Fairy Moth

The day before yesterday, at UMass Boston’s Nantucket Field Station, I saw my very first fairy moth (Adelidae), something I’ve been hoping to do for a long time.  Unfortunately, it flew away before I could get my camera out.  But then yesterday at Squam Swamp (my favorite spot on the island, if I had to choose), I got another chance.


As you can see, some fairy moths have incredibly long antennae, and they are especially long on this one because it is a male.  A top view was the only way to get them both in focus, but the wings are best appreciated from the side.


The species is Adela caeruleella, sometimes called the “southern longhorn moth.”  It has been recorded from Florida to Quebec, but apparently it is rarely seen north of Pennsylvania; neither BugGuide nor Moth Photographers Group show any sightings in New England.

The moth spent so much time sipping nectar from this single oxeye daisy that I had time to get out my better camera and assemble its flash setup.  Here’s my favorite shot:


The life histories of most fairy moths are unknown, but at least some species have larvae that live in portable cases, as is done by their “cousins” (fellow members of superfamily Incurvarioidea) the leafcutter moths (Incurvariidae).  The shield bearers (Heliozelidae) are also related but do not feed from their cases as members of the other two families do.

About Charley Eiseman

I am a freelance naturalist, endlessly fascinated by the interconnections of all the living and nonliving things around me. I am the lead author of Tracks & Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates (Stackpole Books, 2010), and continue to collect photographs and information on this subject. These days I am especially drawn to galls, leaf mines, and other plant-insect interactions.
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3 Responses to Fairy Moth

  1. Anonymous says:

    Incredible photos ! I saw my very first caeruleella earlier in the month and didn’t get anything close to this coloring and detail. Outstanding !

  2. kentiki says:

    Beautiful insect!

  3. Pingback: An Update and a Fancy Moth | BugTracks

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