What Do Moths Eat? Moths are insects categorized under the Order Lepidoptera, which they share with butterflies. Over 160,000 moth species exist in the world today, with many of these yet to be described scientifically.
Moths eat many different things. A majority of the moths dine on leaves and flowers from plants. Some caterpillar moths feed on seeds, fruit, animal products like fur or beeswax. In contrast, the carnivorous ones consume aphids and other soft-bodied insects.
This page will shed light on the different types of moths, pointing out what they eat and how they hunt. We will also explore insight into when moths eat, how often they eat, what predates on them, and their role in the animal food chain.
Table of Contents
- What Do Atlas Moths Eat?
- Do Moths Eat Bugs?
- What Do Harvester Moths Eat?
- What Do Cherry Gall Azure Moths Eat?
- What Do Planthopper Parasite Moths Eat?
- What Do Scale-feeding Snout Moths Eat?
- What Do Kermes Scale Moths Eat?
- What Do Webbing Clothes Moths Eat?
- What Do Sooty-winged Chalcoela Moths Eat?
- What Do Pegasus Chalcoela Moths Eat?
- What Do Corn Earworms Eat?
- What Do Tobacco Budworms Eat?
- What Do Fall Armyworm Moths Eat?
- What Do Bertha Armyworms Eat?
- What Do Salt Marsh Moths Eat?
- What Do Isabella Tiger Moths Eat?
- What Do Rattlebox Moths Eat?
- What Do Hyposmocoma molluscivora moths Eat?
- What Do Satellite Moths Eat?
- What Do Tiger Moths Eat?
- What Do Wavy-lined Emerald Moths Eat?
- What Do Rustic Sphinx Moths Eat?
- What Do Small Emerald Moths Eat?
- What Do Elephant Hawk Moths Eat?
- What Do Rosy Maple Moths Eat?
- What Do White Ermine Moths Eat?
- What Do Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moths Eat?
- What Do Green-spotted Moths Eat?
- What Do Redbud Leaffolder Moths Eat?
- What Do Carpenterworm Moths Eat?
- What Do Melonworm Moths Eat?
- What Do Orange striped Oakworm Moths Eat?
- When Do Moths Eat?
- How Often Do Moths Eat?
- What Eats Moths?
- Do Moths Predate on Humans?
- What Role Do Moths Play in the Animal Food Chain?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- What do moths eat the most?
- Do moths eat clothes, and why?
- Why are moths attracted to light?
- What is the lifespan of a moth?
What Do Atlas Moths Eat?
Atlas moth (Attacus Atlas) is one of the largest insects on the earth. Their wingspan can extend up to 12 inches wide, which explains why they are considered giant moths.
- This moth species is native to the Southeast Asian region. They are famed for the markings on their wings’ upper areas, which resemble a cobra’s head.
- The Atlas moth caterpillars can grow to 5 inches long, thanks to their regular intake of cinnamon leaves, citrus fruits, guava, and cherry trees.
- Adult atlas moths do not eat at all. Food consumption at the caterpillar stage can sustain them during their pupal and adult stages.
Do Moths Eat Bugs?
Although you may think that all moths are herbivorous, in reality, many species have been documented to eat insects. Depending on the species, some moths may follow a meat-filled diet during their larval stage, while others may do so when they are fully grown adults.
Some moths have even been found to engage in cannibalism, sometimes eating their own siblings. Below is a list of some of the most prominent moths that are known to eat meat.
What Do Harvester Moths Eat?
The meal plan of fully-grown harvesters mainly consists of them draining and consuming the fluids of damp sand, aphids (bugs that secrete honeydew, a sweet and sticky liquid), carrion, and more. On the other hand, harvesters still in the caterpillar stage follow a strictly carnivorous diet, eating small insects such as woolly aphids.
What Do Cherry Gall Azure Moths Eat?
In their caterpillar stage, cherry gall azures almost always only eat the galls – abnormal growths that occur on plants of the black cherry shrubs and many other flowering plants.
However, in their pupa stage, these azures have also been documented to consume the eriophyid mites (microscopic parasitic arthropods) that cause the formation of the galls.
What Do Planthopper Parasite Moths Eat?
In their larvae stage, planthopper parasite moths, as their name suggests, have been shown to drain and drink the fluids of insects known as planthoppers (referring to any of the 12,000+ species in the infraorder Fulgoromorpha).
What Do Scale-feeding Snout Moths Eat?
In their larvae stage, as their name suggests, the main part of the diet of scale-feeding snout moths are the eggs and young of insects known as scale insects due to their scaly physical appearance.
These moths can also eat plants such as cactus flowers.
Like the scale-feeding snout moth, Laetilia dilatifasciella, in its larval stage, is commonly known to feed on a wide variety of scale insects; however, this species tends to eat adult insects rather than the eggs and young. Another difference is that Laetilia dilatifasciella is usually less focused on consuming plants.
