Orange Wing

Media
Photo of an Orange Wing moth
Scientific Name
Mellilla xanthometata
Family
Geometridae (geometrid moths)
Description

Orange wing moths are easily identified by their bright orange hindwings, even in flight. The hindwings of females, however, are usually more yellowish and not as brightly colored as males. The forewings of this rather small moth are gray, tan, or brown, with variable markings, but usually with straight lines and often a single dark spot. Like other geometrid moths, their bodies are relative thin (for moths), and they typically rest with the wings held flat, parallel to the surface they're resting on.

Larvae are green “inchworms,” with a brownish-orange head.

Similar species: This species is the only one in its genus in North America. There are many other species of geometrid moths (in the same family) in our state, but this one is distinctive for the orange hindwings that contrast with the bark-colored forewings. Most other geometrids have color patterns and markings that blend seamlessly across the forewings onto the hindwings.

Common Name Synonyms
Orange Wing Moth
Size

Wingspan: ½–1 inch.

Where To Find
image of Orange Wing Distribution Map

Statewide.

The orange wing is easily flushed in the daytime and often flies some distance before settling again to rest. The food plant — honey locust — is widespread in our state: It occurs in wild areas, old fields, and roadsides, and a thornless variety is very popular for landscaping in cities and even big parking lots. With the food plant so widespread, this moth is widespread as well.

Larvae feed on the leaves of honey locust, and possibly those of other woody members of the legume family, too.

Abundant resident species.

Life Cycle

Adults fly from early April into September, and they can be active day or night. This species is multibrooded in our state.

Moths that are drawn to lights have long served as symbols for any irresistible attraction to something. Religious thinkers around the world have used the image of the moth burning up in the flame of a candle as a symbol for the human soul’s desire to unite with God.

The caterpillars are herbivores that serve as a natural pruning mechanism on honey locusts. All stages — eggs, caterpillars, pupae, and adults — provide food for predators.

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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.