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Desert Plants and Wildlife

Moths in Arizona

Bent-line carpet moth perched on a green leaf

You’ve probably noticed a lot of moths fluttering around your porch light lately. With the massive amount of rain we have received this year, it’s no wonder there’s been a huge influx of bugs. Don’t be annoyed. This is a good thing!

Arizona’s successful monsoon season turned the desert into a green oasis. The more rain we have, the more plant growth, which gives insects like moths and butterflies more food to eat and contribute to our ecosystem.

With a diverse topography, Arizona is considered one of the most insect-rich places in North America. Here is everything you need to know about these winged insects.

WHY ARE MOTHS IMPORTANT?

Moths do more than fly around and chew through fabric; they play an important role in our ecosystem. Insects like moths are food sources for other animals and pollinators for plants.

“Birds eat moths, bats eat mosquitoes, all these non-insect groups, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, they feed on insects. And so, they’re all connected with each other,” said Gene Hall, insect collection manager at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona.

The insects that feed on the plants also act as natural pruners to the flowers and plants. They typically do not damage the plant to the point of killing it because they will have to find another food source.

Gray Hawk Moth on the ground

WHAT TYPE OF MOTHS ARE IN ARIZONA?

Arizona is home to hundreds of species of moths. The most common moths are hawk and sphinx moths. These moths have long narrow wings and thick bodies. They have the longest tongue of any other moth. The caterpillars of this species feed on wild grape leaves. 

Bent-line carpet moths are another common species in Arizona. A bend can be seen in the dark colors by the wing edges. Males are mostly gray while females have darker colors. Their coloring makes it difficult for predators to see them because they can camouflage in tree bark.

Giant silk moths are seen in higher elevations like Sedona and Flagstaff. These moths are usually known for their size and range in size from 40 to 50 mm (about 2 inches). Silk moths draw their name from the silk they spin for their cocoons.

Giant silk moth sitting on a stem

WHY ARE THEY ATTRACTED TO LIGHT?

Moths are nocturnal meaning they use the light from the moon and stars to navigate their way. Streetlights and lights from our home are similar light sources.

WHAT SHOULD WE DO ABOUT THEM?

Hall suggests taking the time to observe the insects in their natural habitat. They won’t be here for long and you may learn something new.

To get rid of moths, adapt your surroundings to make your home less moth-friendly. Turn off exterior and interior lights when not in use. Replace bright lights with yellow bulbs. Make sure there are no holes or gaps in screens and windows.

For more information about moths in Arizona, CLICK HERE.

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