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Maryland Native Wildlife: Rosy Maple Moth (Dryocampa rubicunda)

# 7715 – Dryocampa rubicunda – Rosy Maple Moth

Adult rosy maple moth by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren CC BY 2.0

Have you seen one of Maryland’s showiest moth species, the rosy maple moth? This colorful moth is one of the smaller silk moths in the family Saturniidae. 

Rosy maple moth adults have brilliant pink and bright yellow markings. Their legs are reddish-pink and the feathery antennae are a golden coloration. Males are slightly smaller than females. The wingspan of female rosy maple moths can get up to two inches in length. While their colorful appearance really seems to stand out, the color provides camouflage on samaras (fruits) of red maples. The caterpillars are light green with darker green horizontal stripes and have a few rows of small black dots. They have two, large antennae that stick up and a reddish orange head. 

The rosy maple moth can be found across the eastern United States and in parts of adjacent regions of Canada. It lives in deciduous forests with abundant maples, its host (caterpillar food) plant. Occasionally, it will also lay its eggs on oak trees. While the caterpillars feed on maples and oaks, the adults do not feed. 

In Maryland, adults are typically seen at the beginning of May through much of the summer. Adults often emerge in the late afternoon and mate at night. Following mating, females lay eggs the next day in groups of 10-30 on leaves of their host plants (usually maples or occasional oaks). It takes the eggs about two weeks to hatch, and the young caterpillars will feed in groups together. Rosy maple moth caterpillars are known as green-striped mapleworms. As they age and molt, the older caterpillars will feed alone. The mature caterpillars will pupate and overwinter underground. Therefore, leaf litter can be an important cover. It sometimes can be confused with the pink prominent moth (Hyparpax aurora) which has different markings but similar colors.

# 7715 – Dryocampa rubicunda – Rosy Maple Moth caterpillar

Green-striped mapleworm by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren CC BY 2.0

To attract and support rosy maple moths to your yard, consider planting maple trees particularly red maple (Acer rubrum) and sugar maple (Acer saccharum). Reducing outdoor lighting, particularly during the summer when the adults are active and reducing pesticide use in the yard will also help. For additional ideas on how to help local moths, check out our article on Bewitching Butterflies and Moths with Fall and Winter Habitat

References: 

Covell, C.V., Jr. 2005. A field guide to moths of eastern North America. Virginia Museum of Natural History, Martinsville, VA.


Happy Summer HabiChat fans!

Wow! What an emergence for Brood X! While I enjoyed the periodical cicadas for the most part, I am happy to have a bit of reprieve from the noise. 

In addition to Brood X, we also have been receiving reports of sick birds around the region. Since the initial reports in May, the reports have come in from Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Kentucky. At this time, not much is known and we are suggesting people temporarily cease feeding birds until more is known about the causative agent and how it spreads. Please see the USGS Interagency statement for more information. For Maryland residents, if you encounter sick or dead birds, please contact the DNR/USDA Wildlife Services hotline (877-463-6497) or (410-349-8130) for those with numbers outside of Maryland. If you must remove dead birds, place them in a sealable plastic bag to dispose of with household trash. Additional information will be shared as diagnostic results are received. 

This issue is a bit bittersweet. After almost ten years of writing for HabiChat and running the Wild Acres program, I will be heading out to work on new initiatives. I have very much enjoyed working with backyard wildlife habitat enthusiasts across Maryland and hope you continue to work on creating wildlife friendly spaces! The Wild Acres program and HabiChat newsletter will still be available. 

In this summer issue, learn a little more about the beautiful and often overlooked rosy maple moth as well as other royal silkworms in Maryland. In addition, black walnut is our native plant featured this month. This species supports several species of royal silkworm moths as well as more than 100 other butterfly and moth species. With the summer heat and rains, our wild turtles are also on the move, so you can read about how to give local box turtles a boost in your backyard.

Happy Habitats,

Kerry Wixted


Click here to have HabiChat—the quarterly backyard wildlife habitat newsletter from the Wild Acres program—delivered right to your inbox!

In this Issue

Image of box turtle held in a person's hand


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