Wednesday, November 3, 2010

You Hit the Spot

Recently, My Florida Backyard has been visited by a moth that seems to be a little out of its range: a Spotted Oleander Moth (Empyreuma affinis). Like all Lepidoptera, they don't really like to hold still for pictures, but we managed to snap a few to help us with identification.


The Spotted Oleander Moth is part of a group known commonly as Wasp Moths (taxonomic subtribe Euchromiina). Although they resemble wasps in shape, they do not sting or bite - though most predators probably don't realize that. They are diurnal, meaning they fly during the day, unlike many other moths which are nocturnal.


The Spotted Oleander Moth is native to the Caribbean region. It's only been found in Florida for the last 30 years or so, and is seen primarily in the Keys and South Florida. We could find only one other reported sighting in Central Florida, and it was as recent as last month. Perhaps this species is starting to populate further north?


As its name suggests, the caterpillar of this species feeds on Oleander (Nerium oleander), a non-native flowering shrub frequently used in landscaping across the state. We don't grow any oleander in My Florida Backyard, but there's plenty of it in the neighborhood, and the relatively frequent sightings of this insect lately lead us to believe there is a breeding population locally.


A similar and more prevalent species in Central Florida is the Common Oleander Moth, also known as the Polka-Dot Wasp Moth (Syntomeida epilais), whose caterpillar is often considered a pest on oleander due to its habit of defoliating the plant very quickly and efficiently. The Spotted Oleander Moth is considered less destructive, probably because it is less common.


If you've noticed the Spotted Oleander Moth in your Central Florida yard, let us know in the comments. We're interested in finding out how prevalent this species is becoming in the area.

50 comments:

  1. I live south of you and just saw this moth again today. I've seen them before. I sprayed the one I saw today with the garden hose, because I thought he might be a moth that defoliates my snowbush shrubs. I just looked it up though and it's not the same thing. This moth in your pictures and that I saw in my main garden today is actually pretty, with his red and blue coloring.

    Happy Gardening ~ FlowerLady

    ReplyDelete
  2. FlowerLady - The moth caterpillar defoliating your snowbush is a white-tipped black moth. See this past blog post for more info:

    http://myfloridabackyard.blogspot.com/2009/06/inch-worm.html

    We had to give in and get rid of the snowbushes. Good luck with yours!

    ReplyDelete
  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oops. My bad. Sorry for that long-winded "testimonial." Should've read it better before I commented. Never knew there was more than one species of this moth! I will surely look for this species in my area. The rear end on this one certainly looks different from the polka-dot-wasp moth I typically see. Very interesting!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you for helping me identify the polk-dot wasp moth I have been wondering about in my garden!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I have this in southwest florida.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I live in Orlando and I can definitely confirm that this species is all over my back yard! I just built and planted my first garden this year, so I regularly look up different bugs I find (both ON my plants and IN my veggies). My next door neighbors have a big oleander plant in their yard, too, so it makes sense now. Thanks very much for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I live in Tampa, and I collected a few of the caterpillars while I was in the northern part of Tampa yesterday. It is my first time comming across them.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Pinellas county sighting of Oleander moth. Dunedin, Florida. January, 2012. It lit on my trouser cuff long enough for a photo op.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hey I live in Wellington, florida . Spotted in my backyard and im not going to lie when I saw it it hovered in front of me and I was terrified but I don't kill organisms unless I plan on eating them. So I came upstairs and hopped on my tablet, to figure out what it was and im glad to hear that this is a harmless animal and I know now the beauty of this bug! (-:

    ReplyDelete
  11. Just saw one in Tampa. Gorgeous! Thanks for helping me identify it.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Live in West Melbourne, spotted one today!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I saw one in Oldsmar (Pinellas Co.) in February 2012. I had no idea what it was, but it looked evil! Glad to know it's a moth and not a wasp. Saw another one a couple months ago, so they're definitely around. My white oleander often hosts the caterpillars, though I originally thought they were the fritillary caterpillars that attack my passionfruit every year.

    ReplyDelete
  14. We live in Jacksonville and have just one Oleander bush about 6 ft. tall. We have been observing all the stages noted. The moths just started appearing, but there are many more to come as there are pupas lining our entire porch.

