A Few New Mexico Moths


The following photographs represent my chance encounters. If you're looking for a more systematic photographic survey, I recommend the Moths of New Mexico web site maintained by Joe Schelling. I also recommend submitting ID requests to BugGuide.net.


The images are organized alphabetically by taxon. Unlike butterflies, moths fall into several superfamilies so I've included the superfamily names (ending in "oidia"). When you encounter a slide show, hover your cursor over the images to control them. If you see an error, please contact me via the Contact tab at the top of the page.

Bombycoidea - Sphingidae (Sphinx or Hawk Moths)


Rocky Mountain Clearwing (Hemaris thetis)

Rocky Mountain Clearwing, Hemaris thetis, Cibola National Forest
Sandia Mountains, New Mexico


White-Lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata)

Sphinx moths hover like hummingbirds as they sip nectar from flowers. Before Steve the Ground Squirrel wreaked havoc on my daffodils, I often saw sphinx moths visiting them at dusk. Two of my pictures were taken with a flash unit, freezing their mid-air hovering. (They didn't seem to mind the bright flash at all.) To see a YouTube video of the moths visiting the daffodils, click here. When I found one feeding in broad daylight in September 2021, my autofocus couldn't keep up with its rapid movements.


I have also included two images of the caterpillars, known as hornworms due to the single horns on their rear ends. The horns are harmless to humans, as are the entire caterpillar.

Geometroidea - Geometridae (Geometer Moths)


Pale Beauty (Campaea perlata)

Emerald Moth (Nemoria obliqua)

Emerald Moth, Nemoria obliqua, New Mexico
Upper Sandia Mountains, August 2021



Geometridae, inchworm, new mexico
Rio Grande Bosque, Albuquerque, July 2020

Many species of geometer moth caterpillars look like twigs, and hold themselves stiffly at a proper angle to complete the disguise. Which is what this one was doing when I found it on White Sweetclover—only the contrast between the brown caterpillar and green stem attracted my notice. The caterpillars are popularly known as inchworms, after their peculiar way of moving.

Lasiocampoidea - Lasiocampidae (Eggars, Snout Moths, Lappet Moths)


Tent Caterpillar (Malacosoma)


Tent caterpillars are from a single genus, and my examples are probably L. californicum, the Western Tent Caterpillar. If you click on the thumbnail on the left, you'll see a Wikipedia photo of an adult (taken by Jerald E. Dewey, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org).



Erebidae: Herminiinae: Litter Moths

Herminiinae, Litter Moth, New Mexico
Rio Grande Bosque, Albuquerque, July 2020


Erebidae: Litocala Moth (Litocala sexsignata)

My thanks to Joe Schelling for identifying this moth for me. 


Noctuidae: Eight-Spotted Forester (Alypia octomaculata)


Noctuidae: Corn Earworm Moth (Helicoverpa zea)

I encountered this green-eyed moth in broad daylight, as it sipped on red-whiskered clammyweed. Only later did I learn that for farmers, this is one of the most destructive moth species around.

Tineoidea - Psychidae (Bagworm Moths)


Bagworm Moth Homes

On a morning walk I saw a tree of heaven leaf with a big hole munched in the middle. When I lifted the leaf, a pupa-like thing dangled beneath. It was a bagworm moth caterpillar's case. The caterpillars haul these travel trailers wherever they go, and retreat inside at the first sign of danger. They also pupate in the case, and the adult females lay their eggs in their cases so the eggs can overwinter. Later that same month I found hundreds of bagworm cases dangling from willows on a sandbar in the Rio Grande, each apparently full of eggs (I didn't disturb them).