Friday, June 20, 2003
Rosy Maple Moth
When and where seen: I found the moth clinging to the back of the house on June 8. There is a large red maple (Acer rubrum) very close to the house.
Description: If you can, go to the online version of the Mosquito and look at the color photo of this moth (www.carlislemosquito.org, pick features and scroll to the Biodiversity Corner). This moth is intensely pink and yellow. It looks like something you might see in the tropics. The body is yellow and very hairy. When the wings are folded they don't completely cover all the hairiness and the moth looks like it has a mane. The front wing is pink at the base and along the outer edge with a yellow band across the middle. The hind wing is solid yellow. (The wing color can be extremely variable and some specimens have little or no pink. This one was very rosy.) The legs are bright pink. The moth is about an inch long with a wing span of one to two inches. Males are slightly smaller than females · I think this one may have been a male · it had definitely not shaved its legs. The moths have a short life · they do not feed at all · they are reproductive machines.
Caterpillar: The caterpillars are eating machines. They are greenish yellow with alternate stripes of yellow-green and darker green. The fully-grown caterpillar has a red head and the second segment behind the head sports a pair of black curved horns. There are short black spines along the sides. The young caterpillars feed in groups and consume entire leaves. As they grow, they disperse and late-stage caterpillars dine alone. They prefer red maple and silver maple but also eat sugar maple and oak. In parts of the Midwest, heavy infestations completely strip the host tree.
Life-cycle: Starting around May, the adult moths emerge in late afternoon and mate in the late evening. The next day, the female begins laying eggs in groups of 10 to 30 on the underside of leaves of the host plant. She eventually lays about 150 eggs. The eggs hatch in about two weeks and the little caterpillars start feeding. Fully grown caterpillars burrow in the leaf litter, pupate, and spend the winter in the soil as hard-shelled dark brown pupae. In New England, there is only one brood per year.
References: Charles V. Covell, Peterson Field Guide to the Moths of Eastern North America; Moths of North America, online at http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov.
© 2003 The Carlisle Mosquito