When it comes to moths, a common misconception is they are dull-colored butterfly want-to-be that come out at night with maybe a few different species. On the contrary, moths can not only give butterflies a run for their money, but they’re also over 500 different species found in Pennsylvania alone!

From moths with bright pink wings to moths that can make you think you saw a bird, there are plenty of interesting moth types in Northeastern Pennsylvania. We’ve narrowed the list down to the top nine moths you may encounter in NEPA.

Cecropia moth has a wingspan between 5-7 inches,

1. American Dagger Moth

American Dagger Moths run up to about 2 inches long and can be found anywhere between spring to early autumn. Typically, these moths stick to woodland areas and can be considered plain sporting dark brown, grey, and white colors. However, their caterpillar form can be quite intriguing. These insects are brightly colored, usually yellow or green, and have long black bristles. 

While you might be tempted to pick up one of these creatures, it’s not the best idea. American Dagger Moth caterpillars are full of toxins that can leave you with a nasty rash. Anyone who picks them up may experience a burning or itching sensation, so it’s best to leave them alone.

2. Ash Sphinx

Though dull in color, the Ash Sphinx is a sight to behold. These large, fuzzy moths look quite grand. They are often grey with a dark streak funning down the forewing, and they can grow between 3 ¼ – 4 ½ inches.  Often found in ash trees, these moths have very distinctive pointed wings.

3. Cecropia moth

This colorful moth subverts expectations of the grey and drab with a splash of color.  The Cecropia moth has a wingspan between 5-7 inches, and they can be identified by their reddish bodies, and intricate matching bands of red, tan, and white. Typically found in forests, these moths don’t eat once they hit adulthood and die two weeks after they reach this stage. 

4. Gypsy Moth

While not native to the area, gypsy moths are everywhere in NEPA, which can be quite a problem for trees and other greenery. This invasive species is responsible for killing millions of oak, apple, birches, and other trees. The caterpillars feed on trees and most of the greenery dies as a result. You can often find egg masses on piles of wood, building materials, and refuse piles.

The males are brown in color, while the females are white with brown markings and they do not fly. These creatures are more dangerous than caterpillars. An egg mass can contain 600-700 eggs and the young will feed on tender new leaves.

You can often find egg masses on piles of wood, building materials, and refuse piles.

5. Hummingbird Moth

Take a closer look at the hummingbird hovering close to that bush; it may not be what you think it is. The hummingbird moth is fast; you might do a double-take when you see one. They’re often found hovering over flowers grabbing some nectar with their proboscis, or their tongue.

Coming in at 1 ¼ – 2 inches long, these moths have a color and size to match their bird-like counterparts. While most moths are active at night, this species buzzes around during the day and is one of the more fascinating insects in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

6. Ironweed Clearwing Moth

Speaking of doppelganger insects, at first glance, you might think this borer moth is a wasp. Sporting black or brown coloration, they complete the look with yellow bands around the abdomen. The white bands on their antennae set them apart from other borer species, and while it may look like a wasp, it doesn’t sting.

Another day dweller, these moths use their disguise as protection as they dig into and feed on ironweed plants.

7. Codling Moth

Here’s a moth you don’t want near your garden. Codling moths are small, about ½ – ¾ of an inch long. They are pretty plain and can typically blend into their surroundings with their dark brown coloration. However, their larvae can put the hurt on some vital produce including apples and pears. 

Emerging in early spring, these pests can destroy fruit, nuts, leaves, and spurs, often tunneling into the core. 

8. Luna Moth

The Luna moth is unlike any other.  Stretching between 3-4 inches in length, they are quite unique in their shape and color. A misty green and with vast, flowing wings make these long-tail creatures a real treat to see. 

These moths rely on their coloration for protection, which can be a toxic warning. If attached they create a clicking noise using their mandibles and can spit nasty fluids at their enemies.

These moths rely on their coloration for protection

9. Clover Looper Moth

Our final moth is one you can catch at any time, night or day. Brown with occasional grey undertones, the clover looper moth feeds on clovers and legumes. Since its food source is plentiful, you can find them regularly in yards, lots, or anywhere weeds grow.

So, are Moths dangerous?

While there are plenty of moth species in Pennsylvania, most of them are pretty harmless. In fact, they’re more likely to be a nuisance rather than a threat. If you have allergies, they may cause some mild discomfort, or if you decide to pick up a dagger moth caterpillar, you may end up with a nasty rash. Of course, they can be poisonous if ingested. 

However, moths tend to cause more damage to plants, clothes, and food. Of course, that’s not exactly a fun problem to deal with. If you are experiencing a moth infestation, or if you’ve encountered an invasive species like the gypsy moth, it may be best to contact a pest control expert.

Moths can be beautiful creatures, but they belong outside. If you are experiencing a moth infestation, contact a pest control expert to keep it that way.



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