What Do Owlet Moths Eat: A Friendly Guide to Their Diet

Owlet moths are fascinating creatures belonging to the Noctuidae family within the order of Lepidoptera. As nocturnal insects, they are active at night and come in various shapes, sizes, and colors. In this article, we’ll explore what owlet moths eat and their role in nature.

The diet of owlet moths mainly consists of plant material. The larvae, in particular, feed on a variety of woody plants such as poplar, oak, hazel, alder, and antelope brush source. As they grow into adult moths, their feeding habits may change slightly, but plants remain a crucial part of their diet.

Understanding what owlet moths eat can help you appreciate their role in nature. These insects contribute to plant diversity and serve as an essential food source for other species. So, next time you spot an owlet moth, remember that they play an important part in your local ecosystem.

Owlet Moth Description

You might be curious about owlet moths and their characteristics. These fascinating insects are comprised of a diverse range of species within the Noctuoidea superfamily, which includes around 43,000 to 45,000 described species 1.

Owlet moths have a distinct appearance with unique features:

  • Wings: They possess two pairs of wings, fore wings and hind wings.
  • Coloration: These moths often exhibit brown or greyish coloration, which is due to the pattern found on their wings.
  • Wing venation: The arrangement of veins on their wings can assist in identifying different genera.

The wing pattern usually aids the moth in camouflaging itself on the bark of the plants that it feeds on 2. For example, the Mesogona olivata, a specific species of owlet moth, displays a coloration that resembles the bark of its preferred food plant 3.

The table below outlines two common features of owlet moths:

Features Description
Wings They possess smooth, brown or grayish fore wings and hind wings.
Coloration The coloration helps them blend in with the bark of their food plants.

In summary, owlet moths are a diverse group of insects with unique and fascinating characteristics. Their wings, coloration, and other features are adapted to help them thrive in various environments.

Distribution of Owlet Moths

You might find Owlet Moths in various regions across the globe. They are a diverse and widespread group, with species found in North America, Europe, and Mexico, especially in northern parts of the country.

In fact, the habitat of these moths is quite versatile. They are known to inhabit various environments such as forests, grasslands, and agricultural fields, where they can find a variety of host plants to feed on. Some common larval food plants include:

  • Poplar
  • Oak
  • Hazel
  • Alder
  • Antelope brush

It’s interesting how the coloring of these moths often resembles the bark of their preferred food plant, which is most likely a protective adaptation. You might notice that the prevalence of Owlet Moths corresponds to the availability of their preferred host plants in different regions.

To sum it up, the distribution of Owlet Moths covers a vast geographical range, with their habitat ranging from North America to Europe and Northern Mexico. Keep an eye out for these fascinating creatures, and you’ll find them adapting well to various environments across the globe.

Classification and Taxonomy

Owlet moths belong to the Lepidoptera order, a large group of insects that includes butterflies and moths. Within this order, owlet moths fall under the Noctuidae family, which is part of the superfamily Noctuoidea. They are classified within the phylum Arthropoda and class Insecta. Understanding their classification and taxonomy can help you get a better grasp of their characteristics and diversity.

Here is a quick breakdown of owlet moth classification:

  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Class: Insecta
  • Order: Lepidoptera
  • Superfamily: Noctuoidea
  • Family: Noctuidae

The Noctuidae family is known for its diversity, containing a vast array of species. In fact, there are more than 25,000 known species within this family of moths. Due to their nocturnal nature, they are often referred to as lepidopteran nocturnal species.

When examining owlet moths, you’ll notice some common features:

  • Generally nocturnal
  • Various color patterns
  • Unique wing shapes
  • Many species have an “eye” pattern on their wings to deter predators

Being familiar with the classification and taxonomy of owlet moths can help you better understand and appreciate these fascinating creatures. Remember, they are an essential part of the Lepidoptera order and the diverse Noctuidae family. Happy exploring!

The Life Cycle of Owlet Moths

Owlet moths, like all insects in the Lepidoptera order, undergo a fascinating transformation from egg to adult. The process begins when female owlet moths lay their eggs in the fall.

