Saturday, August 22, 2009

One of the Weirdest Moths I Have Ever Seen

A few days ago, my friend John Howard, one of the best all around naturalists I know, sent me a picture of the coolest moth. At the time, we weren't even certain it was a moth. It looked just like a giant treehopper! It did have scaly wings like a moth, but its appearance was so strange. It looked like it could have easily walked out of a Lord of the Rings movie! Plus, treehoppers are usually a lot smaller; most are less than a centimeter in length.

The critter looked just like a dead leaf with its antennae curled back to look like a petiole, the stem part on a leaf that attaches to the tree. Its legs were also jagged and thickened in places to resemble a dried up leaf. Perfect camouflage! Below is a crop of John's picture that shows the legs up close.

I was really curious about this critter conundrum. What was this bizarre bug? I looked in some of my books. No luck! Then I looked through some pics on my favorite website BugGuide. Nope, I couldn't find it. There are so many moths out there, it can make one's head spin.

So finally I e-mailed Eric Eaton, otherwise known as Bug Eric. He is called Bug Eric because he is extremely knowledgeable about bugs and is the principal author for the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects. Wonderful book! I tend to "bug" Eric with all the unknown insects I find. And in return, he kindly obliges an answer and gently corrects my ID boo-boos.

Eric quickly came up with the ID. It was on BugGuide all along, I just couldn't find it. This crazy-looking moth is actually a Trumpet Vine or Trumpet Creeper moth, Clydonopteron sacculana. Its name comes from its host plant, which is a showy vine with large showy red flowers. Trumpet Creeper is also a hummingbird magnet. The caterpillars of the moth feed on the pods of Trumpet Creeper and pupate inside the seedpods.

Here is a picture I took of Trumpet Creeper, Campsis radicans, at Garfield Park this summer. I love the scarlet flowers! They are so inviting, especially to a hungry hummingbird.

When I told John Howard I was doing this post, he sent me a picture he had taken of Trumpet Creeper. How gorgeous! If you have this plant nearby, take a peek and see if you can find the caterpillars of this crazy moth!

That is what is great about the amazing world of insects! You never know what you will discover next!
For more amazing critters, visit the Camera Critters site.


  1. HOW VERY cool! have never seen this interesting critter.
    You sure do have some good bug resources..
    Nice to know that if i need and ID..I can come to you first..and If you dont know I am sure you would know who to send me to.
    I use that Bug Guide as well.
    You know you need to Join are doing facebook, nature blog,
    Twitter is a great way to spread the word of your blog to a huge audience.
    I do tweet out posts every now and then of yours..
    If u join let me know.
    will help get u some followers.

  2. That is a crazy moth! It looks like someone took pinking shears to his wings!

  3. My husband and I were just admiring a Trumpet vine in Denver - no critters like your Creeper Moth though! I'll keep looking - I'd love to spot one.

  4. Thats amazing. I doubt if I would have spotted it as a moth if it was still.


  5. Great post! very interesting! I liked the comaflauge frog post, as well.

  6. Now there's a moth I wish I'd come across. All the hard work is done now that you've identified it :)

    I haven't seen a Trumpet creeper around here but I'm supposed to be in it's range. After looking at the photos I certainly want some.

  7. How did you even spot this moth? Very cool!