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.