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 have a North American home in the humid southeastern United States, appearing year-round in the warmest areas like Florida. Though they have the appearance - and in some ways, the behavior - of a wasp, the Polka Dot Wasp Moth is just a moth. It does not sting, nor bite. It utilizes mimicry to dissuade potential predators that are familiar with a real wasp's sting. The Polka Dot Wasp Moth is a day-flier. Its black wings and body have a blue translucence. The tip of the abdomen looks like it was dipped in red. Bright, white dots mark the wings. Two large white dots sit at the moth's 'waist' and a line of them run along both sides of the abdomen. Tips of the antennae and back legs are white.
The Oleander Caterpillar is the common name for the Polka Dot Wasp Moth when it is in its larval stage. These larvae are disliked for their extensive defoliation of the poisonous oleander plant, which is common in Florida. Oleander Caterpillars are a bright orange with black hairs, and they congregate in large numbers on oleander leaves. Removing them from the garden is can be conflicting. Doing so spares the aesthetics of the oleander, but then erases an opportunity to see its charismatic adult form later in the season.
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.