Many members of our backyard wildlife community are rarely seen simply because they are creatures of the night. One such nocturnal animal is the giant leopard moth (Hypercompe scibonia).

       The giant leopard moth did not earn its name because it a ferocious hunter like the leopard that roams the wilds of Africa and Asia. It is called the leopard moth because its white wings are covered with leopard like spots that vary from black to blue.

       Male leopard moths are larger than females. The wingspan of the males measure some 3.6 inches, whereas the wingspan of females average about 2.25″

       If you decide to embark on an expedition into your backyard one night in search of the giant leopard moth, your quest would probably not be successful. It seems that the best way to find a giant leopard moth is to look for it hanging on the outside walls of your home beneath a security lights. It seems these large handsome insects are attracted to lights. However, if you find one or more leopard moths, they will probably be males. Females do not visit lights nearly as often as the males. Some people have reported finding upwards of dozen giant leopard moths near light. However, I have never found more than one at a time in my neck of the woods.

       If you begin checking your security lights for giant leopard moths, you will notice that many other moths are drawn in by the lights. This will give some appreciation of the amazing diversity of moths that inhabit your yard. In fact, it is safe to say; far more moths live in your backyard than butterflies.


        I would like to introduce you to the green cloverworm moth (Hypena scabra).  It is one of your backyard moth neighbors that you might encounter anytime throughout the year.  This is especially if you live in South Georgia.  In some portions of North Georgia, you might see this month only from March through November.  I live in Middle Georgia, and I have seen it in all seasons.

        This drab, triangular-shaped, long-snouted moth measures around an inch (25mm-35mm) in length.

        Although it can be seen during daylight hours, you are most apt to it fluttering about your porch light.  In fact, during the winter it is sometimes the moth commonly seen around outside lights.

        The green cloverworm moth uses a variety of host plants including, strawberry, ragweed, and false indigo along with trees such as elm, hackberry, poplar, willow, and birch.



The Grancy Graybeard, also known as the fringe tree, grandfather graybeard, snow flower tree, old man’s beard and a number of other colorful names is a perfect addition to both large and small yards across the state.

The grancy graybeard is one of the last flowering trees to bloom each spring in the Peach State.  For the past couple of weeks, my wife and I have been enjoying both the tree’s strikingly beautiful blossoms and aroma produced by a myriad of flowers.

This small native tree grows only ten to thirty feet tall.  I personally have never seen one more than fifteen feet tall.

       Before the tree’s oblong leaves appear, a riot of snow-white flowers erupt on its bare branches.  This startlingly beautiful floral show is created by literally thousands of slender flowers (up to an inch long and 1/16th of an inch wide).  Oddly, the male flowers are larger than the female blooms.

       If that isn’t enough to catch your attention, the delicate, sweet, clean perfume given off by these flowers will.  When in full bloom, the delicate sweet scent of the blossoms will waft many yards away from the tree.

       These unique blooms attract nectar feeders such as small beetles, bees and others.

       Later in the year female trees, bear a crop of blackish-blue fruit that are gobbled up by mockingbirds, cardinals, blue jays and other wildlife.

       In addition, this demure tree is a host plant for both rustic and laurel sphinx moths.

       This tree requires little, if any care.  Although it does best in moist, rich soils, once established it will grow in dry areas too.  The tree’s ability to live in both partial shade and full sun is another plus.

       With that in mind, I hope you will consider adding it to your landscape.  This tree is definitely a keeper.






Ailanthus Webworm moth (Atteva aurea)

One of the prettiest insects that can currently be seen in your garden is an extremely small moth named the ailanthus webworm moth (Atteva aurea).

This mite is less than a half inch long and has a wingspan of roughly an inch. However, what it lacks in size, it more than makes up in beauty. This slender orange moth is distinctively marked with four bands. Each band is comprised of tiny irregular black-bordered, light-yellow squares.

Since this day-flying moth produces several generations (flights) a year, you are likely to see it visiting your flowers from spring through fall. I spot them in autumn more than at any other time of the year. Currently, I am most often find this little jewel feeding on goldenrod.

Although this moth is native to South Florida, it has expanded its range throughout most of the United States. This range expansion was brought about by the introduction of the tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima). This import from china has been widely planted in both urban and suburban areas across the country. Sadly, this import has proven to be highly invasive. As a result, it has become naturalized in Georgia and elsewhere.

It seems that the ailanthus webworm moth’s main host plant is the paradisetree (Simarouba glauca). However, as it turns out, ailanthus webworm moths adopted the tree of heaven as host plant. This allowed the tiny moth to follow the tree of heaven across America.


QUESTION: How can I capture a moth or butterfly in my home without injuring it?

Answer: Most of us have found a butterfly and moth in our homes. When this occurs, we are faced with the problem of trying to catch and release the insect without harming it.

Over the years I have tried a number of techniques. However, in far too many cases I ended up accidentally injuring or killing the animal I was trying to save. After much trial and error I have found two devices that consistently work the best for me.

Small, inexpensive butterfly nets can often be found in the toy department of our favorite store. Using such a net, you don’t have to risk injuring yourself or the insect even if it lands on the ceiling or high on a wall.

If the insect perches on a wall within arm’s reach, it can be caught in a clear glass. Simply approach the insect very slowly and place the open end of the glass over it. Then slightly raise the rim of the glass and gently slip a thick piece of paper under the rim. When the paper touches the legs of the insect it will usually take flight. When this happens continue sliding the paper all the way under the glass. Once you have captured the moth or butterfly, hold onto the glass with one hand and the paper with the other as you carry it outside for release.





