Color variation in butterflies/moths

perennialfan273(zone 5)August 28, 2011

I've noticed that in many butterfly and moth species, there is a lot of variation in the colors of the butterflies/moths (and their caterpillars sometimes). I was wondering if the food that the caterpillars eat affect the color that they will be (and the butterflies/moths they turn into later)?

One excellent example is the promethea moth. In the first photo you'll see, it has a reddish pink color to it. In the second one, however, it looks almost black. Also, I claim no ownership of these photos. I'm merely posting links to them as a reference.

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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

As far as I know, the food a caterpillar eats doesn't affect his or her adult coloring. Cloudless sulphur cats will be green if they eat only leaves and yellow when they eat flowers - if their host plant starts blooming while they're in one of the late instars and they begin eating the yellow flowers, they'll turn a strange looking lime green color before pupating.
Of course, butterflies and moths fade with age, and the photograph/er can make a difference.
The same species can be a somewhat different color in different regions of the country. I've recently read that sweetbay moth/Callosamia securifera adults are dark in the Carolinas, but orange in the Gulf South. The article didn't say if sweetbay in the Carolinas is different from what it is here, and I doubt that it is. I know that female sweetbay moths here are very orange, because I found a cocoon on a sweetbay tree one year, and the female that emerged was bright orange!


    Bookmark   August 28, 2011 at 7:08PM
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