Insect Identification
Insect Identification

Polka Dot Wasp Moth - (Syntomeida epilais)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 6/3/2015

The colorful, clownish Polka Dot Wasp Moth is a clever mimic that only hurts the oleander bush.

Polka Dot Wasp Moths are common to tropical climates and make their North American home in the Southeastern United States, appearing year-round in warmer places like Florida.

Though they take on the appearance - and in some ways, the behavior - of a wasp, the Polka Dot Wasp Moth is actually a moth. It utilizes the act of mimicry to put off potential predators who are familiar with the real wasp's sting and would rather avoid a potential meal than feel that pain again. The Polka Dot Wasp Moth is a day-flier.

The Oleander Caterpillar is the Polka Dot Wasp Moth in the larvae stage. These larvae are disliked for their extensive defoliation of the poisonous oleander plant common to Florida. Oleander Caterpillars are a bright orange with black hairs and congregate in quantity on oleander leaves. Removing them from your garden is bittersweet. You will spare the oleander, but miss out on a funny little visitor later.

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Category: Butterfly or Moth
Common name: Polka Dot Wasp Moth
Scientific Name: Syntomeida epilais

  Kingdom: Animalia
   Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
     Order: Lepidoptera
      Family: Sesiidae
       Genus: Syntomeida
        Species: epilais

Adult Size (Length): 20mm to 43mm (0.79in to 1.69in)

Identifying Colors: red; white; blue; black

Additional Descriptors: flying, multicolored, dots, spots, red butt, tail, polka

North American Reach (Though Not Limited To*): Alabama; Florida; Georgia; Mississippi; South Carolina; Texas

* Keep in mind that insect reach is not governed by lines on a map and therefore may appear in areas/regions/states beyond those listed above.