Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wavy-lined Emerald

Camouflaged looper with flower petals attached-  Charley Eiseman
Kevin Firth got me started looking at the wavy-lined emerald moth with this note. 
"The larvae are flower feeders that camouflage themselves with bits of whatever plant they are feeding on.  We had a bunch of them about five years ago around the house.  I found them on Prairie Blazing Star."
The wavy-lined emerald,  Synchlora aerata, is a fascinating critter.  Its caterpillar is commonly referred to as a camouflaged looper.  Unlike the camo of natural coloration, this caterpillar will attach plant fragments, especially flower petals to its back as it feeds, nature's version of a ghillie suit.  It is the only wide spread species that applies this artistic camouflage.

Synchlora cat- Steve Kortum
Sticky cat - Synchlora aerata Marvin Smith

The results can be quite striking and variable like those above, to the degree that you would never guess that these were the same species.  Part of the reason for the colorful variation is that they feed on a wide variety of plants including many flower heads and petals as well as trees and shrubs.  They seem to prefer composite flowers, especially (Asteraceae), including Aster, Rudbeckia, Liatris, Solidago, and Artemisia.  This gives them a wide variety of colors to chose from.  Since the fragments are always fresh looking they are probably replaced daily.
Dressed up for dinner- Kevin Firth

Find the looper caterpillar- Marie L. Schmidt
 Wavy-lined emerald - Synchlora aerata Tom Murray

The adult moth is a pale green with faint wavy lines running along the wings and a dainty fringe on the hind edges.  They are found widely over North America.

More caterpillars are seen on this Bugguide link

Click on this video showing attached flower petals shaking.


  1. We saw some of these moths come to the UV light at Mark Twain Lake (Monroe Co MO) last week.