Adults: The beautiful wood-nymph rests with its white and brown forewings folded like a roof over its yellow hindwings. At rest, it resembles a bird dropping. The first pair of legs, often held outstretched, have fluffy white hairs. Forewings are white with a bold reddish-brown margin and a yellowish band in between. The curving brown marks are smooth (not scalloped). The yellow-orange hindwings have a brown border along the bottom edge that does not extend to the farthest outer tip of the wing.
Larvae: Each segment has a broad orangish band with black dots; between the orange bands are white bands marked with a few thin bands of black that extend below the spiracles. The head is orange; the body is humped at rear.
Similar species: The pearly wood-nymph (E. unio) is similar, though smaller. The brown outer margin of its forewings is scalloped against the white, as opposed to having a smooth-curving border.
Habitat and Conservation
This moth is a member of the Noctuidae, or owlet moth family, so it is related to dagger moths, underwings, cutworms and armyworms. It is a very large group, with more than 2,500 species in North America north of Mexico. Many noctuids have drab, camouflage forewings that, when the moth is at rest, conceal bright-colored hindwings. This species takes camouflage a step farther by mimicking bird droppings. This is evidence that noctuids must be a favorite food for animals that hunt by sight.
All noctuid moths also possess a pair of auditory organs called tympana. These are located on the thorax and enable the moth to hear the high-frequency chirping of bats — one of their primary predators. When a moth detects the chirping of bats, it immediately engages in erratic, evasive flight.