Ailanthus Webworm Moth

This tiny (1 cm) day-flying moth is actually native to Florida (so it’s funny I found this one in Indiana). The moth’s larvae used to live almost exclusively on the paradise tree (Simarouba glauca) in Florida, but when the “tree of heaven” (Ailanthus altissima) was introduced to the US from China, the ailanthus webworm moth adapted to it, and followed it north.

When perched, the ailanthus webworm moth looks somewhat like a beetle or possibly a cigar; however, when its wings extend it is clearly a moth.

The ailanthus webworm moth visits flowers, and is a pollinator. Their larvae (little bright-green caterpillars) live in communal webs, or nests, and can sometimes damage plants, but rarely occur in numbers large enough to be a real pest.

I found several scientific names for this species, starting with Atteva aurea (the most common) but also featuring Atteva punctella, A. ergatica and A. pustulella. It looks like at some point they combined all the “species” into Atteva aurea. Works for me.

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