’ll have a greater appreciation for these captivating insects and their impact on the natural world.

What is a Sallow Moth?

A Sallow Moth is a species of moth that belongs to the Lepidoptera order, which includes both moths and butterflies. The term “sallow” refers to its coloration, which is often a soft yellow-brown or gray-brown hue. These moths are part of a larger group of moths known as Noctuidae, also known as “owlet moths.”

The scientific name for the Sallow Moth is Cirrhia icteritia, which was assigned by the French entomologist Achille Guenée in the 19th century. Guenée was an important figure in the field of entomology, as he specialized in the study of moths and contributed significantly to their taxonomy.

Here are some key characteristics of Sallow Moths:

  • Soft yellow-brown or gray-brown coloration
  • Belongs to the Noctuidae family of moths
  • Part of the Lepidoptera order, along with butterflies

Sallow Moths are nocturnal creatures, meaning they are active during the night and rest during the day. These moths have developed certain adaptations to help them navigate through the dark, such as highly sensitive antennae which can detect scents and vibrations.

In summary, the Sallow Moth is a nocturnal, yellow-brown or gray-brown moth belonging to the Noctuidae family and Lepidoptera order. Its scientific classification is the result of the work by Achille Guenée, a significant entomologist from the 19th century. The Sallow Moth exhibits unique adaptations that allow it to thrive in a nocturnal environment.

Physical Characteristics

Wings and Body

Sallow Moths are known for their distinctive wings and body. Their wingspan generally ranges from 30 to 40mm, making them quite noticeable. The moth’s body primarily consists of a gray thorax, which is not only lightweight but also allows it to blend seamlessly with its surroundings.

Some key features of the Sallow Moth’s wings and body include:

  • Light and sturdy wings, allowing for effortless flight
  • Unique gray thorax coloration


One of the most fascinating aspects of the Sallow Moth is its markings. The forewings, which make up a significant portion of the wings, showcase a variety of intricate patterns and designs. In particular, the moth’s reniform and orbicular markings provide a distinctive appearance that sets it apart from other moths.

Some important characteristics of the Sallow Moth’s markings include:

  • Eye-catching reniform and orbicular spots
  • Intricate patterns on the forewings

With these key features, the Sallow Moth boasts physical characteristics that make it a captivating species to explore and study.

Distribution and Habitat


The Sallow Moth can be found in various regions across North America, Britain, England, Wales, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands. Their range spans across different geographical areas, showcasing their adaptability to various environments. Some examples of where you might find these moths include:

  • North America: From the east coast to the west coast
  • Britain: Throughout the mainland and in some coastal areas
  • England and Wales: Commonly observed in various counties and regions


Sallow Moths are versatile creatures, making their homes in a variety of habitats. These habitats can be categorized as woodland, dry habitats, damp woodland, gardens, heathland, and marshy places. You may come across these moths in:

  • Woodland: Both deciduous and mixed woodlands provide excellent shelter and food sources for the Sallow Moth.
  • Dry habitats: These moths can also be found in grasslands and open areas with sparse vegetation.
  • Damp woodland: Sallow Moths are often attracted to wetter woodlands, where they can find an abundance of their preferred food sources.
  • Gardens: You might spot the Sallow Moth fluttering around your flower beds, attracted to the nectar of various plants.
  • Heathland: These moths may also inhabit heathlands, a habitat consisting of open, low-growing woody vegetation.
  • Marshy places: Sallow Moths can sometimes be found near marshes or other wet, boggy areas.

Remember, when exploring these different habitats to look for the Sallow Moth, always be respectful of the environment and tread lightly.

Behavior and Lifestyle

Sallow Moth at Night

Sallow Moths are predominantly nocturnal creatures, meaning you’ll find them more active at night. They are highly attracted to light, so you might often spot them buzzing around street lamps or porch lights. These moths are also sensitive to windy conditions, often seeking shelter when the wind picks up to avoid being blown off course.

Feeding Preferences

The Sallow Moth’s life history is an interesting one, as they go through different stages of development, including the caterpillar, larva, and adult moth stages. Each of these life stages has slightly different feeding preferences:

  • Caterpillars: Caterpillars of the Sallow Moth primarily feed on catkins and leaves of their host plants, which are mainly willow and poplar trees.
  • Larvae: As they grow into larvae, their diet expands to include herbaceous plants, flowers, and seeds. Some examples of their preferred flowering plants are antirrhinum and linaria types, such as Nuttallanthus.
  • Adult Moths: Once they reach adulthood, Sallow Moths primarily feed on the nectar of flowers. They are particularly fond of flowers that produce a high sugar content.

The feeding habits of the Sallow Moth change with the seasons as well. In autumn, they consume more sugar-rich food sources to help them prepare for the winter months. Keep in mind these various feeding preferences as you encounter Sallow Moths, and you’ll better understand their behavior and lifestyle.

Sallow Moth Varieties

In this section, you’ll learn about different varieties of Sallow Moth. We’ll focus on three specific types: Pink-Barred Sallow, Scribbled Sallow Moth, and the moths Cirrhia icteritia and Xanthia icteritia.

