Texas moths, such as Sphinx moths, Black witch, American Ermine moths, or Io moths, are common in open areas, deciduous woodlands, and urban and suburban areas.
The Sphinx Moth
Sphinx moths or Hawk moths (Sphingidae) are a family of about 1,450 moth species. Their caterpillars are called hornworms. Abbott’s, Achemon, Catalpa, Gaudy, and Lettered sphinx moths are usual Texas residents. Walnut, Mournful, Nessus, and Rustic are also common. Other Sphinx moths you can find in Texas include:
- Big poplar
- Virginia Creeper
- White-lined sphinx Moth (also called Hummingbird moth)
Sphinx moths share some characteristics. They are large with thick antennae and a long proboscis. Their forewings are pointed and long, and their hindwings are narrowed. They are strong flyers.
Sphinx moths’ host plants and habitats vary by species, but they can usually be seen around open areas like parks, gardens, deserts, grasslands, and scrublands. They love feeding on nectar from tube-shaped flowers, such as:
- Virginia bluebells
- Flowering tobaccos
- Purpletop vervains
- Wild petunias
Black Witch Moth
Black witch moths (Ascalapha odorata) are migratory and are present in North America, Florida, Texas, and Colorado. They thrive in both moist and dry habitats. With a size of 3.9 inches (9.9 cm) to seven inches (17.7 cm), a Black witch is a large moth species.
You’ll recognize a Black witch moth by its bat-shaped size and dark brown and grayish colors. Its typical host plants are legumes, and it loves consuming overripe rainforest fruits like bananas.
The Polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus) is a large non-migratory silk moth that can be seen nationwide. It populates the following areas:
- Suburban areas
Its wingspan ranges from 2.9 inches (7.3 cm) to 3.7 inches (9.3 cm). It has distinct vibrant colors ranging from yellow to tan and brown and big dark purple eyespots on its hindwings.
Ailanthus Webworm Moth
Ailanthus webworm moths (Atteva aurea) are common throughout the US. They migrate once a year from the south to Michigan.
Ailanthus Webworms’ host plants are trees from the Simaroubaceae family, particularly the tree of heaven. These moths are diurnal (active during the day), and they are pollinators. You can spot them on various flowers in old field habitats.
An Ailanthus webworm moth’s wingspread varies from 0.7 inches (1.7 cm) to 1.1 inches (2.7 cm). Even though they’re fairly small, they’re easily identified by their long and thin beetle-like bodies and vivid orange forewings with black and white patterns.
Luna moths (Actias luna) only have one generation and don’t migrate. Some of their host plants are:
- White birches
- Black walnuts
Their typical habitats are deciduous woodlands. Their wingspan can range from 2.9 inches (7.3 cm) to 4.1 inches (10 cm).
Luna moths are lime green and have eyespots on both forewings and hindwings. They also have elongated, curved tails extending from their hindwings.
Thin-lined Owlet Moth
The Thin-lined owlet moth (Isogona tenuis) has two broods and migrates from May to August in the north and from April to October in the south. Its habitat is deciduous woods that have hackberries, which these moth caterpillars thrive on.
Thin-lined owlet moths are small, with a wingspread of 0.3 inches (0.7 cm) to 0.6 inches (1.5 cm). They are dark brown to grayish with black spots across their bodies and veins and thin lines on the forewings.
Io moths (Automeris io) have one generation and a short lifespan (1 to 2 weeks), so they are non-migratory. They can be found in suburban areas, thorn scrubs, and deciduous forests. Their host plants include cherries and raspberries.
An Io moth’s wingspan ranges between 2.4 inches (6 cm) to 3.4 inches (8.6 cm). Males are bright yellow with two large black spots on their forewings. Females are typically a bit bigger than males and are dark yellow to brown colored.
American Ermine Moth
The American ermine moth (Yponomeuta multipunctella) flies during the summertime, from late June to mid-July. This moth’s host plants are spindle trees. An American ermine moth is usually seen in:
- Suburban yards
An American ermine moth’s wingspan ranges from 0.78 inches (2 cm) to 0.98 inches (2.5 cm). These moths resemble Dalmatians — they have white wings and black dots on the upper side. They have more black dots than other species and are also characterized by a hairy face with two big black eyes.
The Cecropia silkmoth (Hyalophora cecropia) migrates and has 1 flight from March to July in most of the region. In the Midwest, it has 2 flights — one from May to early June and then one more 2 weeks later. It can be spotted in both urban and suburban areas, as well as fields and meadows.
Cecropia silkmoths’ host plants include:
- Boxelder maples
- Sugar maples
- Wild cherries
The Cecropia silkmoth’s wingspan ranges from 4.33 inches (11 cm) to 5.9 inches (15 cm). This moth has a vibrant red body with a white collar and white bands around its abdomen. Its wings are dark brown with whitish scales. The forewings and hindwings contain rows of white, cream, black, and red, with red crescent spots on all its wings.
Tobacco Hornworm Moth
Tobacco hornworm moths (Manduca sexta) are common in Utah and Texas but can also be found in New York, Florida, and Minnesota. They have one to two broods and do not migrate.
These moths have a wide variety of habitats. They’re considered pests and usually populate tobacco fields and vegetable gardens.
A Tobacco hornworm’s wingspread is 3.5 inches (8.8 cm) to 4.5 inches (11.4 cm). It has pointed wings. It’s brown, black, and gray with white spots on its body.
What Are Other Common Texas Moths?
Some other moths that you can spot in Texas include:
- Texas wasp moth
- Ironweed clearwing Moth
- Slug moth
- Bagworm moth
- Fall armyworm moth
- Banded tussock moth
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Alexandra is passionate about exploring the delicate parts of flora and fauna and educating others about the importance of conservation. She shares her love for butterflies here at Butterfly Hobbyist.