Like the previous two moth species, Laetilia zamacrella, a larva, is widely known to feed on scale insects (usually adults). However, this species differs from the other two. It primarily focuses on one specific species of scale insect: Toumeyella pinicola.
Baphala pallida also feed on scale insects in its larval stage. However, this species is different in that it primarily consumes scale insects of the families Kermesidae and Coccidae.
Euclemensia barksdalensis is a type of cosmet moth. These tiny moths act as parasites toward their host in their larval stage. In the case of this particular species, it is usually a parasite of a scale insect. Similar cosmet moths have similar dietary patterns, such as Euclemensia bassettella and Euclemensia schwarziella.
What Do Kermes Scale Moths Eat?
When they are larvae, Cryptothelea gloverii have been documented to follow a mixed diet of plants and insects. The most common plants they consume are their host plants’ fruit and foliage. Some examples of the host plants include avocados, the Jerusalem thorn, persimmon trees, and much more. They also eat the mites and scale insects of these host plants.
For the most part, in the larval stage, Lithophane antennata follows a herbivorous diet, mostly eating the leaves of certain trees and shrubs (e.g., cedar, juniper, etc.). However, in some cases, these larvae have been seen to consume the larvae of sawflies, winter moth caterpillars, and their own larvae siblings.
What Do Webbing Clothes Moths Eat?
When they are larvae, webbing clothes moths mainly consume animal products, such as wool and feathers. They have also been documented to eat the carcasses of insects and hair, flour, and more.
What Do Sooty-winged Chalcoela Moths Eat?
In their caterpillar stage, the sooty-winged chalcoela, a North American species, is widely known to consume the larvae of paper wasps.
It is typical for the caterpillars of this species to go into the pupa stage within the nests of these wasps. It’s also worth mentioning that the caterpillars often create makeshift webs within these nests and stay in them over the winter.
What Do Pegasus Chalcoela Moths Eat?
Like their sooty-winged counterpart, in the caterpillar stage, the pegasus chalcoela, also a North American species, is widely known to consume the larvae of paper wasps.
It is also common for pegasus chalcoela caterpillars to pupate within the nests of these wasps. This species’ caterpillars also sometimes make webbing within the wasp nests and reside in them during the winter.
Calyptra bicolor is an Asian moth most commonly found in China and Japan; like many other species in the Calyptra genus, it is known as a vampire moth. It can use its barbed proboscis (a long feeding tube attached to its head) to suck the blood of humans and large animals.
Calyptra bicolor is an Asian moth species most commonly found in Sri Lanka and Malaysia. This species is also a vampire moth that feeds on blood from humans and other large mammals. Calyptra fasciata is another vampire moth from India with the same dietary pattern.
Calyptra minuticornis is a moth species in Asia and Australia. As a vampire moth, the species latch onto buffalo and other relatively large mammals to suck out their blood in natural habitats.
Calyptra fasciata is a moth species in the East Indies. It is commonly known as a vampire moth, meaning it can use its barbed proboscis to suck the blood of humans and animals.
Calyptra parva is a moth species found in India. These vampire moths use their barbed proboscis to suck the blood of humans and animals. Calyptra pseudobicolor, under the same genus, is another moth species with the same dietary pattern as Calyptra parva.
Calyptra thalictriis is a moth species found all over Asia and certain parts of Europe. The species latch onto relatively large mammals to feed on their blood in natural habitats as vampire moths. But this species is generally thought not to attack humans very often.
What Do Corn Earworms Eat?
The corn earworm is widely known for being a huge agricultural pest. This is because, during their larval stage, they often take field crops, such as corn, tomato, cotton, and much more, as their hosts and feed on them.
Besides this predominantly plant-based diet, the larvae have been documented to consume other larvae (including their own siblings).
What Do Tobacco Budworms Eat?
Like the corn earworm, the tobacco budworm is also commonly known as a disruptive agricultural pest, often taking tobacco and cotton plants as their host and eating them (though other crops are also sometimes chosen).
Additionally, the tobacco budworm also sometimes engages in cannibalism during the larvae stage; however, they are not as aggressive as the corn earworm larvae are.
What Do Fall Armyworm Moths Eat?
The fall armyworm moth is also a crop-disrupter, taking on a wide variety of plants as hosts and consuming them (e.g., barley, buckwheat, cotton, sugarcane, etc.).
However, it’s important to note that the larvae of this species are also known to engage in cannibalistic behavior when they can’t find enough food.
What Do Bertha Armyworms Eat?
Bertha armyworms, a moth species primarily found alongside western North America, is known as one of the biggest pests of canola in Canada.
