Photographic guide to exotic moths of the Northeast (Pt. 1, Macros)

Moth identification is a challenge to most of us. With so many species, relatively few references, and limited space in printed references, coming up empty in an identification attempt is to be expected often. If the difficulty in identifying native moths isn't bad enough, the specter of introduced species, likely candidates to be left out of printed references, makes things even more challenging. This page attempts to bring together the exotic moths of eastern North America . The introduction of some of these species occurred long ago and these moths are well known. Some of the species shown here may have been introduced recently enough to have been omitted from the best known field guide, Charles Covell's A Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (1984), but have had enough time to become widespread and common. A few of the moths shown here are not as well known, perhaps still expanding their range. Of course, it should be expected that new species will continue to find their way to our continent. Included on this page are two species that, as far as I have been able to deduce so far, have only been seen by me. Efforts are being made to have them identified.

Covell, Charles, 1984, A Field Guide to the Moths of Eastern North America, Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Rings, Roy W., Eric H. Metzler, Fred J. Arnold, and David Harris, 1992, The Owlet Moths of Ohio, Columbus: College of Biological Studies, The Ohio State University
Wagner, David L., Douglas C. Ferguson, Timothy L. McCabe and Richard C. Reardon, 2001, Geometrid Caterpillars of Northeastern and Appalachian Forests, United States Department of Agriculture.
Some of the narratives on this page are reprinted with permission of the authors as indicated.


Ailanthus Silkmoth 7/18/01 Queens co. NY © Steve Walter Leopard Moth 7/5/03 Litchfield co. CT © Steve Walter

Samia Cynthia, the Ailanthus Silkmoth, was introduced around 1860 into Philadelphia from China as a possible silk producer. Released deliberately, it became established primarily in urban areas where tree-of-heaven grows, spreading from Massachuestts to Georgia and west to Indiana and Kentucky (Covell). It has apparently declined in New York in recent years.  

Zeuzera pyrina, the Leopard Moth, is a member of the carpenterworm family Cossidae (technically, micro moths) (and not to be confused with the native Giant Leopard Moth of the Arctidae). It was introduced from Europe before 1879 but is only established from Maine to the Philadelphia area (Covell).  

Lymantria dispar, the infamous Gypsy Moth, was deliberately introduced from Europe at Medford, Massachusetts in 1868 or 1869 by Leopold Trouvelot, who hoped to raise this moth for silk production. Unfortunately, some of his moths escaped. By 1889 the Gypsy Moth was doing heavy damage in parts of the Boston area (Covell). It subsequently expanded its range and became a major pest.

Gypsy Moth, male, 7/12/00 Queens co. NY © Steve Walter Gypsy Moth, female, 7/22/01 Westchester co. NY © Steve Walter Large Yellow Underwing 6/23/03 Kings co. NY © Steve Walter

Browntail Moth 7/17/03 Castine, ME © Hugh McGuinness Browntail Moth 7/19/03 Castine, ME © Hugh McGuinness

Euproctis chrysorrhea, or Brown Longtail, was discovered in Massachusetts in 1897 and at one time ranged from Nova Scotia to Rhode Island. This European introduction is now apparently confined to seashore habitats on islands in Casco Bay, ME, and Cape Cod, occasionally turning up in other parts of New England (Covell).  

Noctua pronuba, the U.K.’s Large Yellow Underwing, has become common and well known. The first known Connecticut record was taken by Jon Truern-Trend in Tolland County 21 August 1993. The fore wing pattern and color of this moth is highly variable, as seen in the photos above and below, but its size and shape make it easy to recognize.

Large Wainscot 11/9/02 Kings co. NY © Steve Walter Large Yellow Underwing 8/8/01 Queens co. NY © Steve Walter

Rhizedra lutosa, called Large Wainscot in the U.K., is a late season species. It is reported to feed on common reed (Phragmites), so not surprisingly has become regular in the Jamaica Bay area of western Long Island.

Anomis commoda, which I’ll call Ruddy Scallop Moth for now, was reported by Forbes to occur in Japan, “from which it was presumably introduced”. No other details were given.  

There is some speculation that Scoliopteryx libatrix, or The Herald, is introduced. 

Ruddy Scallop Moth 7/11/02 Nassau co. NY © Steve Walter The Herald 8/26/03 Kings co. NY © Steve Walter Toadflax Brocade 7/18/03 Westchester co. NY © Steve Walter

Calophasia lunula, known in Great Britian as Toadflax Brocade, was introduced into Ontario in 1968 as a control for the butter and eggs plant (Ohio). It is now common in Quebec (Handfield, 1999) and found in the New York City area.  

Chloroclystis rectangulata, or Green Pug, was first collected in Nova Scotia in 1970 and is now established throughout southeastern Canada and the Northeast, and is spreading rapidly westward and southward (Wagner, 2001).  

Idaea dimidiata, called Dotted Wave or Single-dotted Wave, is a European species now established in the Pacific Northwest, southeastern Canada, and New England (Wagner, 2001). It is now common in the New York City area.


Green Pug 6/10/02 Queens co. NY © Steve Walter Dotted Wave 6/24/02 Nassau co. NY © Steve Walter Waved Black 6/23/03 Kings co. NY © Steve Walter


Parascotia fuliginaria, called the Waved Black in the U.K., was first found in Ithaca, N.Y. in the late 1970’s by Franclemont (LaFontaine, pers. comm.). Several records have been obtained by me on western Long Island.

The two species below are the latest to be discovered in North America. 

Oligia latruncula, called Tawny Marbled Minor in the U.K., has been found by Steve Walter to be common on western Long Island. Several individuals a night may be seen at the peak of its flight in June. To date, it has not been reported elsewhere. 

Niphonyx segregata is apparently an Asian species. It was found by Steve Walter twice in Queens County, N.Y. in 2001 and once in 2002 to the north of New York City in Westchester County. It is now reported by Dale Schweitzer to be a common summer species at bait in northern Delaware and Cumberland County in southern New Jersey.

Tawny Marbled Minor 6/11/02 Nassau co. NY © Steve Walter Niphonyx segregata, 6/28/01 Queens co. NY © Steve Walter