Don’t Mistake Indiana’s Salt Marsh Moths for the Invasive Spotted Lanternfly
Indiana is home to some incredibly unique and beautiful species of insects, including the Acrea Moth, also known as the Salt Marsh Moth. After spotting one in a Facebook group for Indiana nature lovers, I fell into a rabbit hole to learn more. Here's what I discovered.
Salt Marsh Moths are Common in Indiana
Salt marsh moths, also known as Estigmene acrea, are a common sight in Indiana's wetland areas, particularly in marshes. These moths belong to the Erebidae family and are frequently observed in not only in the state, but also in nearly every other part of the United States as well.
Male and Female Salt Marsh Moth Differences
Salt marsh moths have a distinctive appearance with white wings marked with black spots and stripes. The males have feathered antennae that are used to detect pheromones released by females. The males also stand out with their orange hindwings and underwings. Females, on the other hand, do not have any orange marks and also have less pronounced antennae and larger bodies than males.
The Caterpillars are Also Unique
The caterpillars of the salt marsh moth are just as unique in appearance, with their strikingly fuzzy bodies. They are commonly found feeding on the leaves of plants such as milkweed, nettle, and willow, which are often abundant in wetland areas.
Life Cycle of a Salt Marsh Moth
The life cycle of salt marsh moths begins when the female lays her eggs on host plants. Once hatched, the caterpillars feed and grow until they pupate and eventually emerge as adult moths. The entire process takes about a month and a half. The lifespan of an adult is about 4-5 days.
Ecological Benefits of the Salt Marsh Moth
In addition to being a common sight in Indiana's wetlands, salt marsh moths also play a crucial role in the ecosystem. As caterpillars, they help to control the populations of plant species that could otherwise overtake the wetland habitat. As adults, they serve as an important food source for predators such as bats and birds.
Conservation of Salt Marsh Moths in Indiana
However, despite their importance, salt marsh moths face threats from human activities such as habitat destruction and pesticide use. In Indiana, efforts are being made to protect and conserve these moths and their habitats through initiatives such as wetland restoration projects and public education campaigns.
Overall, salt marsh moths are an important and fascinating part of Indiana's natural heritage, and efforts must be made to ensure their continued survival and protection.
And though they might look like an invasive lanterfly which you should (gulp) kill if you see, please let the salt marsh moth be. The red markings are the main distinction.