After the eggs hatch in spring, tiny caterpillars emerge. These larvae feed on a variety of woody plants like poplar, oak, hazel, alder, and antelope brush. Their diet helps them grow and prepare for the next stage of development.

Once full-grown, the caterpillar enters the pupa stage. This is when its body undergoes metamorphosis within the safety of a chrysalis. During this time, the caterpillar’s body reorganizes, breaking down old cells and forming new ones.

Upon emerging from the chrysalis, the owlet moth begins its life as an adult. Adult moths continue the critical task of finding food sources and seeking mates to reproduce. Their ability to fly allows them to cover greater distances in search of mates and nutrition, ensuring the survival of their species.

To summarize, the life cycle of owlet moths includes these stages:

  • Egg: Female moths lay eggs in the fall.
  • Larva: Caterpillars hatch from the eggs and consume various woody plants.
  • Pupa: The caterpillar enters a chrysalis, completing metamorphosis.
  • Adult: The adult moth emerges, focusing on eating and reproduction.

With this information, you can better understand the incredible journey owlet moths undertake, from a tiny egg to a fascinating flying adult. Enjoy observing these creatures and appreciating their role in nature.

Owlet Moths’ Diet and Feeding Habits

Owlet moths are fascinating creatures with diverse dietary habits. As an essential part of the ecosystem, they usually feed on plants. Different species feed on a variety of plants, making their diet truly diverse.

These moths primarily consume nectar from flowers, making them helpful in the pollination process. Some other food sources they enjoy are sap and honeydew. Honeydew is a sticky substance left behind by aphids, a rich energy source for many insects.

In their larval stage, owlet moths are commonly known as cutworms or armyworms. As larvae, they have a different diet from their adult form. Cutworms and armyworms are often found munching on:

  • Leaves
  • Flowers
  • Fruits
  • Stems

These pests can cause significant damage to plants and crops in gardens and agricultural fields. They also have a few opportunistic feeding habits – they tend to target vulnerable and young plants.

Comparing adult and larval owlet moths, we can see that:

Feeding Stage Feed on Plants Damage Plants
Adult Yes Rarely
Larval Yes Often

In conclusion, owlet moths have varying diets throughout their life stages. While adults feed on nectar, sap, and honeydew, the larvae go after different parts of plants and can be considered pests. It’s essential to understand their feeding habits to better appreciate their role in the ecosystem and protect plants from potential damage.

Owlet Moths and Their Environment

Owlet moths are a diverse group of insects that thrive in various environments, from forests to grasslands. They are predominantly nocturnal, flying and feeding mostly under the cover of darkness.

Their diet consists largely of woody plants like poplar, oak, hazel, and alder. Their larvae also feed on these host plants, ensuring they have ample nutrition to grow. As a result, owlet moths are often found near these plants in their habitats.

Interestingly, owlet moths can be both cosmopolitan and specialized in the host plants they prefer. Some species enjoy a wide variety of plants, while others might favor a specific type of plant. This relationship helps them adapt to their environments and ensure their survival.

At nighttime, owlet moths are attracted to lights. This behavior might often bring them closer to human-inhabited areas. Despite this, they still play a valuable ecological role. When they are out and about at night, they help with pollination, taking over the job from daytime pollinators like bees and butterflies.

In summary:

  • Owlet moths are largely nocturnal
  • They inhabit forests and other environments with host plants
  • They feed on woody plants and serve as pollinators

Learning about the relationship between owlet moths and their environment helps us understand their ecological value and diverse nature. So, the next time you spot an owlet moth, you’ll appreciate the role it plays in its natural surroundings.

Predators and Threats

Owlet moths, like most insects, face various predators in their environment. Some of their common predators include birds, bats, and spiders. These predators typically prey on the moths during their active periods at night.

Birds, such as swallows and flycatchers, have keen eyesight and catch the moths mid-flight. Bats, on the other hand, use echolocation to detect and swoop in on their flying prey. In comparison, spiders create webs to trap moths as they pass by.

Apart from these predators, owlet moths also face threats from parasitic wasps and flies. These insects lay their eggs on or inside the moth’s larvae, and their young eventually consume the host.