Specifically, during the larval stage, this species often takes on canola plants as their host other plants are also sometimes used) and feeds on them, usually leading to substantial financial losses. These larvae have also been documented to engage in cannibalism in certain situations.
What Do Salt Marsh Moths Eat?
Salt marsh moths, when they are larvae, are primarily known to take on weedy plants like ground cherry, milkweed, pigweed, and more, as hosts and feed on them. They are also crop disruptors, commonly feeding on fruit and vegetable crops and tobacco.
This species of moth has been documented to engage in cannibalism during their larval stage.
What Do Isabella Tiger Moths Eat?
In the caterpillar stage, the Isabella Tiger Moth, an American species, diet is mainly plant-based, consisting of grass, leaves, and more. However, in specific circumstances, they can engage in cannibalistic behavior.
What Do Rattlebox Moths Eat?
Rattlebox moths, a species native to North and South America, often take on plants in the Crotalaria genus as hosts and feed on them in their larval stage. However, the hosts such as elm trees, bush clovers, fireweed, and much more can also be used.
Additionally, this moth species sometimes engages in cannibalism; specifically, the larvae have been documented to consume the same species’ other larvae, pupa, and even eggs!
What Do Hyposmocoma molluscivora moths Eat?
Hyposmocoma molluscivora, a moth found exclusively in Hawaii, has been documented to eat snails in their larval stage. To do this, they produce a special type of silk to capture the snails and then eat them alive. For the most part, this species eats snails of the Tornatellides genus.
What Do Satellite Moths Eat?
The satellite is a moth species commonly found around the United Kingdom. When they are larvae, they commonly take on deciduous trees as hosts and feed on their leaves. These larvae have been seen to eat the larvae of other moth species occasionally.
What Do Tiger Moths Eat?
Tiger moths inhabit a vast range of open habitats.
- Tiger moths are notable for their colorful orange and black markings that resemble tigers.
- The tiger moth caterpillars feed on a vast range of herbaceous plants such as the hounds’ tongue, common nettle, broad-leaved dock, and water dock.
- Tiger moths also love drinking nectar from wildflowers, and they also eat lichens.
What Do Wavy-lined Emerald Moths Eat?
The wavy-lined emerald moth (Synchlora aerate) is classified under the family Geometridae.
- This moth species is common in most parts of North America.
- The wavy-lined emerald moth larval stage mostly feeds on flowers, particularly the composite ones.
- This moth type also dines on flowering trees and shrubs.
What Do Rustic Sphinx Moths Eat?
Rustic sphinx moths are classified under the family Sphingidae alongside others.
- This moth species is native to the Southeastern parts of the United States of America.
- The rustic moth is moderately large and has a wingspan of about 3.5-6 inches.
- The rustic sphinx caterpillars are herbivores, often found feeding on ash, basil, jasmine, desert willow, sunflower, olive, and sesame plants.
What Do Small Emerald Moths Eat?
The small emerald moth (Hemistola chrysoprasaria) occurs in Britain’s southern parts, commonly inhabiting hedgerows, limestone, and woodland edges.
- The small emerald moth is herbivorous. The small emerald’s larvae are known to feed on travelers’ joy (Clematis vitalba), a shrub classified in the buttercup family.
What Do Elephant Hawk Moths Eat?
The Elephant hawk-moth is a beautiful gold and pink moth, often spotted at dusk in habitats like gardens, grassy lawns, woodlands, and parks.
- The elephant hawk moth draws its name from the features it possesses. For example, the name elephant is because their larvae look like elephant trunks.
- Their ability to flap their wings hastily and to move into position before eating gives a clue to their name, “hawk. “.
- The elephant hawk-moth is vegetarian, preferring a diet of nectar drawn from night-scented flowers. Their long proboscis comes in handy to help the elephant hawk moth suck nectar from flowers.
What Do Rosy Maple Moths Eat?
The rosy maple moth is native to North America. This moth species commonly inhabits temperate deciduous forests in this region.
- The rosy maple moths get their names from the host trees. They are commonly found next to maple trees.
- Rosy maple moth larvae are herbivores (folivores in particular), preferring a maple leaf blades diet. Adult moth species do not eat.
What Do White Ermine Moths Eat?
The white ermine moths (Spilosoma lubricipeda) are medium-sized moths that get their name from their appearance.
- These moths have black specks covering their white coats, which gives the appearance of an ermine coat.
- The white ermine moths inhabit hedgerows, coastal areas, heathland, grassland, garden, woodland, and moorland.
- The caterpillars of the white ermine moths feed on various herbaceous plants found within their habitats.
What Do Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moths Eat?
The eastern tent caterpillar moths are widespread in the central and eastern parts of the United States of America.
- This moth commonly inhabits forests. You can notice the eastern tent caterpillar moths next to human habitations.
