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.
Scientific Name: Syntomeida epilais
Other Name(s): Oleander Moth
Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 20mm to 43mm (0.78in to 1.68in)
Colors: red; white; blue; black
Descriptors: flying, multicolored, dots, spots, red butt, tail, polka
Note: An insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.
Butterfly and Moth Anatomy
Antennae: Butterflies and Moths have a pair of antennae on the head used as sensors.
Head: The head is home to the insect's eyes, antennae, and proboscis.
Thorax: Home to the three pairs of legs as well as vital internal organs.
Abdomen: Contains vital internal organs such as the heart(s) and reproduction facilities.
Forewing: The upper, forward wing pair used for flying.
Hindwing: The lower, rearward wing pair used for flying.
NOTE: Butterflies and Moths are part of the Lepidopteran order as they share many similarities.