Scarlet Bodied Wasp Moth: Quick Guide to this Fascinating Insect

The scarlet-bodied wasp moth is a fascinating creature native to Florida. Boasting a striking appearance, this moth features a bright red thorax and abdomen, along with transparent wings patterned with black. It’s no wonder that this moth stands out in Florida landscapes!

As you learn more about the scarlet-bodied wasp moth, you’ll discover that it goes by the scientific name Cosmosoma myrodora (Dyar). This beautiful insect is not only captivating to look at, but it also plays a role in the local ecosystems where it resides.

In this article, you’ll uncover everything you need to know about this unique moth, from its life cycle to its habitat and behavior. You might even be inspired to spot one of these vibrant insects in the wild yourself! So, let’s dive in and explore the fascinating world of the scarlet-bodied wasp moth.

Scarlet-Bodied Wasp Moth Overview

Identification and Features

The scarlet-bodied wasp moth (Cosmosoma myrodora) is a unique and striking insect, known for its vibrant colors and distinguishable features. Some notable characteristics of this moth include:

  • Bright red thorax and abdomen
  • Transparent wings with black and blue spots
  • Clearwing appearance

Due to these distinct features, scarlet-bodied wasp moths are easy for you to recognize among other insects. Its bright colors give it a wasp-like appearance, which serves as an effective defense mechanism against predators.

Distribution and Habitat

As a native insect in Florida, the scarlet-bodied wasp moth can be commonly found in the region’s landscapes. It prefers areas with dog fennel plants, as the males visit them before mating to collect chemicals that provide added protection to the females and their eggs.

The brightly colored moth not only adds a touch of beauty to its surroundings but also plays a role in its ecosystem. Remember to appreciate the scarlet-bodied wasp moth for its unique appearance, as well as the important roles it plays within its habitat.

Family and Species

Genus Cosmosoma

The scarlet-bodied wasp moth belongs to the Cosmosoma genus, a group of moths under the Erebidae family. Moths in the Cosmosoma genus are known for their vibrant colors and intricate patterns on their wings. They are part of the Arctiinae subfamily, which consists of diverse moth species within the Lepidoptera order, falling under the superclass Arthropoda and class Insecta.

Species Cosmosoma Myrodora

The species we are focusing on is the Cosmosoma myrodora. This moth is native to Florida and is renowned for its striking appearance. Some key features include:

  • Bright red thorax and abdomen
  • Transparent wings with black patterns

The scarlet-bodied wasp moth is an exquisite example of the diversity and beauty found within the Erebidae family. The moth’s vibrant colors make it stand out in the landscapes it inhabits, and its unique appearance contributes to the intriguing nature of the Cosmosoma genus and the arthropods as a whole.

To summarize, the scarlet-bodied wasp moth, Cosmosoma myrodora, is a remarkable member of the Erebidae family, specifically within the Arctiinae subfamily. Its vibrant coloration and transparent wings with intricate black patterns make it a truly exceptional specimen in the world of insects.

Predators and Defense Mechanisms

Odor and Warning Colors

The scarlet-bodied wasp moth has a distinct red coloration on its thorax and abdomen, which serves as a warning to predators. Bright colors in insects often signal that they are toxic or unpalatable, deterring would-be attackers. In addition to its vibrant color, this moth also emits a foul odor when threatened, providing another layer of defense against predators.

Impenetrable Envelope

This moth species has developed an impenetrable envelope, which can help protect it from predators such as spiders. The envelope is made of hardened scales or hairs, which provide a physical barrier that makes it difficult for predators to penetrate and consume the moth successfully.

Toxicity

Scarlet-bodied wasp moths are known to possess toxins that make them dangerous to potential predators. These poisonous compounds deter creatures like birds and lizards from incorporating the moth into their diet.

In summary, the scarlet-bodied wasp moth has multiple defense mechanisms working together to protect it from predators, including:

  • Vibrant red warning colors
  • Emitting a foul odor when threatened
  • An impenetrable envelope made of hardened scales or hairs
  • Toxic compounds as a means of deterrence

Lifecycle and Reproduction

Eggs and Larvae

The lifecycle of the scarlet-bodied wasp moth begins with the female laying eggs. Once the eggs are laid, they develop into small larvae. These caterpillars have a unique appearance, sporting distinctive black spines that cover their entire body. As they grow, they feed on host plants to gain energy for their next stage of development. Some examples of host plants they feed on include Climbing Hempvine (Mikania scandens) and Falseteeth (Sicyos angulatus) source.

