Ornate Bella Moth

The most common name for this moth (Utetheisa ornatrix) seems to be the ornate bella moth, but my favorite is “rattlebox moth”. Apparently there’s a whole family of plants (Crotalaria) which produce seed pods that rattle if shaken, and this little moth loves to eat them. Crotalaria contain alkaloids which make the moths, and their larvae, toxic or at least bad-tasting to predators.

These moths have a lot of color variation, from faded like this to brilliant orange, and from boldly spotted to having spots only on the edges of the wings. This color variation has resulted in a lot of renaming as the differently-colored morphs (U. bella, the form with more white, and U. ornatrix, with more color) were eventually found to be only one species and grouped under U. ornatrix. This is a relatively large species for me, about 20mm long with a wingspan of 30-45mm.

This individual was identified via iNaturalist.

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