Sunday, June 24, 2012

Plume Moths!

A light comes on near my porch door at night. I think it attracted these uniquely shaped moths; I have found them resting on the outside of the door three times this June. They are plume moths!

A plume moth at rest. Click on the photo to enlarge. 

Resting plume moths hold their thin wings rolled up and held out to the sides of their slender bodies. They look like a letter "T" with long fragile spiked legs. Their opened wings are fringed and feathery, and divided into lobes that are reminiscent of plumes -- hence the moth's common name. The plumes are not great for flying but the moth's resting appearance is probably good camouflage; it looks more like a twig than a moth.

Adult plume moths feed on flower nectar. Their larvae eat leaves, roots, or stems, depending on species. There are over 150 kinds in the continental United States and over 1000 kinds worldwide. All of them are in the family Pterophoridae. The photographs are of two different individuals. Both are about an inch long with wings about an inch across.

Moth sightings remind me of a poem by Mary Oliver called The Moths. Here are a few lines:

The wings of the moths catch the sunlight
and burn so brightly. 
At night, sometimes, 
they slip between the pink lobes 
of the moccasin flowers and lie there till dawn, 
in those dark halls of honey. 

Sometimes you spend the night in dark halls of honey. Other times you spend the night on a door in Brooklyn. :-) JF


  1. Hi Julie...Strange looking fella for sure,but also very interesting!!
    Love the bit of the poem, and your little qoute at the end!!

    1. Hi Grace. Strange indeed! I have never seen so many as I have recently. I wonder if someone in the neighborhood planted something they like to eat, or imported them on plants.

      Thanks. Julie

  2. Julie, great running into you in BBP. What a day for pollinators! Great Northern Bumble Bee is the one with yellow on top of the abdomen, except for tip. Turns out I do have you on my blogroll.

  3. Hi Matthew -- Great to meet you too! Adding you to my blog roll right now. Best, Julie