Pupa and Cocoon

After the larvae have reached their full size, they begin the pupal stage. During this phase, they wrap themselves inside a cocoon made from their own silk and various other materials. Inside the cocoon, the larvae undergo a complete transformation, from a crawling caterpillar to a stunning adult moth with transparent wings and bright red body.

Adult Moths and Mating

Once the transformation is complete, the adult scarlet-bodied wasp moth emerges from the cocoon. Males and females display mating behaviors such as courtship and the release of pheromones to attract a partner. Adult coloration is a key aspect of these moths, with their bright red thorax and abdomen, and transparent wings patterned with black. After mating, the females lay eggs to restart the lifecycle.

Here are some features and characteristics of the scarlet-bodied wasp moth in bullet points:

  • Bright red thorax and abdomen
  • Transparent wings patterned with black
  • Distinctive black spines on larvae
  • Feeding on host plants such as Climbing Hempvine and Falseteeth

Remember, the scarlet-bodied wasp moth undergoes a complete metamorphosis throughout its lifecycle, moving from eggs to larvae, followed by the pupa, and finally emerging as a stunning adult. Enjoy observing and learning about these fascinating creatures!

Feeding Habits and Host Plants

Larval Feeding

The scarlet-bodied wasp moth larvae have a particular appetite for the leaves of plants in the Mikania genus, specifically Mikania scandens and Mikania cordifolia1. These plants, commonly known as climbing hempvine or hempweed, serve as the primary host plants for the moth’s larvae1. As a larva, it actively feeds on these leaves, allowing it to grow and develop.

Here are some features of the host plants preferred by scarlet-bodied wasp moth larvae:

  • Belongs to the Asteraceae family1
  • Native to North America1
  • Climbing and twining growth habit1

Adult Feeding

Once the scarlet-bodied wasp moth reaches adulthood, its feeding habits shift from being folivores to primarily consuming nectar from various flowers2. This change in diet provides the moths with the energy they need to fly and reproduce. It’s worth noting that, unlike many other moths, the scarlet-bodied wasp moth is active during the day, which is when you’re most likely to spot them visiting flowers.

You can find this fascinating moth in areas such as:

  • Florida1
  • Coastal regions of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina1

As the moth continues to feed on nectar, it aids in the process of pollination, helping various plant species reproduce and thrive2.

Significant Studies and References

The scarlet-bodied wasp moth, Cosmosoma myrodora, is a fascinating native insect with striking colors. One of the best resources to learn about it is from the University of Florida, where they provide detailed information about its appearance, life cycle, and behavior. In this section, we will present significant studies and references related to the moth.

A study by Allison and Mendez (2009) presented photographs of living caterpillars of Cosmosoma myrodora. This helped provide a better understanding of the pre-adult stages of the moth. It’s important to understand these earlier life stages, as they help us appreciate the moth’s full life cycle.

Additionally, the scarlet-bodied wasp moth is known for its unique defense mechanism against predators. A study by Dyer et al. (2012) demonstrated the moth’s adaptive use of bright colors for warning signals and transparent wings for camouflage – an intriguing aspect of the species.

Noteworthy characteristics bullet points:

  • Bright red thorax and abdomen
  • Transparent wings with black patterns
  • Adaptive use of colors for camouflage and warning

Comparison Table:

Feature Scarlet-bodied Wasp Moth Typical Moth
Wing Transparency Yes No
Bright Colors Yes Usually No
Defensive Role Warning signal, camouflage Varies

By exploring these significant studies and resources, you can gain a better understanding of the scarlet-bodied wasp moth and its unique features. The University of Florida and the mentioned research sources are great starting points to dive deeper into the details of this captivating species.

Conservation and Threats

The scarlet-bodied wasp moth (Cosmosoma myrodora) is a fascinating creature to learn about. In this section, we’ll focus on its conservation and the threats it faces.