As a defense mechanism, owlet moths have developed various behaviors to avoid being detected and captured by predators. They employ tactics like:

  • Camouflage: Owlet moths have intricate patterns and colors that allow them to blend in with their surroundings and avoid being spotted.
  • Motionless resting: They remain motionless during the day while resting on tree trunks or other surfaces, making it difficult for predators to locate them.

By understanding the predators and threats faced by owlet moths, as well as their defense mechanisms, you can appreciate their struggle for survival and the intricate balance of life in the ecosystem.

Reproduction and Surviving Offspring

Owlet moths have a fascinating life cycle that starts when adult moths lay their eggs during the fall season. As the eggs hatch in the spring, the larvae, or caterpillars, emerge and begin feeding on a variety of woody plants. These tiny creatures love munching on plants such as poplar, oak, hazel, alder, and antelope brush1.

As the caterpillars grow, they eventually enter the pupal stage, which is a crucial phase in their development. Pupation is the process where the caterpillar transforms into an adult moth.

When it comes to reproduction and surviving offspring, here are some key features to consider:

  • Adult moths lay eggs in the fall
  • Larvae (caterpillars) hatch in the spring
  • Caterpillars feed on a variety of woody plants
  • Pupation occurs as caterpillars transform into adult moths

Through these stages of reproduction, the owlet moth population is sustained, and the life cycle continues. The balance in nature provides the essential resources for the survival and longevity of owlet moths and their offspring.

Owlet Moths and Humans

Owlet moths can be both a blessing and a curse for you. On one hand, they are an essential part of your ecosystem, acting as pollinators and helping to maintain the balance in populations of other insects. On the other hand, some species of owlet moths are known to be pests, causing damage to crops and other plants.

For example, a few species that might concern you include armyworms, corn earworms, and cotton bollworms. These pests have the potential to cause significant damage to various crops such as corn, cotton, and other agricultural plants. The fall armyworm, in particular, is known for its ability to wreak havoc on various crops like maize.

It’s essential to be aware that owlet moths are not typically a threat to your clothing. They differ from other moths, such as the clothes moth, which can infest your wardrobe and damage your fabrics. So, there’s no need for you to worry too much about these critters impacting your personal belongings.

As for controlling owlet moth pest species, it’s crucial to focus on eco-friendly strategies to protect the environment and preserve beneficial insect populations. An example of a non-toxic method includes using pheromone traps to disrupt the mating process of specific pest species.

Below is a comparison table featuring some of the owlet moth species and their impact on human life:

Owlet Moth Species Impact on Crops Impact on Clothing
Armyworms Damaging None
Corn Earworm Damaging None
Cotton Bollworm Damaging None
Fall Armyworm Damaging None
Mesogona olivata Beneficial None

In conclusion, while some owlet moth species can cause crop damage, they generally don’t pose a threat to your clothing. By understanding their role in the ecosystem and employing eco-friendly pest control methods, you can help balance their impact on both agriculture and nature.

Interesting Facts About Owlet Moths

Owlet moths are part of the Lepidoptera order and have interesting patterns and colors on their wings. These nocturnal insects can be quite diverse, with different species preferring various food plants. For example, some owlet moths like to feed on woody plants such as poplar, oak, hazel, alder, and antelope brush1 while others may prefer different types of vegetation.

One fascinating fact about these moths is that their coloring often resembles the bark of the food plant they favor. This likely acts as a protective adaptation, helping them blend in with their surroundings1. Additionally, they have a proboscis, like many other moths, which is a tube-like structure used for feeding on nectar.

Some owlet moths are also called miller moths or underwing moths, depending on their Latin classification and wing patterns. Certain species, such as loopers included in this group, have unique caterpillar stages where they move by forming a loop with their body before extending forward.

Here are some features and characteristics of owlet moths:

  • They have diverse wing patterns and colors
  • Many species are nocturnal insects
  • Their coloring often mimics the food plants they consume
  • They have a proboscis for feeding on nectar
  • Some are known as miller moths or underwing moths due to their patterns and classification
  • Some species, like loopers, have distinctive caterpillar stages

Now that you have learned some interesting facts about owlet moths, you can appreciate the incredible diversity within this group of insects.