Pink-Barred Sallow

The Pink-Barred Sallow is an interesting and colorful variety of Sallow Moth. Some key features of this moth include:

  • Distinctive pink bars on their wings
  • Prefer to inhabit woodland edges and hedgerows

You can easily spot Pink-Barred Sallow moths due to their unique coloring.

Scribbled Sallow Moth

The Scribbled Sallow Moth, also known as Sympistis perscripta, has a different set of characteristics:

  • Intricate, scribble-like patterns on their wings
  • Attracted to lights at night

These moths are active during the night and have fascinating wing patterns.

Cirrhia icteritia and Xanthia icteritia

The last two moths we’ll discuss are Cirrhia icteritia and Xanthia icteritia. Both of these moths have similar appearances to their common cousin, the Sallow Moth. Here’s a comparison table to help you understand the similarities and differences:

Features Cirrhia icteritia Xanthia icteritia ab. flavescens
Wing Pattern Similar Similar Yellowish
Size Medium Medium Medium
Habitat Woodlands Woodlands Woodlands
Host Plants Willow Willow Willow

In summary, while these two moth species are closely related to the Sallow Moth, they have their own unique features and habits. Pay close attention the next time you’re out in nature, and you might spot one of these fascinating creatures.

Sallow Moth Conservation

Fantastic Populations

During the months of August, September, and October, Sallow Moth populations see a significant increase. This is important because, despite their state rank as a species of “special concern,” their conservation status remains stable. With increased awareness and efforts, you can help maintain the thriving populations of this fascinating insect.

As a key component to Sallow Moth conservation, it’s essential to monitor and report any sightings. Platforms like iNaturalist and North American Moth Photographers Group offer easy ways for you to contribute to scientific data collection.

Management and Observation

Effective management and observation methods are essential to ensuring the Sallow Moth’s conservation. Some common management strategies include:

  • Habitat preservation: Ensuring a safe and thriving environment for Sallow Moths to breed and grow is crucial.
  • Education: Raising awareness about the Sallow Moth’s importance and its unique characteristics can help strengthen conservation efforts.

To better understand their populations and conservation status, consider referencing resources like NatureServe. They provide valuable insights and up-to-date information on various species, including Sallow Moths.

Remember, every little effort made towards the conservation of Sallow Moths has a significant impact. By staying informed and actively contributing to data collection, you play a crucial role in preserving this beautiful species of moths.

Sallow Moth in Human Society

Sallow moths, belonging to the family Noctuidae, are quite common in various regions, including towns and counties in Connecticut. With their pale and diverse coloring, they blend into their surroundings.

These moths can be found in forests and wooded areas near towns like LaFontaine. People like you may come across them while walking at night, attracted to the lights.

Sallows in comparison to other moths:

Feature Sallows Other Moths
Family Noctuidae Various
Color Pale, diverse Various
Habitat Wooded areas Various

Some examples of sallows in human society can be:

  • Interactions during nighttime walks
  • Attraction to outdoor lighting near homes
  • Populations living in wooded areas close to towns

Their characteristics include:

  • Pale coloration, allowing them to blend in
  • Mostly nocturnal behavior
  • Tendency to be attracted to light sources

Although sallows are harmless, remember to always treat nature with respect and observe these creatures from a distance if you encounter them. Enjoy your observations of the sallow moth and its unique presence in human society.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, 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 – Sallow Moth, but which one???


Green and black moth
Wed, Apr 29, 2009 at 9:31 AM
This little moth has come back this year to the same spot on the white wall at work here in Kingston WA. Another one was here the same time last year in April. It is only about 1 inch long, but it’s colors are so lovely. I haven’t seen it with it’s wings open, so don’t know what the body looks like. Hope you can tell me what it is. Where does it start it’s journey, and where does it end it? I’ve seen 2 or 3 of them this year, but not together. Glad you’re writing a book! Hope you include my moth!
Kingston, WA 98346

Sallow Moth
Sallow Moth

Hi Mary,
This is a Sallow Moth in the genus Feralia based on photos posted on BugGuide. It is a lovely green owlet moth in the family Noctuidae. We are uncertain of the exact species, though a few have interesting common names. It might be The Joker, Feralia jocosa, which has been reported from nearby Idaho, or it might be the Deceptive Sallow Moth, Feralia deceptiva, which has been reported from Washington State and Oregon as well as across the border in British Columbia, Canada. The adults fly in early spring and the caterpillars eat the foliage of Douglas Fir.  We believe the species we find in Southern California is Feralia februalis whose larvae feed on the foliage of oaks. After numerous discussions with our publisher, we have determined that we will not be using photo illustrations for our book, but rather vintage entomological drawings since we are producing an entertaining popular culture book as opposed to a traditional identification fieldbook.

