Learn more about the beautiful blue Oleander Moth

An Oleander moth, also known as the Polka-dot wasp moth, lives in South Carolina, Mississippi, Texas, Florida, and Georgia and is unique for emitting an acoustic signal to locate each other for reproduction.

Oleander Moth Species Summary

Scientific NameSyntomeida epilais
Family NameErebidae
HabitatGrassland, rainforest, and forest
RangeSouth Carolina, Mississippi, Texas, Florida, and Georgia; a native of the Caribbean
Host PlantsThe primary host plant is oleander, but they can also feed on devils potato and desert rose
Butterfly DescriptionBlue or green wings and a body with small white dots
Caterpillar DescriptionHairy and orange with black bumps

Oleander Moth Description

Oleander moth
Oleander moth

Adult Oleander is a colorful moth, with a blue or green body and wings with red or orange on the tip of the abdomen. The Oleander moth’s common name is the Polka-dot wasp moth because the wings, body, antennae, and legs have small white dots.

The Oleander moth’s wing span is 1.77 to 2 inches (4.5 to 5.1 cm).

They are called wasp moths because they belong to the Ctenuchina species and resemble Pompilidae and Sphecid wasps.

Larva Physical Description

The Oleander moth caterpillar (larva) is orange (like the oleander flowers) with black bumps (tubercles) and black hair. The hairs cannot sting like that of other fuzzy caterpillars.

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The larva size ranges from 0.12 to 1.57 inches (0.3 to 4.0 cm).

This caterpillar resembles the Spotted oleander caterpillar (Empyreuma affinis). The Spotted caterpillar has white spots instead of black.

The larval stage has 6 instars, described below:

First instarHatches in 2-6 days
Second instarFeeds on the underside of leaves together for about 8 days
Third instarSame as the second instar
Fourth instarFeeds on an entire leaf and is often unaccompanied
Fifth instarCan clear oleander plant bushes
Sixth instarLasts 19 days together with the fifth instar, starts looking for pupation site

Why Are They Called Oleander Moths?

The Oleander moth is named after the Nerium oleander plant, their primary host plant.

What is the life cycle of an oleander moth?

Egg Stage4 to 10 days
Caterpillar Stage21 to 32 days
Chrysalis Stage5 to 21 days
Butterfly Stage5 to 10 days

Ideal Habitat

Oleander moths live in the leaves of the oleander plant in habitats such as:

  • Forests
  • Rainforests
  • Savanna
  • Grassland

Host Plants

The Oleander moth’s most known host plant is the Nerium oleander plant. The eggs are laid under the surface of young oleander leaves. Still, experts believe the original host plant is the devil’s potato (Echites umbellata).

What does the oleander hawk moth eat?

The Oleander moth larvae’s primary food source is the oleander plant. The larvae can also feed on devil’s potato and desert roses.

Adult moths nectar on Asteraceae flowers like the blue boneset (Eupatorium azureum).

Behavior and mating

When it’s mating time, the female moth produces an acoustic signal to attract males. Once the male and female moths are close to each other, they continue with the acoustic calls. The calls end when they mate a few hours before dawn.

After mating, the female moth looks for young oleander leaves to lay eggs. The eggs are 0.04 inches (1 mm) in diameter, and are laid in clusters of 12 to 75. They have a spherical shape and are light lemon yellow.

The pupae are commonly found on tree trunks and walls and covered with a thin hairy cocoon. The cocoon is made from the hairs and silk in the larvae.

Oleander caterpillars have a skeletonizing feeding behavior. They only feed on the tissue on the leaves, not the veins. The life cycle of Oleander caterpillar moths is a few months, so it’s possible to have 3 generations in a year. Polka-dot wasps are day fliers.

Common Predators

They are prey to insects such as:

  • Red imported fire ant
  • Predatory stink bug (Euthyrhynchus floridanus)
  • Parasitic tachinid flies and wasps

Stink bugs destroy the larvae by sucking their juices while the fire ants eat the pupa. Parasitic tachinid wasps and flies lay their eggs on the pupa and larvae. Small mammals are also common predators.

Are Oleander Moths Poisonous?

Oleander moths are not poisonous to people. However, they contain toxic compounds in their bodies that deter predators.

Oleander moth range

Oleander moths prefer Neotropic areas, and their origin is the Caribbean. They live in most parts of North America and many US regions, including Florida, Georgia, Mississippi coasts, and South Carolina.

Syntomeida epilais lives anywhere the oleander plant thrives, except in California.

Do Oleander Moths Migrate?

Oleander moths do not migrate. They are a native species found in the Northern United States and Mexico.

Is oleander moth a pest?

These caterpillars are known for their large appetite, devouring ornamental plants. The damage these pests cause can be mild to severe, depending on the available food plants and the number of moths in the area.

How do I get rid of oleander moths?

If you have issues with Oleander moths, you can prune the affected plants. Look for leaves with holes and attached caterpillars. Use the pairs of scissors to cut the leaves off, and leave only the healthy parts of the plants.

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