    ReplyDelete
  15. all over lauderdale and west palm with no gardens near. the cocoon on the walls!

    ReplyDelete
  16. My oleanders in Winter Garden are covered in them. The plants are new this year and were sourced from south Florida.

    ReplyDelete
  17. My daughter found one this morning. She is 6 years old and LOVES researching different insects, etc. Thank you for helping us identify it today. Found on my porch in Valrico, FL. My neighborhood is flooded with the Oleander plants. Thanks again!

    ReplyDelete
  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Thank you for this information! I've seen quite a few of these in Orlando throughout April-May.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I live in south Tampa FL, and I see them often. I just collected one off the tree and I plan on watching it's life cycle. I will take photos and post them. I plan on releasing the moth in the same place. Many swallowtails thrive here as well. A large, elegant pipevine grows over the top of oleanders. Cool spot.

    ReplyDelete
  21. They are living well in SE Florida..Wilton Manors too!!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Just found five or six of these on. Y pink oleander this morning. I'm in new port richey fl about 45 minutes northwest of tampa

    ReplyDelete
  23. I have one as a pet (puerto rico)

    ReplyDelete
  24. Southern california...we freaked out

    ReplyDelete
  25. Just spotted one in my friends back yard in the souther part of Merritt Island, FL. She says she has seen quite a few lately.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Saw one in Neptune Beach this evening!

    ReplyDelete
  27. Cape Coral Florida..yep..spotted oleander caterpillars just discovered eating away at my yellow mandevilla...anxiously awaiting whats next.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I have one hanging out on my patio in Cocoa Beach

    ReplyDelete
  29. I have one hanging out on my patio in Cocoa Beach

    ReplyDelete
  30. Never heard of or seen this little guy until today, he was all alone and flying along with me as I was walking around in the garden, a beautiful little critter. I do not have oleander plants though. I had to look it up on the net because it was one of the most interesting insects I have seen since moving to Daytona FL.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Saw one in my back yard in Cocoa Beach yesterday. I had no idea what it was until one of my friends on Facebook told me.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Just had one of these on my butterfly bush. I live in North East Orlando. If that helps you with the northern territory question. It's the first time I've seen one, but it's also the first time my purple butterfly bush has bloomed.I planted it for bumble bees like I did when I lived in Ohio but this is the first pollinator to visit.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Just had one of these on my butterfly bush. I live in North East Orlando. If that helps you with the northern territory question. It's the first time I've seen one, but it's also the first time my purple butterfly bush has bloomed.I planted it for bumble bees like I did when I lived in Ohio but this is the first pollinator to visit.

    ReplyDelete
  34. We just spotted one in EPCOT today whole doing an insect photo shoot. We'very never seen one before today.

    ReplyDelete
  35. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  36. We just had one in our nectar garden! (Port Charlotte/East area)

    ReplyDelete
  37. Spotted one this morning in Sanford Fl!

    ReplyDelete
  38. Spotted one this morning in Sanford Fl!

    ReplyDelete
  39. I've been seeing these for years in Pinellas county and never could find out what they actually were. I remember them all the way back to my elementary school days which are now 20-ish years ago.

    ReplyDelete
  40. There are a bunch of the caterpillars around my house. They make very interesting, see-through cocoons.

    ReplyDelete
  41. One today, Clearwater Beach. Dec 12 2016

    ReplyDelete
  42. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Port Charlotte FL near the Harbor. It is a really pretty insect It did not stay still for me to take a good pic :)

    ReplyDelete
  44. I have a ton in my st Lucie. County garden

    ReplyDelete
  45. I just saw one today in Largo, FL. Never saw one before and googling led me to this page. What a cool looking bug!

    ReplyDelete
  46. Several in my garden near Melbourne Beach this evening. Scared me and my 20 month old. Glad to learn that they don't sting or bite.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Several in my garden near Melbourne Beach this evening. Scared me and my 20 month old. Glad to learn that they don't sting or bite. The caterpillars are really cool too. I will have to add a picture when I get one.

    ReplyDelete