Black-and-Yellow Lichen Moth

Photo of a Black-and-Yellow Lichen Moth
Scientific Name
Lycomorpha pholus
Erebidae (tiger, lichen, tussock, and underwing moths)

Adult black-and-yellow lichen moths are black with a bluish sheen, and the front (basal) portion of the wings is vivid yellow, orange, or red. The hindmost (distal) portion is black.

The camouflaged larvae have sparse hairs and resemble lichen, which they feed upon; this is why this group of moths are called lichen moths.


Wingspan: 1–1¼ inches.

Where To Find
image of Black-and-Yellow lichen Moth Distribution Map


Adults are commonly found in fields as they feed on flowers. Larvae stay close to the lichens upon which they feed, so look for them on lichen-covered rocks or tree trunks. The bright color pattern might mimic the warning colors of toxic beetles, which birds and other predators learn to avoid. Alternatively, the caterpillars might ingest distasteful or toxic compounds from the lichens they eat, which could make this species itself be inedible to predators.

Larvae feed on lichen, which are the crusty, spongelike or mosslike composites of fungi and algae that commonly grow on tree bark and rocks. The adults drink nectar from flowers, including composites such as goldenrod, fleabane daisies, sunflowers, and more.

Life Cycle

Adults fly from July through September. Usually there are multiple generations. Unlike the majority of moths, this species flies during the day. The cocoons are hairy and are attached to objects near the lichen that the caterpillar fed upon. This species overwinters as nearly full-grown caterpillars.

Although some moths are considered “nuisances” or “beneficial,” this species excites neither frustration nor relief among economically minded people. This strikingly attractive moth is part of Missouri’s vast natural wealth.

The caterpillars are herbivores that graze on lichens. The adults serve a role in pollination. All stages provide food for the predators and parasites that can tolerate the defensive chemicals in their bodies.

Media Gallery
Similar Species
About Butterflies and Moths in Missouri
Butterflies, skippers, and moths belong to an insect order called the Lepidoptera — the "scale-winged" insects. These living jewels have tiny, overlapping scales that cover their wings like shingles. The scales, whether muted or colorful, seem dusty if they rub off on your fingers. Many butterflies and moths are associated with particular types of food plants, which their caterpillars must eat in order to survive.