- The eastern tent caterpillars dine on leaves, making them folivores. Their preferred leaves are plum, apple, peach, cherry (black cherry, chokecherry, pin cherry), or Hawthorne trees.
What Do Green-spotted Moths Eat?
The green-spotted moth is also called the speckled green fruit worm moth or the speckled green quaker.
- This moth is non-green. It gets its name from its caterpillar, a green body with white speckles.
- The caterpillar of the green-spotted moth feeds on many fruit trees’ leaves, fruits, and flowers. Some of the preferred trees are maple, birch, and maple.
What Do Redbud Leaffolder Moths Eat?
The adult forms of the redbud leaf folder moths (Fascista Cercerisella) are small insects that are either black or dark brown and white spots.
- The redbud leaf-folder moth gets its name because it is often found on the redbud tree. They can uniquely fold the edges of this tree’s leaves using silk strands.
- The caterpillars of the redbud leaf folder moth feed only on the leaves of the redbud tree.
What Do Carpenterworm Moths Eat?
The carpenter worm moth (Prionoxystus robinia) is native to the North American region, particularly in riparian habitats.
- This moth species gets its name because its larval forms consume sap from their preferred trees, expelling sawdust from their entrance holes.
- The carpenter worm larvae dine on a wide array of deciduous trees with examples of oaks, maple, willow, elm, black locust, birch, cherry, peach, pear, and apricot.
- The carpenter worm larvae infest ornamental and fruit trees they consume, thus considered notorious pests.
What Do Melonworm Moths Eat?
Melonworm moths (Diaphania hyalinata) are found in wide distribution in the Caribbean and central and South America.
- Melonworm moths are folivores, preferring a diet of cucumber, melon, pumpkins, and squash foliage. When their preferred vegetation is lacking, the melon worm moth larvae can consume the surface of- or burrow into the cantaloupe fruit.
What Do Orange striped Oakworm Moths Eat?
The orange-striped oak worm is endemic to North America. The larvae of the orange-striped oakworm are herbivorous.
- This moth mainly consumes the plants of the oak species.
- The oak vegetation examples that the orange-striped oak worm moth feeds on are maple, birch, and hickory.
When Do Moths Eat?
A majority of the moth species are nocturnal, meaning they are active and come out to eat at night. A few moth species are active during the day, so they will be found eating during the daylight hours.
How Often Do Moths Eat?
Moth larvae are the most gluttonous eaters than adult moths. After morphing into adults, most moth species do not eat at all.
- Many of these adult moths die soon after mating. Moth larvae eat as often as possible and mostly large quantities of food immediately after birth. They proceed with this trend for a few days after.
- These larvae feed, depending on their sizes, will eat more food per day. The main goal of consuming too much food is to ensure that they grow in size to sustain themselves during the pupal stage.
What Eats Moths?
Moths are abundant, making them critical players at the bottom of the food chain, considering that they are a great source of nutrients to many organisms that rely on them for food.
Do Moths Predate on Humans?
Moths do not predate humans. A majority of the adult forms lack mouthparts.
- Some of the harm they exert on humans is causing allergic reactions in sensitive individuals, mainly because of their wings.
What Role Do Moths Play in the Animal Food Chain?
Moths are instrumental at the bottom of the animal food chain because of their abundance.
- The different lifecycle stages of moths are an essential food source for most animals, such as bats, amphibians, small mammals, and nesting birds.
- They are a terrific food source for nutrients like calcium, iron, and zinc for the organisms that consume them. In this sense, moths play an excellent role as indicator species, giving clues about our environment’s health.
This implies that their absence or a massive decline in their numbers indicates a compromised ecosystem.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do moths eat the most?
Moths feed on nectar from flowering plants, using their long, tube-like tongue to suck up this food source. However, their diet can vary greatly depending on the species and life stage, with some moth caterpillars consuming plant material and some adult moths not eating. Unusually, some species, like the vampire moth, can feed on the blood of vertebrates and fruit juices.
Do moths eat clothes, and why?
Yes, certain species of moths, specifically the larvae of the common clothes moth, do eat clothes. They are attracted to natural fibers like wool, silk, cotton, and fur, consuming these materials for the protein keratin, a vital nutrient for their growth and development.
Why are moths attracted to light?
Moths are attracted to light due to a behavior called phototaxis, but the exact reason isn’t fully understood. One theory suggests that moths use natural light sources such as the moon for navigation, and artificial lights confuse their navigation system. This causes them to fly toward the light source, often in a spiral pattern.
What is the lifespan of a moth?
The lifespan of a moth varies greatly depending on the species. Some smaller moth species may only live for a week or two, while larger species can live for several months. In some cases, certain moth species in their larval stage (caterpillars) can live for a couple of years, spending most of their life cycle in this stage before becoming a moth for a brief period.