The polka dotted wasp moth, or Syntomeida epilais, is an oleander moth. The larvae feed on oleander and are a day flier. They live in the Neotropics. The larvae emit pheromones to attract a suitor. This moth’s larvae will attack a host plant at night, then fly during the day to find a suitable host.
Syntomeida epilais Walker
A polka dotted wasp moth, also known as a spotted oleander caterpillar, is a pest that can damage oleander trees. While this moth is usually found in south Florida, it may also appear in the Keys. Its adult moth is a dark metallic blue, with white spots on its wings and red-tipped abdomen.
My first encounter with a polka dotted wasp moth was in Georgia in the early 1990s. I was able to observe a single moth and identify its larvae. The adult wasps, Podisus maculiventris (Say), also known as spined soldier bugs, were feeding on the larva of oleander caterpillars. I photographed one while I was in Georgia and found that the larvae were decomposing into black liquid.
These caterpillars come from the Caribbean and have adapted to the coasts of Florida and other states in the southeastern United States. They feed on various types of plants, including Oleander bushes, and are unsightly pests. As adults, they feature a distinctive orange spot on their abdomen and white polka dotted decorations. They are active during the day.
Female polka dotted wasp moths contact the male via ultrasonic signals. These signals travel from branch to branch, and the male follows them. When he reaches the female, he emits an answering signal. The male follows the female, if she emits an answering signal, the two begin to mate. These moths can be dangerous if not controlled, but if they are managed properly, it is not a threat to humans.
Common oleander moth
The polka-dotted wasp moth (Empyreuma pugione) is a common landscape pest, and its larvae feed on oleander plants. Adults are metallic blue with white spots on the wings and red-tipped abdomen. A morphological revision of the species was presented by Goldstein, J.A. and R.B. Simmons in 2005 at the ESA annual meeting in Fort Lauderdale.
The common oleander moth is a member of the Erebidae family and native to Florida and the Caribbean. It has attractive polka-dot patterns and feeds on the leaves of oleander plants. It lays eggs in oleander leaves. The larvae are light or dark orange with black hair and bumpy projections.
The oleander caterpillar, which is closely related to the polka-dot wasp moth, lives on oleander foliage in south Florida. The caterpillar passes on noxious cardiac glycosides to the adult moth, which may deter predators. The oleander caterpillar can defoliate entire oleander bushes and can cause extensive damage to your landscape.
The most environmentally-friendly control for the common oleander moth is the removal of infested foliage. Thankfully, this method is relatively easy for bushes under 2 m tall. Pruning tools are required and the foliage should be frozen to kill the caterpillar. However, be sure to wash all plant parts thoroughly after disposal, as the sap can be poisonous.
pheromones it emits to attract a suitor
The genetic makeup of the polka dotted wasp moth determines which pheromones it emits when it mates. Researchers identified hundreds of variants in a gene called bab. These variations do not affect the protein-coding regions of the gene, but instead affect neuronal circuits from the antennae to the brain. As a result, scientists were able to distinguish between male and female moths and connect their anatomical differences to their attraction to Z or E females.
Most insects use pheromones to attract a suitor, and a female polka dotted wasp moth is no exception. In fact, male moths can detect only a few hundred molecules of pheromone in a cubic centimeter of air, while females can detect a few hundred in the same space. The queen of a honeybee uses pheromones to control nearly all of the activities of her workers, including mating.
The polka dotted wasp moth is a beautiful insect. While larvae feed on milkweeds, this species has moved on to oleander as its main host plant. Oleanders were first introduced to Florida by the Spanish during the 1500s. Today, polka dotted wasp moths are found anywhere where there are oleander trees or shrubs. These beautiful insects are not only attractive but are considered a significant landscape pest.
In addition to producing orange caterpillars, the polka dotted wasp moth also uses a method called oleander vibration to attract a suitor. In addition to its oleander-based diet, the polka dotted moth also consumes leaves of the Apocynaceae plant family.
It flies in daylight hours
The polka dotted wasp moth is a member of the ctenuchid family. Its caterpillars have black hairs and are used for sequestering poisons from plants. Unlike wasps, the adult moth does not sting despite its name. It also does not attract predators as its bright red tip on the abdomen makes it look like a warning wasp. The larvae eat poisonous foliage, including oleander and azalea.
The caterpillar of the Polka dotted wasp moth feeds on the leaves of Oleander, which contain toxic elements. Young caterpillars feed on the underside of the leaves, around the poisonous veins, while older ones eat the whole leaf. After eating Oleander leaves, the caterpillar spins silk to protect its pupa. The moth stays in its cocoon for two weeks and flies during daylight hours.
The female polka dotted wasp moth flies during the day. During mating, the female releases an ultrasonic signal to attract a male moth. The male moth is attracted to this signal from far distances. Its acoustic calls are recorded and played back by a scientist. If you are interested in watching the moth’s mating behavior, be sure to check out the polka-dotted wasp moth in your area.
The larvae of the polka dotted wasp moth feed on milkweeds, but it has now switched to the oleander plant as its primary host. Oleander is a Mediterranean shrub that was brought to the United States by the Spanish in the 1600s. It is a significant landscape pest. These beautiful butterflies fly during the day and lay clusters of eggs on host plant leaves. The caterpillars feed on the oleander plant, which can defoliate the plant in just a week.
It resembles a stinging wasp
The polka-dot wasp moth is a small, attractive caterpillar in the Erebidae family. The caterpillars feed on oleander leaves and are native to Florida and the Southeast. Though it resembles a stinging wasp, it is not poisonous. This moth is not likely to harm the oleander plant it feeds on.
A male polka-dotted wasp is similar to a stinging wasp, but resembles a scaly-winged harlequin. It has a curved waist and a metallic blue body. Adults live for 27 days and only drink water. These tiny insects are a model organism for the medical community, and one team is researching different ways to reduce the pain associated with a stinging wasp sting.