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Bella Moth (Utetheisa ornatrix)

The bella moth is an Erebidae moth found in the midwestern and eastern United States and parts of Mexico and Central America. Unique among moths, they are active during the day.

Both larvae and adults have alkaloids running through their system, deterring predators from feeding on them. The larvae sometimes cannibalize each other if they are alkaloid deficient, though they tend to avoid their kin.

Scientific Classification


  • Family: Erebidae
  • Genus: Utetheisa
  • Scientific Name: Utetheisa ornatrix

Bella Moth

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Description and Identification

Caterpillar

They are orange and brown, with black bands on each segment. The anterior and posterior segments have white spots on them. Mature larvae are 3-3.5 cm long.

Bella Moth Caterpillar

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Pupa

Pupae are black, with orange-black irregular bands and a thin layer of silk covering them.

Bella Moth Pupa

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Adult Moth

Sexual Dimorphism: Present but not prominent.

Color and Appearance

Forewing: When the wings are opened, the colors range from orange, pink, red, and yellow. These bright colors serve as a warning to potential predators. When the wings are closed, white bands with irregularly spaced black spots are observed.

Hindwing: When the wings are opened, they are bright pink with a black band. When the wings are closed, the pink color remains completely hidden.

Average wingspan: 3.3-4.6 cm

Flight pattern: Erratic

Season: July to September

Utetheisa ornatrix

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Egg

The eggs are brown, white, or yellow and shaped like spheres.

Bella Moth Eggs

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Quick Facts

Other namesOrnate moth, rattlebox moth
DistributionNova Scotia to Florida, west to Minnesota, Kansas, and Texas.
HabitatFields and forest edges
Lifespan of Adults3 weeks
Host PlantsPrimarily legumes like crotalaria or rattlepods, lespedeza, and lupines. Also, elm trees, fireweed, Prunus species, and sweet gale.
Adult DietDoes not feed

Did You Know

  • These moths show complex mating strategies, with females mating with multiple partners who give “gifts” in the form of spermatophores containing alkaloids, nutrients, and sperm. The female will select her mate based on the quality of the gift received.
Ornate Moth

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Rattlebox Moth

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Rattlebox Moth Picture

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