Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Ailanthus webworm moth on kidneywood buds

with 20 comments

Ailanthus Webworm Moth on Kidneywood Buds 9993

When I got close to the kidneywood tree, Eysenhrdtia texana, that you saw last time, I noticed a small insect. It was an Ailanthus webworm moth, Atteva aurea. The slender moth moved around and flew away from time to time, especially when I tried to photograph it and got too near, but eventually I managed to take some close-ups of it on a spike of kidneywood buds. That’s what you see here (and if you go back and look carefully at the center of yesterday’s photo you’ll see that the moth was in that picture, too).

The date was October 3rd, and the location was a place by the side of a road in my neighborhood that I drive past every day.

Halloween was a week ago, and the thought crossed my mind—forget zombies, ghouls, and witches—that someone wanting an original costume might dress up as an Ailanthus webworm moth next year. If any reader follows that suggestion, be sure to send a photo of yourself in costume.


I’ll be out of town for the next few days, so please forbear if it takes me a while to answer comments.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 7, 2013 at 6:02 AM

20 Responses

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  1. Great! Looks like a caped crusader hiding behind the spike, planning its next move! Such as foiling villain(s) or rescuing innocent victim(s). Eh, recently, I’d watched a PBS special series about superheroes. Maybe that’s why I have caped crusader on the brain when I saw the moth’s wings.


    November 7, 2013 at 6:24 AM

    • You have a good imagination, Wanda: a caped crusader is right on target for this little moth, whether that’s what the PBS show’s creators had in mind or not.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 7, 2013 at 6:59 AM

  2. What a fancy little bug. I like the way its slender length emphasizes the slender kidneywood branch. This morning, I happened across these words from Thoreau, which seem appropriate: “”Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.”

    An insect’s view of its insects isn’t too bad, either.


    November 7, 2013 at 7:43 AM

    • Well said. I began reading Thoreau in high school and have come to appreciate his closeness to nature more than I did then.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 7, 2013 at 8:10 AM

  3. What a little beauty. Looks like it is wearing a leopard-skin cloak!


    November 7, 2013 at 7:50 AM

  4. Maybe it is somewhere in yesterday’s photo. On the backside of the stem of buds in the upper right center? or lower left corner? or just above either?

    Anne Davidson

    November 7, 2013 at 9:35 AM

  5. That’s a terrific discovery.


    November 7, 2013 at 11:39 AM

  6. Another wonderful insect, and clearly at home here on the kidneywood. After all, in this resting position it not only mimics the vertical stalk it’s on but has its spots distributed in a similar pattern to that of the bud ‘dots’ on the stem as well. It really *would* be a cool costume opportunity, as you say! I can certainly see a nice long superhero cape design in there–or, alternatively, a glamorous vintage-style evening gown design. Can you hear the gears grinding from over there??


    November 7, 2013 at 1:40 PM

    • Yes, I can hear those gears grinding over here (which happens to be northwestern Arkansas tonight). If you, with your skills, decide to follow up on this, do send along a picture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 7, 2013 at 8:34 PM

  7. I get these in my yard on the Boneset, Steve. They are very attractive moths…although that can be said for most…and this is a nice image too.

    Steve Gingold

    November 7, 2013 at 2:19 PM

    • I think you’re the first person who’s commented who’s seen one of these moths. You’re right that many moths are photogenic, and I wish I had more pictures to show their diversity.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 7, 2013 at 8:41 PM

  8. fancy bug


    November 7, 2013 at 8:32 PM

  9. So, did you get any costume photos?

    Susan Scheid

    November 9, 2013 at 5:54 PM

    • This was only a week after Halloween, so I’m afraid we’ll have to wait a year for pictures if anyone decides to dress up this way.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 9, 2013 at 7:48 PM

  10. […] plants, probably Solidago altissima. In the top photograph you may strain your eyes to make out the Ailanthus webworm moth (which I didn’t even notice when I took the picture), but you sure can’t miss the […]

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