Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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Moths
Nature Bulletin No. 193-A   May 22, 1965
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Seymour Simon, President
Roland F. Eisenbeis, Supt. of Conservation

MOTHS
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 corrupt.


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