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What Time is it in Nature: Rosy Maple Moth

July 26, 2013

It’s National Moth Week, and people around the globe are learning about, observing, and celebrating moths!  In honor of National Moth Week, this week’s What Time is it in Nature features one of our showy local species, the Rosy Maple Moth (Dryocampa rubicunda).

Rosy Maple Moth

The Rosy Maple Moth is a very common moth in North Carolina. It belongs to the silkmoth family Saturniidae, which includes several of the world’s largest and showiest moths.  The Rosy Maple Moth has an average wingspan of under 2 inches, making it one of the smaller moths in the silkworm group, but it is a stunning insect with deep yellow and bright pink markings.  While another moth, the Pink Prominent, has similar colors, the markings and shape of the wings are different and the abdomen is pink instead of yellow.  It’s hard to mistake a Rosy Maple Moth for anything else.

These moths are forest dwellers, as the caterpillars feed on a variety of trees, including maples.  Female Rosy Maple Moths lay their eggs on the leaves of an appropriate tree so that the larvae can begin eating as soon as they hatch.  The larvae, commonly called Green-striped Mapleworms, will feed in large groups at first, but will spread out as they grow.  Here in the south, there can be up to three generations of moths produced each year, but the last generation will overwinter as pupae underground before emerging as adults in late spring.

While the larvae are sometimes considered pests of trees due to their leaf munching habits, the adults are completely harmless.  In fact, they do not feed at all!  Adult Rosy Maple Moths rely entirely on the fat reserves they build up as larvae.  As with other insects that use this strategy, the adults live a few weeks at most and spend the majority of their lives as caterpillars.

The Rosy Maple Moth is a common nighttime visitor at Prairie Ridge.  If you’d like a chance to see one, considering attending our Moths at Night program Saturday, July 27 from 8pm-midnight.  We will have several moth observation stations, moth experts on hand to help you identify the moths you see, a station to submit your sightings for science, and other activities, so it will be an evening full of moth-focused fun.  Hope to see you there!

What Time is it in Nature is a weekly feature highlighting the current plants, animals, and other wildlife at the Musuem’s public outdoor facility, Prairie Ridge Ecostation. Find out more about the natural happenings at Prairie Ridge at our What Time is it in Nature Archive!

(Photo by Chris Goforth)

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