  1. Large-scale genomic data reveal the phylogeny and evolution of owlet 2 3 4

  2. Imperial Moth

  3. Owlet Moth (Mesogona olivata) – US Forest Service

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 – Mistletoe Moth from Australia


Subject: Moth ID
Location: Melbourne, Australia
February 9, 2016 4:09 am
Dear Bugman
Took a few pics of an unusually marked/colored moth at a local native parkland recently.
It might be a variety of Tiger Moth after looking at some pics on this site?
Would be pleased if you could verify.
Signature: Alan Gardner

Mistletoe Moth
Mistletoe Moth

Dear Alan,
This one really gave us a challenge.  Though it really does resemble a Tiger Moth, it is actually an Owlet Moth in the family Noctuidae and the subfamily Agaristinae.  We found two very similar looking moths on Butterfly House, and we eliminated the Grapevine Moth,
Phalaenoides glycinae, and we believe this is a Mistletoe Moth, Comocrus behri , which is described on Butterfly House as:  “The adult moths have wings that are black with white straight and zigzag lines. The abdomen is black on top and has orange stripes underneath, and a scarlet tuft on the tail.  The adult is a day-flying moth, with a wingspan of up to 5 cm.”  According to Csiro:  “This species is widely distributed across southern mainland Australia and can often be seen during the day flying around mistletoe plants growing on Casuarina and Eucalyptus species. The adults have a wingspan or about 58 millimetres and are predominantly black with white bands or lines through the wings. Males display what is known as ‘hill topping’ behaviour, where they fly to the highest spot on the landscape so that females know to congregate there for mating.”  There are some very nice images on FlickR.

Mistletoe Moth
Mistletoe Moth

Hi Daniel
Thanks very much for your prompt response.
I hadn’t seen any kind of moth quite like this one and it had me intrigued.
Kind regards

Mistletoe Moth
Mistletoe Moth

Letter 2 – Laudable Arches Moth


Subject: moth
Location: Northern Virginia
June 6, 2016 6:08 pm
can you identify this moth? seen in June, 2016
Signature: Sandra

Laudable Arches Moth
Laudable Arches Moth

Dear Sandra,
We were excited when we thought we identified your moth as a Collared Arches Moth,
Lacinipolia strigicollis, thanks to this BugGuide image, but alas, it is a species limited to western North America according to BugGuide.  We knew we were close so we investigated the genus, but according to BugGuide:  “Lafontaine & Schmidt (2010) listed 64 species of the genus Lacinipolia in America north of Mexico.”  Of the eastern species, only the Laudable Arches Moth, Lacinipolia laudabilis, is green and resembles your individual, so we are relatively sure that identification is correct, based on this BugGuide image.  According to BugGuide:  “Larvae are general feeder on herbaceous plants.”  Here are more images from Moth Photographers Group.

Letter 3 – Looper Moth


Subject: Looper Moth on Sedum at Mom’s?
Location: Faribault County, Minnesota
September 21, 2016 3:52 pm
Greetings, WTB Volunteers!
My Test Message went through! WooHoo! So I’m hoping this query I’ve been trying forever to send will make it as well.
Our Autumn flowers are beginning to bloom, which of course includes sedum. While most sedum are not native to MN, Dad had a fondness for them so several varieties are in Mom’s garden. Like prairie liatris, sedum are pollinator magnets. Late one afternoon at the end of August 2016, I was taking photos and noticed a moth I’ve not seen before. Gorgeous thing, which of course does not necessarily mean it’s an insect we want around. Years ago I a very large and absolutely stunning moth in my garden near the iris. (I took pictures I can send if you like). I put two and two together and discovered it was the adult of the Iris Borer. Beautiful markings, reminiscent of Native American cave paintings! Still, not a moth one wants if one hopes to grow iris!
Anyway, this most recent “new” moth has the outline of a star on its back with two prominent spots along the lower edges of the star. In profile, it has prominent ridges with arise from its shoulders and back. Quite stunning to see, and was feasting quite happily on the sedum blossoms. Even the bees did not deter this moth!
I’ve not seen a moth such as this, certainly not to photograph, so I’m excited to add this to my sightings list! The little bit of research I’ve been able to do gets me as far as a possible Looper Moth, but then I get stuck. So many Looper Moths! Can you help me narrow it down?
Blessings one and all!
Signature: Wanda J. Kothlow

