Lappet Moth

2012 October 3

At work, there is a parking-lot light over the door that I normally use to go into the building. This light draws a fair number of moths. On May 5, 2012, this one kind of caught my eye, both because its reddish-brown color didn’t really blend in well with the gray concrete it was resting on, and because of the odd way that its hindwings stuck out to the side while its forewings were tented over its back. It was still there that evening when I was on my way home, so I popped it into a bottle that I carry for just this sort of purpose, and brought it home for photographs.

I figured that the way that it held its wings was probably a characteristic pose that could be used for ID, but there are just so many kinds of moths that I wasn’t able to find that particular one out of the huge mass of other moths. But BugGuide contributor shotguneddie recognized it as a Lappet Moth, Phyllodesma americana. And from the feathery antenna, it’s probably a male.

Lappet moths are related to tent caterpillars, but they don’t build the silk tents. There are evidently only about three species of lappet moths, and only one of them lives anywhere around Michigan. And this one is it.

I thought it was kind of weird the way that the forewings and hindwings are held at different angles when at rest, but both snap flat when the moth gets ready to fly.

It sounds like these are only moderately common, and aren’t prone to the massive outbreaks that the related tent caterpillars go through every 15 years or so. They do eat the leaves of a lot of the common trees and shrubs, but not enough to be a particular problem. I kind of suspect that one thing keeping them from getting too common, is that they are probably susceptible to the same diseases, parasites, and predators that attack tent caterpillars (but without the silk tents to defend themselves from them).

3 Responses
  1. Bridget permalink
    October 3, 2012

    And it’s cute!

  2. October 4, 2012

    That looks just like a little bat to me. And he looks rather aggrieved in that last photograph as if he had just got settled in for hibernation (do they hibernate or do they just kick the bucket and go to the compost heap?) and perhaps he was imitating a rusted nail or a friable set of fall leaves for the sake of his safety and soul—-when you came by and rudely popped him into a specimen jar and took him home for a photographic session that he was loathe to participate in but could not avoid since you had him clutched tight and was determined to make a post out of him. There is just no escaping your propensity for science is there?

    I would be grumpy too if I was posed in various anatomically relevant positions as this poor mite —and then asked to do a full frontal display on the top of a finger as he is posed in photographs # 3 and # 4. But maybe this is his natural expression. I tend to be rather grumpy myself and possess the same sort of countenance when confronted with the culinary objects of politicians.

    This is the sort of short lived, effortless pet we need for younger boy.

    Right now we are going through a sort of search for a replacement for Simon (our orange cat who died ages ago that I have resisted replacing because really who could replace Simon? He was the sort of merry go round carnival cat who was wont to do the rounds of the immediate neighborhood, stopping for early morning coffee at one neighbor’s and then settling down for an afternoon sun nap at a second neighbor’s and then going to a third neighbors looking mournful and starved, so that she would accuse me of putting the rotund little ball of fur and grease on a harsh Siberian diet and as a consequence of his acting ability he got lots of attention and handouts that that he didn’t need). To this this neighbor that was charmed by Simon meets me at the bus stop and tells me off for starving my poor cat. Really who knew that cats were capable of such perfidy? I fed that cat like a garrison of soldiers.

    Simon was the last cat I owned of the many cats we owned and certainly I wasn’t going to replace him with another feline and really –looking at this furry little bat like moth—maybe I can convince younger boy that such a bug would make a fine substitute for Simon.

    Except of course younger boy does not like bugs. And now he wants a cat.

    Really you would think that boys would be happy to settle for a girl friend or a car rather than a cat. I have enough to do with two boys who generate enough laundry to fill a mud room and why do we even need a cat when the cat will eventually die and break my heart again? Really I have had enough cats break my heart by croaking.

    It’s a problem.

    Your moth is very texture filled (I like the fact that he has horns or antennae that are vibrant, that the wings are spotty and that they seem scaled, that the edges are all crumpled like a fall leaf or two mussed up by a divine hand and that he looks as bad tempered as I often feel). Texture is important in people and bugs and certainly this bug has more texture and layers and tension than most human beings I meet. But then I don’t meet many people in the nun’s room where I write poetry all day and posts about politicians.

    What was I going on about in this comment?

    I forget.

    In any case, I like that you pick up bugs on the way to and from work.

    I don’t know many folks who have this habit.
    Of picking up stuff that is.
    I do the picking up of stuff a great deal myself.

    I do this picking up (but not bugs) because I am fond of texture. When I go for a walk near on the Whitemud ravine nature trail near my home, I have lots of texture to comb through.
    I tend to pick up rocks, bits of plants that are crunchy like dead fall leaves, the berries from a Saskatoon bush that have dried up to form buttons and that feel smooth in my hands, the friable lips of a mushroom that has split its tongue on the snag and made a rude finger of a stalk at me, the feather of a magpie that purrs on my fingers, the blush of a small red maple leaf, the tears of a sappy trunk….you are not the only one that is a kleptomaniac where nature is concerned. I’d better stop now before I write a book on texture and rock collecting. I love rocks as well and I like to have a bit of pebble to rosary all the time on a walk.

    I’d better go back to poem making now.
    I am going to go write a poem now on one of Ron Hanko’s photographs of a gentian….Ron says it is a “mountain bog gentian”. Here it is at the link below so that you can see how charming and blue it is (I have a weakness for blue flowers since they are so rare in my neglected, weed filled garden)… so much prettier than your moth but still your moth as lots of texture and I like that.

    ut I don’t think I could write a poem on him but I can on the gentian. I do like his name though. Lappet Moth…. such a lot of texture to his name as well.
    Ron’s picture is here:

  3. October 6, 2012

    Your photography is so good! Those antennae were captured perfectly.

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