The Herald

2012 April 21

I found this fairly large moth (the body was about an inch long) hanging out on the ceiling of our garage, right over the spot where I park our truck. I collected it for photographs on November 22, 2011. But, it had actually been there for some time (maybe weeks) before I realized it was a moth and not just a smudge of dirt.

The color pattern is pretty distinctive, with those orange splotches on the wings and the banding and striping on the trailing edge, but I couldn’t find it on BugGuide myself. Luckily, Ken Wolgemuth could; it’s “The Herald”[1], Scoliopteryx libatrix. In addition to the distinctive wing coloration, it also has white feet:

This is probably the latest in the season that I’ve found an adult moth, as I found it some time after the average daily temperature had descended to below freezing. The reason why it was around so late, was that this species overwinters as an adult, rather than as a pupa, or caterpillar, or egg. Which means that, about the time you are reading this, these moths are likely to be coming out of hibernation and flying around again.

They overwinter in protected spots. Before there were humans around, this meant caves, hollow logs, and similar locations. Now that we have come along and considerately produced all sorts of artificial structures, this means barns and garages, too.

When they come out in the spring, they lay eggs on poplar and willow trees. The caterpillars are nondescript green things with a thin white stripe down the side, and it is quite possible I have seen them without knowing what they were. They eat for a few weeks before pupating sometime around July. The adults live for quite a long time (from about the end of July all the way around to May).

From comments on the BugGuide page, it sounds like these are not particularly common, to the point where people actually get excited about finding one.

[1] There are a number of moths that have rather whimsical and arbitrary common names, like “The Girlfriend” or “The Bride” or “Laudible Arches”. This is one of them.

3 Responses
  1. April 21, 2012

    It looks just like a ragged maple leaf. So pretty even if it is a bug.

  2. April 22, 2012

    From above, it looks like the color pattern you see looking into a live volcano. Way cool!

  3. April 28, 2012

    On second thought, I’d be very careful about this creature. It bears the Eye of Sauron in the middle of its back. Make sure your rings are carefully stored away, out of sight. You never know if the guy has a terrible false alarm rate in identifying rings.

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