Letter 2 – Deceptive Sallow Moth


Two from the Archives
(04/23/2006) help with a green moth in Oregon
We found this moth beneath our porch light on two nights in April (8th and 9th), but haven’t seen it since. The green color was striking, unlike any moth we’ve seen here before, but we can’t figure out the species. We’ve looked through the photos on your site, as well as those at the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center website, but can’t find a good match. If it helps in the identification process, we live in the Cascade foothills outside of Portland, Oregon, and this individual was about 2-3 cm in length. Thanks for any help you can provide! We really appreciate what you do at WTB. Best,

(03/29/2007) SW Washington state moth
Hi. On 3/28/07, I found this moth frantically swimming in my pond and fished it out. Here it is drying on the stone patio. An hour later it was gone–I presume into the adjacent foliage area. The Douglas fir needle under it is about 1-1.25″ long. Can you identify it? Thanks.
Jozie in Vancouver, WA just north of Portland, OR

Hi John and Jozie,
First, we apologize for our tardiness in answering. John has waited a year and Jozie a month. We did not recognize this beautiful Deceptive Sallow Moth, Feralia deceptiva, but we knew that one day we would have time to do the research. Today was that day. We were asked to supervise a computer lab full of college students and we had time to do some web research. BugGuide has additional information on this moth that is found in the Pacific Northwest. The caterpillars feed on the foliage of the Douglas Fir.

Letter 3 – Deceptive Sallow Moth


could you tell me what this beautiful green moth is called thanks
sweet home oregon

Hi Kristina,
Coincidentally, we just identified the Deceptive Sallow Moth after having a previous letter sitting in our mailbox for over a year.

Letter 4 – Sallow Moth


Moth ID please…
Was wondering what this moth was… Any help would be great the only moths I have seen out here are brown and white, not green like this one. It was on my patio last night. I’m in Sacramento CA. Thank you!

Hi Sarah,
This is a Sallow Moth in the genus Feralia, but we do not feel confident identifying the exact species.

Letter 5 – Sallow Moth


possible sallow moth?
Sat, Oct 11, 2008 at 9:49 AM
I found this pretty green moth inside a building on a green textured wall that was almost the same color as the moth. The closest thing I have seen to it on your site was the Deceptive Sallow Moth, except mine has brown patches on it. Can you please tell me what it is?
My 9 year old son and I love this site! We’ve identified several bugs already using it. Yesterday he found a female dung beetle and we used your site to confirm the ID (somehow he guessed correctly what it was before we checked your site). Is a dung beetle the same as a rhinoceros beetle?
He also captured a margined blister beetle (also ID-ed on your site) and carried it home bared handed from the bus stop – without getting blistered! Imagine our surprise when we realized what he’d captured without the bad side effects.
Erika Atkinson
Savannah, Georgia

Sallow Moth
Sallow Moth

Hi Erika,
Thank you for your kind and sweet letter.  Your moth is definitely a Sallow Moth, but we are not certain which of the five species in the genus Feralia posted to BugGuide is the likeliest candidate.

Letter 6 – Sallow Moth


Subject: Beautiful bug
Location: Gig Harbor, WA / PacNW
April 4, 2013 9:46 pm
Came home to find this beauty of the side of my home. I googled around but no luck. Thoughts?
Signature: Allie

Deceptive Sallow or other Sallow???
Deceptive Sallow or other Sallow???

Dear Allie,
This is a
.  We would hope it is the Deceptive Sallow, Feralia deceptiva, because we like the name so much.  See BugGuide for more on the Deceptive Sallow.

Letter 7 – Mossy Sallow Moth


Subject: Arachnis picta but green?
Location: Jamul, CA
January 16, 2015 10:04 pm
Hello. I found this moth outside & I’m curious about it. It looks just like a painted tiger moth (Arachnis picta) but it’s green like a lichen. Is this a different species or just a color variation? I see the standard painted tiger moths a lot in the fall but sometimes I see these green ones too.
Sorry the lighting is a little yellowish & doesn’t quite do it justice.
Signature: -Becky

Sallow Moth
Sallow Moth

Dear Becky,
We made an attempt to remove some of the yellow lighting, but the lovely green coloration of this Sallow Moth was not correctly reproduced.

Thank you for getting back to me!
Fortunately the same kind of moth came back tonight and I got a better picture by shining a flashlight on it. Does this help?

Mossy Sallow Moth
Mossy Sallow Moth

Thanks Becky,
This is a much nicer image of a Mossy Sallow Moth in the genus Feralia.  BugGuide pictures several similar looking species.


Letter 8 – Sallow Moth


Subject: Stink bug or moth?
Location: Philadelphia, Pa
September 12, 2016 5:42 am
I found this lovely insect clinging to my back door last week. I asked my friends to identify it for me because I wasn’t sure. Most said it was a stink bug but there were a adamant few who said it was a moth. What say you? I’d appreciate your input. Thanks so much.
Signature: Barb Ward

Sallow Moth
Sallow Moth

Dear Barb,
This is a moth, not a Stink Bug, and we are confident it is a Sallow Moth in the genus
Feralia based on images posted to BugGuide, but we are not certain of the species.

Thanks so much for getting back to me so quickly.  There was somewhat of a debate on this.  You cleared it up.
With much appreciation,
I really enjoy your site and your Facebook page.


  • Bugman

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

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  • Piyushi Dhir

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

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