Black-and-Orange (or Black-and-Yellow) Lichen Moth, Lycomorpha pholus
Erebidae or Tiger Moth Family

 

Not a typical-looking moth. About a half inch long and narrow. Body bluish-black. Wings bluish-black towards rear and bright yellow or orange (or red in the central US) towards the front. Relative amounts of black versus color varies from individual to individual. Flies only by day. Often found on goldenrods and dogbane. The one in the picture is visiting a Eupatorium, which is related to goldenrods. Adults seen mostly in summer.

Caterpillar gray, dotted with pale green; has sparse long hairs. Caterpillars feed on lichens.

Common throughout eastern US and southern Canada west to the Rockies. Common in the Park and in gardens outside.

The Orange-Patched Smoky Moth (Pyromorpha dimidiata) is similar except that the orange is confined to the outher parts of the forewings, forming shoulder patches. It is known from the Park.

In nature, dramatic black and orange (or red or yellow) coloration often means either the animal is toxic to eat (think poison arrow frogs and monarch butterflies) or not to be messed with (think coral snakes and yellow jackets). In the case of black-and-orange lichen moths, the color is apparently a bluff. It is believed that the color pattern mimics toxic Lycid beetles, which are of similar size and shape, but have a black stripe across their orange patch.

Moth
 

 

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