Nature Bulletin No. 193-A May 22, 1965
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Seymour Simon, President
Roland F. Eisenbeis, Supt. of Conservation
Men and moths have been at war since time immemorial. There are
few garden and field crops not attacked by the larva of some kind of
moth, and the same is true of our vineyards, our orchards, our shade
trees and our forest trees.
The European Corn-borer seriously damages field corn and sweet
corn. Army Worms and Cut-worms destroy grain and garden crops.
Tobacco, cotton and sugar cane have their moth enemies. One family
of moths includes the destructive Peachtree Borer and others whose
larvae bore into the roots of squash and pumpkin vines, grape vines,
raspberry and blackberry shrubs. Stored grains, flour, meal and foods
such as nuts and raisins are infested by the larvae of tiny moths. Our
orchard, shade and forest trees are damaged or killed by moth larvae
such as those of the Tussock Moths, Tent Caterpillar Moths, Bag-
worm Moths, Web-worm Moths, the Loopers or "inch-worms" which
include the cankerworms, and two species introduced from Europe: the
Gypsy Moth and the Brown-tail Moth. We have found chemical means
of successfully combating some of them; others are held in check by
parasites, by other insects, and by birds.
If you bite into an apple and find a plump flesh-colored worm with a
brownish head and several pairs of legs, that is the larva of the
Codling Moth. The adult is a beautiful little creature: its front wings
like watered silk, with wavy bands of brown and ashy lines; the hind
wings coppery brown.
The evenly-clipped furry "woolly bear" caterpillars, reddish-brown in
the middle and black at either end, seen so commonly in autumn and
early spring, are larvae of the Isabella Tiger Moth. It spends the winter
in a secluded place, emerging in spring to spin a cocoon of silk and its
own hair, from which emerges a big full-colored tawny-yellow moth
which flies only at night.
The Hawk Moths, so-called because of their long narrow front wings
and bullet-like flight -- include some large beautiful moths, most of
them with quiet but exquisite colors of olive, tan, ochre and brown,
black and yellow, or shades of gray; some with eye-spots or bands of
rose or crimson. Usually flying at twilight or in daytime, they are also
called Hummingbird Moths because some hover over flowers with
whirring wings, while they extract nectar with their very long tongues.
They are also known as Sphinx Moths because the larva, with a horn
on its tail end, rears up when resting or disturbed, in a threatening
attitude resembling the fabled Egyptian Sphinx. The big green tomato,
or tobacco worm, is the larva of a hawk moth.
The Giant Silkworm Moths, noted for their big cocoons, include the
largest and some of the most beautiful of our native moths -- notably
the Cecropia, the Promethea, the Polyphemus and the Luna. None of
these feed as adults, having only rudimentary mouth parts. The
cecropia, with a wing-spread sometimes six and one-half inches, is the
largest. Its hammock-shaped cocoon hangs close to the underside of a
twig or branch. The Promethea, somewhat smaller, is the most
common. The female is reddish-brown with markings much like the
cecropia; but the male is much different, the wings being almost black
and bordered with ashy color, the front wings with long graceful tips.
During winter, leaves of forest trees will be found hanging straight
down, fastened to the twig by a strong band of silk and wrapped
around the cocoon of a promethea.
The Luna Moth, with wings of delicate light-green color, an eye-like
spot in each wing, and a long gracefully-curving tail on each hind
wing, is our most beautiful North American insect.
Heaven is a place, we are told, where neither moth nor rust doth
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Update: June 2012