These moths have several natural enemies in the ecosystem. Predators, like birds and spiders, are attracted to the moth’s bright colors. These predators can impact the moth population, but the moth has a strategy to deter potential predators. When threatened, it releases a chemical that smells unpleasant, making it unpalatable to predators.

Other threats to the scarlet-bodied wasp moths are parasites. Some wasps, like the Braconid wasps, lay their eggs in moth caterpillars, which become parasitized. The wasp larvae then consume the caterpillar from the inside out, eventually killing it.

To protect the scarlet-bodied wasp moth population, it’s essential to understand and conserve their natural habitat. Destruction and fragmentation of their habitat can lead to a decline in their population. Preserving their environment will ensure that these striking creatures continue to enchant us.

Remember, be aware of the stunning scarlet-bodied wasp moth’s unique challenges and be a friend to the environment by supporting conservation efforts. You can make a difference!

Footnotes

  1. https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/BFLY/MOTH2/scarlet_bodied_wasp_moth.html 2 3 4 5 6 7
  2. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/IN996 2

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.

18 thoughts on “Scarlet Bodied Wasp Moth: Quick Guide to this Fascinating Insect”

  1. I saw this yesterday on Marigolds that were as red as it is. Couldn’t decide if it were a wasp or a moth, but this cleared it right up!
    I live in Southern coastal Georgia.

    Reply
  2. I saw this yesterday on Marigolds that were as red as it is. Couldn’t decide if it were a wasp or a moth, but this cleared it right up!
    I live in Southern coastal Georgia.

    Reply
  3. Omigosh if you can help me with this!!!! I live in Melbourne Beach last year this large but highly, highly aggressive black & red insect came at me while I was on the beach. I swatted & hit it with my bag of shells. It went far only come back twice even more fierce. The third time it gave up but it was not hurt. Freaked me out. Today I was in my garage & there was no question of the aggressiveness of this insect coming at me (same insect)but I was able to get in the house… I’m not exaggerating with any of this. I thought it was black with red wings but it was so fast maybe it was vice versa. I’ve been trying to figure this out all evening

    Reply
  4. Last year I was sitting in a chair on the front lawn under a tree and a bird-like creature was flying toward me, making a noise as it flew. Red with black wings. Someone at farmer’s mkt selling plants said it might have been a hummingbird moth. It seemed to be humming bird size or maybe a little smaller. Can’t find one that is red with black. Resembles Scarlet-bodied wasp moth in color, but they seem to be smaller? Could it have been a small hummingbird moth? If they come in bright red.

    It seemed to be going to land on me and since I didn’t know what it was I started waving a paper. Didn’t see where it went to get a close up.

    Reply
    • We don’t have enough information to be able to provide you with a response as many insects have limited ranges of distribution and you provided no location. Also we are very reluctant to provide identifications without images.

      Reply
  5. Last year I was sitting in a chair on the front lawn under a tree and a bird-like creature was flying toward me, making a noise as it flew. Red with black wings. Someone at farmer’s mkt selling plants said it might have been a hummingbird moth. It seemed to be humming bird size or maybe a little smaller. Can’t find one that is red with black. Resembles Scarlet-bodied wasp moth in color, but they seem to be smaller? Could it have been a small hummingbird moth? If they come in bright red.

    It seemed to be going to land on me and since I didn’t know what it was I started waving a paper. Didn’t see where it went to get a close up.

    Reply
  6. I saw one of these visiting the blossoms on my Meyer lemon tree today and was wondering if they are considered beneficials (will help with pollination) or harmful pests (damage the young fruits). I live in the Savannah area and all the posts I read seem to be centered in Florida. BTW, everything loves the lemon tree!

    Reply
    • The Scarlet Bodied Wasp Moth will not harm your meyer lemon and it probably does aid in pollination. According to BugGuide: “Larvae feed on Climbing Hempweed, Mikania scandens, a twining vine in the daisy family (Asteraceae).”

      Reply
  7. Although I didn’t think it was a wasp At first sight I thought it could be dangerous. I guess the feathery antennae made me think of a moth. Thanks for your really fast response.

    Reply

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