Looper Moth
Looper Moth

Dear Wanda,
We are not going to be much help.  So many Looper Moths in the Subfamily Plusiinae, which is well represented on BugGuide, look very similar.  Some possibilities are that it is in the genus Autographa, which is pictured on BugGuide.

Looper Moth
Looper Moth

Well, Daniel, that helps explain why I was having difficulty with an ID. I’ll just refer to it as “Looper Moth A” until I have more information!
Thanks so much, Daniel.

Looper Moth
Looper Moth

Letter 4 – Pink Spotted Flower Moth


Subject: Rare, Pink Spotted Flower Moth, (Erythroecia Suavis) 9-12-12
Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico
September 12, 2012 2:07 pm
Hello! Today is my 18th birthday, & I came across a strikingly beautiful moth, with the colors of pink & yellow. I came to call it my birthday moth, cause of its unique color. I took many photos of this moth, & searched the internet for quite some time, until I finally came across a picture, which lead me to this site. I then heard they are usually never found alive, so I managed to take a video. The most odd thing is I hear they live in North-Dakota. I live in Albuquerque, NM. I will put a link to the video below. Thank you for your time.
Signature: Shaynen Brewster

Pink Spotted Flower Moth

Happy Birthday Shaynen,
Since our 2008 posting of the Pink Spotted Flower Moth, there have been changes and additions on the internet.  BugGuide now has several photos posted and the scientific name has been changed from
Erythroecia suavis to Psectrotarsia suavis.  There is also a map on the Moth Photographers Group website that places your New Mexico sighting well within the range that is reported for the Pink Spotted Flower Moth.

Letter 5 – Spanish Moth from Brazil


Pink and black moth from Brazil
Location: Araraquara, Sao Paulo, Brazil
October 2, 2011 11:24 am
Hello bugman!
I have a voracious eater coming to visit my little garden in Araraquara, SP, Brazil. The larva is black with white spots and sparse black hair. It’s head is red. (I’ll try to get a photo the next time I see them.) They ate all of one type of plant in my garden (I don’t know what it is/was because they ate it all before I could see it bloom. I suspect it’s an iris or tulip of some sort. Bulbs! They’re growing back now.) I gathered a couple of the pupa and hung on to them until they emerged into this very awesome little moth. All of this has happened in our winter months.
ps. Sorry if this is a re-post! I felt my initial images were too large. 🙁
Signature: – Irisless Gardener

Spanish Moth adult and pupae

Dear Irisless Gardener,
We recognized this moth as a submission from several years ago, but we could not remember its identity.  We searched our archives and found the Spanish Moth.  Here is what Karl, who frequently contributes to our website had to add:  “This is actually an Owlet Moth ((Noctuidae: Hadeninae), specifically a Spanish Moth (Xanthopastis timais). The species is extremely widespread, ranging from New York to Argentina and including all of the Caribbean. The background color ranges from white to bright pink but the rest of the markings are fairly consistent and distinctive.”   The University of Florida Featured Creatures posting states:  “Host Plants  Spanish moth larvae mainly feed on spider lilies and other Amaryllidaceae, plus Iridaceae and Liliaceae …  in lab rearings. Host plant records in Amaryllidaceae include amaryllis, Clivia, Cooperia, Eucharis, Haemanthus, Hippeastrum, Hymenocallis, Narcissus, Pancratium, Polianthes, and Zephyranthes; in Iridaceae, Iris; and in Liliaceae, Crinum, Leucojum and Lilium.  Damage  Spanish moth larvae cause damage by chewing gregariously on leaves, bulbs, and rhizomes of the host plants. ”  That supports your observations that the larvae eat your iris.

Spanish Moth


  • 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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