                CAROLINA PHINX  

For the past few weeks, my wife and I have enjoyed watching the aerial show put on by aerial visitors to our four o’clocks.

       During the late afternoon ruby-throated hummingbirds descend on our large bed of four o’clocks.  These hungry birds dart up to pink and yellow four o’clock blossoms, hover, and poke their long bills and tongues deep within the bugle-shaped flowers and dine on the sugar-rich liquid.  No other bird is capable of the aerial dexterity needed to dine, in such a manner, on the nectar offered by four o’clocks.  As much as we would like this show to continue on, it always proves to be too short.  Just before dark the hummingbird forays abruptly end.

       We have learned that, if we get up from our seats and go inside after the last hummingbird has departed, we miss the opportunity to watch another accomplished aviator display its aerial prowess.  This performer is the Carolina sphinx moth.  Its feeding flights extend well after dark descends on our backyard.

       It is easy to understand why this super-sized moth is often mistaken for a hummingbird.  It seems to be larger, than a rubythroat, and feeds in much the same manner as a rubythroat. However, when you closely examine it, you will see that it has  thick antennae,  a long, extremely thin proboscis instead of a bill, lacks feathers and has six legs instead of two.

       While the Carolina is one of several sphinx moths that visit flowers in our backyards at night, in my neck of the woods, it is by far the most common.

       This impressive moth displays six rows of large yellow spots running down an abdomen that seems as thick as your finger. Its wings are gray and decorated with black markings.

       Since this nectar-feeder is flying at dusk and beyond it is difficult to see any details.  However, since these moths are quite tame, they can be easily approached and photographed using a camera equipped with a flash.  All you have to do to either wait until a Carolina sphinx, begins feeding close by or slowly walked toward one.  As you walk, hold a small flashlight in one hand and your camera in the other.  The flashlight’s beam will help you determine when the moth is in front of your camera lens.  Once the moth is just where you want it,  snap a picture.  With a little luck, you will snap an image that will allow you to study the intricate beauty of this nighttime flyer.

       My family has been enjoying watching Carolina sphinx moths for years.  During this time, we have learned that, out of all of the flowers available to them in our yard, they only feed on four o’clocks.

       If you have a patch of four o’clocks blooming in your yard, go out tonight and see if the Carolina sphinx moths are on patrol.  If they are, I assure you they will give a dazzling performance.







The snowberry clearwing moth has an identify problem. This should come as no surprise since this small (1 1/2-2-inch) moth  doesn’t act like most moths. It prefers to fly about our yards visiting the flowers in our gardens when most moths are resting awaiting the arrival of night.  The fact that it darts from flower much like a much larger ruby-throated hummingbird, only adds to the confusion.

       However, upon closer examination you will see that, unlike a hummingbird, it has two thick, black antennae protruding from its head.  Also, this critter doesn’t have a bill like a hummingbird. Instead it has a long, very thin proboscis that it uses to extract nectar from flowers. 

       It is called a clearwing due to the fact that patches of its wings are devoid of any scales.  Please note that the lantana blooms can been seen through the right wing of the clearwing depicted here.

       The snowberry clearwing is different than other clearwings because it has a cream-colored thorax and a yellow band running around its abdomen. 

       If you watch a snowberry clearwing for a few minutes, you will see that, like a chimney swift, it never stops flying as it feeds.

       The snowberry clearwing has two broods per year and can be seen flying about our yards from spring through summer.

       This moth is named the snowberry clearwing because one of its main host plants in snowberry.  The snowberry clearwing will, however, also use dogbane and honeysuckle as caterpillar hosts. 

CLYMENE MOTH (Haploa clymene)





This distinctively marked moth can be seen flying about our backyards from March – August.

Clymene moths fly during both the day and night throughout the state of Georgia.  During the day it can be seen perched on leaves.  At night it is often attracted to outside lights.

This 2-inch moth can be easily identified.  Its forewings are cream-colored and marked with partial dark brown borders.  When the forewings are closed the dark markings atop the moth’s forewings form a cross.

The clymene moth’s hindwings are orange yellow.

Although this moth can be seen in practically any backyard, your chances of seeing this handsome moth are best when your home is located near a hardwood forest or fields.

The caterpillar host plants for this moth are willow, oaks, plants in the genus Eupatorium, and others.



THE CONFUSED EUSARCA (Eusarca confusaria)

CONFUSED EUSDARCA - 24 May 2016The moth seen in this photo was found by my wife Donna in the grass at our Monroe County home one afternoon shortly after a spring shower.

It is known as the confused eusarca.  it is one of the many small moths that fly about Georgia backyards from April to October.

Measuring a little more than an inch from wingtip to wingtip, at first glance it may appear nondescript.  However, if you closely examine this moth you will find that the dorsal side of its tiny almost white to yellowish tan wings appear to be sprinkled with extremely small bits of grayish brown dust. Larger black dots (discal spots) are also present on the wings  A thin, straight brownish line (that entomologists call the pm line) runs across the wings.  This line makes a turn or seems to disappear near the tips of the wings.

Confused eusarca caterpillars eat a number of plants that commonly grow in Georgia yards such as clover, goldenrod, asters and dandelions.

If you want to better see the wing pattern displayed on the wings of this small moth, look at it through a pair of close focus binoculars or photograph it with your digital camera or cell phone. When you increase the magnification of the picture, the delicate wing pattern will seemingly magically appear.