Black-and-Yellow Lichen Moth

Lycomorpha pholus
Erebidae (a noctuid family containing the tiger and lichen moths)

Adults are black with a bluish sheen. The front (basal) portion of the wings is vivid yellow, orange or red. The back (distal) portion is black.

The camouflaged larvae have sparse hairs and resemble lichen, which they feed upon; this is why this group of moths are called “lichen moths.”

Wingspan: 1–1¼ inches.
Habitat and conservation: 
Adults are commonly found in fields as they feed on flowers. Larvae stay close to the lichens upon which they feed, so look for them on lichen-covered rocks or tree trunks. The bright color pattern might mimic the warning colors of toxic beetles, which birds and other predators learn to avoid. Alternatively, the caterpillars might ingest distasteful or toxic compounds from the lichens they eat, which could make this species itself be inedible to predators.
Larvae feed on lichen, which are the crusty, spongelike or mosslike composites of fungi and algae that commonly grow on tree bark and rocks. The adults drink nectar from flowers, including composites such as goldenrod, fleabane daisies, sunflowers and more.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Life cycle: 
Adults fly from July through September. Usually there are multiple generations. Unlike the majority of moths, this species flies during the day. The cocoons are hairy and are attached to objects near the lichen that the caterpillar fed upon. This species overwinters as nearly full-grown caterpillars.
Human connections: 
Although some moths are considered “nuisances” or “beneficial,” this species excites neither frustration nor relief among economically minded people. But it is a strikingly attractive moth that is part of Missouri’s vast natural wealth.
Ecosystem connections: 
The caterpillars are herbivores that graze on lichens. The adults serve a role in pollination. All stages provide food for the predators and parasites that can tolerate the defensive chemicals in their bodies.
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