Home / Geometer Moth (Geometridae) / Peppered (Biston betularia)

Peppered (Biston betularia)

Peppered Moth
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Peppered moth, a night-flying moth species of the Geometridae family, occurs in different regions of China, alongside Japan, North Korea, South Korea, India, and parts of North America and Europe. They are called peppered moths because of the unique pattern of their wings, white sprinkled in black or vice-versa.

The peppered moth evolution phenomena, commonly associated with these species, serves as an example of the natural selection process and population genetics.  During the 19th century, the English cities’ peppered moths eventually transitioned to a darker coloration from their initial pattern. Through several research, it was deduced that the Industrial Revolution was the primary reason behind their dark colors, which, however, occurred through natural selection. The moths tried to attain a body-color in adaptation to their surroundings as a survival strategy.

Scientific Classification


  • Family: Geometridae
  • Genus: Biston
  • Scientific Name: Biston Betularia

Description and Identification

Caterpillar

Peppered Moth Caterpillar
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Peppered Moth Larvae
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The caterpillars of the peppered moth have an innate ability to mimic the color and form of twigs. Their shades mostly vary from green to brown, depending on the kinds of branches they feed. As per research, the larvae can sense the twig’s color using their skin, thus matching its body coloration accordingly to shield itself from predators.

Pupa

Peppered Moth Cocoon
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The peppered moth’s pupa has a reddish-brown body. The larvae survive the winters by transforming into a pupa. The adult moth emerges between May and August.

Adult Moth

Sexual Dimorphism: Present

Color and Appearance: When opened, the wings in the light-colored peppered moths appear with black specklesHowever, it is the other way for the dark peppered moths; black with white speckles. When closed, the peppered pattern remains mostly the same.

Biston betularia
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Peppered Moth Image
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The antennae in males have a comb-like projection that remains absent in females.

Average wingspan: 4.5 – 6.2 cm

Flight pattern: Consistent

Eggs

The oval-shaped eggs have a pale green coloration, with a length of approximately 1 mm.

Quick Facts

Other namesDarwin’s moth
DistributionChina (in regions like Jilin, Hebei, Shanxi, Ningxia, Xinjiang, Yunnan), Mongolia, Russia, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan
HabitatGardens, woodlands, hedgerows, parks, scrublands
PredatorsBirds like flycatchers, nuthatches, European robin
Lifespan of adultsOne year  
Host plants /Larva foodOak, birch, and willow leaves
Adult dietNectars of host plants

Did You Know

  • The melanic (dark) and nonmelanic (light) types of peppered moth are known by several names in different regions. In Britain, the white ones are typica, and the dark ones, carbonaria. In North America, the melanic ones are swettaria.
  • Since Charles Darwin discovered the natural selection theory seen in these moths, they are even called Darwin’s moth.
Peppered Moth Picture
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Black Peppered Moth
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Light Peppered Moth

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